Apr 2, 2014
10:31 AM
Style & Shopping

Connecticut Designer's 'Women That Rock' Initiative Benefits Charities; Ridgefield Event in May

Connecticut Designer's 'Women That Rock' Initiative Benefits Charities; Ridgefield Event in May

She’s one part heart, a layer of design and a ribbon of rock music, stitched together as a bubbly, ambitious fashion maverick doing big things for local charities. We joined Fairfielder Lauren DiNardo at Las Vetas Lounge recently to learn how she threaded her experiences together to create a successful clothing line, while giving back to those in need.

Along with older sister Jeanne, Lauren was born and raised in the Easton, Conn., area. The 33-year-old designer’s parents own and operate Auto Collision of Fairfield, on Commerce Drive. She took cues from them early on with regard to entrepreneurship. Her mom also taught her how to sew. At 13, Lauren began making her own clothes. (DiNardo, right, in a photo by Mike Lauterborn.)

Lauren’s grandparents — immigrants from Italy and Poland respectively — were strong influences as well. “They met during World War II and their story is one of perseverance and love,” she said. “They came to the U.S. with nothing and would give everything for family. They taught me about gratitude.”

In her teen years, live music and the culture around it helped shape Lauren’s character and evolving designs, which had taken a patchwork and rock oriented direction. “Friends would literally buy the clothes off my back,” she noted.

Upon graduation from Joel Barlow High School, in Redding, Lauren headed west to attend the University of Oregon, pursuing Cultural Studies. Two years later, she transferred to New School University in New York City. The different flavors of each coast — “Oregon crunchy and New York edgy” — materialized in her designs. (A Lauren DiNardo design, above; photo by Steve Walter.)

Her school time added another important perspective to the mix. “I learned about national and international social challenges, cultural preservation and growth in industry and its effect on people,” she said.

Her senior thesis, notably, was a performance piece called “Dialogue,” which she was asked to render at graduation, shortly after 9/11. “The piece reflected what was going on culturally at the time,” she said.

Ultimately, Lauren found herself in Fairfield where she hatched the “tie skirt,” which became a signature part of her clothing line. The skirt was inspired by her grandfather’s old neckties and joined belts, jewelry, hats, vests, tops and jeans, all for women and each made with eco-friendly and recycled elements. Boutiques in New York and Connecticut began to take notice and carry her designs. At the same time, she was creating stage clothes for rock bands.

“Eventually, I fused the family influence of wanting to give back, cultural studies, music and fashion,” she said, deciding to start producing multi-faceted fashion shows to benefit charity. (Above, DiNardo, second from right, at the Ridgefield Playhouse with its executive director, Allison Stockel, left, Gilbert Gottfried adn Chevy Chase; photo by Steve Walter.)

Her first venture was in 2007. Inspired by her brother-in-law, a fireman, she created a benefit for the Children’s Burn Camp, in upstate New York, at which firemen from all over the Northeast region volunteer their time to help young victims recovering from bad burns. She called the show, which was held behind Fairfield’s Ash Creek Saloon (now Vinnie’s), “Live Music Couture.” It offered the Christopher Robin band, vendors, a full runway fashion show with Lauren’s designs, a deejay and even a custom motorcycle contest.

“The energy was great and we built awareness and raised funds for the Camp,” Lauren reflected. “That’s when I felt in my heart that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

For her next event, held at The Chicken Box in Nantucket, she brought the models and band over on the ferry, in the interest of supporting a local environmental cause.

She continued to produce a few benefits a year in various locations then forged a partnership with the Ridgefield Playhouse, where, in May 2013, she conducted a benefit for the Sandy Hook First Responders Fund. In this instance and under a “Women That Rock” banner, Lauren incorporated celebrity models like Comedian Gilbert Gottfried’s wife Dara and Comedian Chevy Chase’s wife Janie. First responders — and even a runner from the Boston Marathon that was derailed by bombings last April — joined the modeling lineup.

For Lauren, this new focus was a positive modification to the approach she had adopted. “The people that we should be looking up to and admiring, in my opinion, should be people of strength who act from the heart,” she decided.

Now Lauren’s attention is focused on her latest “Women That Rock” installment, to be held at the Ridgefield Playhouse May 16. I will have all the usual show elements and benefit Jane Doe No More, a Connecticut-based non-profit dedicated to improving the way society responds to victims of sexual assault. Tickets are available online or through the Playhouse box office.

Lauren DiNardo can be reached at 203-913-9209, through www.LaurenDiNardo.com or on Facebook.

This story appears in the spring edition of Fairfield County Life magazine, a publication of Minuteman Newspapers.

 

Connecticut Designer's 'Women That Rock' Initiative Benefits Charities; Ridgefield Event in May

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