Winter Park boutique Lavender Elephant expanding with plans to offer creative workshops
WINTER PARK — Abbey Samuelson is on a mission. Her goal is to reduce textile waste and make fashion a more sustainable industry and her strategy includes the expansion of her repairs, alteration and sustainable boutique business known as Lavender Elephant.
Lavender Elephant opened three years ago in a 900 square foot space in the Park Place Shopping Center in Winter Park. Since then, the boutique has steadily grown, particularly the repair and alterations aspect of the business, Samuelson said.
“I started as a visionary artist within the business and now I feel in this phase of growth, I’ll be able to look at it with a business mindset and how to capitalize my visions,” Samuelson said.
However, the space has become tight and Samuelson has new ideas she wants to incorporate into the boutique, including offering creative workshops, such as an introduction to sewing or an upcycling class.
So, she is expanding into the space next door that used to be the Hi Country Haus Condominium Management Co., which will almost double her square footage, but she doesn’t plan to sacrifice any of her signature style in doing so.
“It’s a boho chic experience, where you kind of feel like you’re going to your grandma’s house, but it’s been somehow taken over by fashion designers from the future,” she laughed. “I want it to feel different and interesting.”
The most lucrative and demanded of Samuelson’s skills is her repairs and alterations, which she does within the boutique, under the name Rocky Mountain Design House.
This is an important aspect of her business and her mission because it keeps garments from ending up in landfills, Samuelson explained. Since opening, the repairs and alterations have saved over 1,000 garments from being tossed.
“The design house is what keeps the door open, it’s the bread and butter for sure,” she said. “What the fashion industry needs to start focusing on is repairing what we already have.”
Samuelson said she plans to continue selling gently-used, liquidated and upcycled clothing, but hopes the expansion allows her to spend more time designing and creating clothes for her own clothing lines, which use hemp fabric and textile scraps.
With the additional space, she also plans to expand and elevate her creative workshops. Samuelson said she would love to work with other artists in the community to offer a wider variety of events.
“It’s proven successful with what we’ve had happen within our creative labs,” she said. “I hope to pull people that have levels of expertise to teach these classes.”
The town of Winter Park recently approved her liquor license so that she can offer wine and cocktails at the events. She is collaborating with Denver mixologist Topher Hartfield to create a list of craft cocktails and mocktails for guests.
Samuelson hopes the workshops will help make hard conversations about conscious consumerism and waste more inviting.
“It’s about getting the consumer’s attention,” she explained. “It’s not fun talking about textile waste. (…) But, there is something nice about having a fun cocktail with your girlfriends and making something that you can enjoy on your wall that you did yourself and wasn’t purchased from Target. So, I’m trying to change the consumer mindset and this is the way to do it.”
The expanded Lavender Elephant is set to open in April and once Samuelson has the indoor setup completed, she will turn her attention to building an outdoor pagoda for workshops and events in the warmer months.
Ultimately, her goal for the new space is to start the conversations and encourage visitors’ creativity.
“If there’s one thing I can get, it’s that people leave feeling inspired,” she said. “The best thing I can get out of it is having them leave more conscious as a consumer.”
Lavender Elephant is scheduled to close for the expansion on Feb. 5, but Samuelson will continue taking repairs and alterations. She is also trying to sell down her boutique inventory, so she is hosting a sale through Feb. 3.
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