So with a blind and hopeful leap I asked Laura for an interview I think you will agree she more then obliged my request. I asked her a few questions that I wanted to hear her opinions on. She is not only marvelously talented but incredibly inspiring. Enjoy!

What inspires you?

Everything I see, but I’ve always been attracted to clean design, hourglass shapes, and bold details. I’m most inspired by Christian Dior’s New Look – in my mind this is the apogee of beautiful, elegant design, and I’ve been trying to emulate that in both my photography and clothing design for as long as I can remember. But I love anything clean, bold, and simple. I love searching thrift stores for beautiful old fabric designs. Sometimes a flash of color can inspire an entire piece, so I try to leave myself open to as much stimuli as possible, because you’ll never know what will spark an idea.

How did you start your career?

I originally wanted to be a fashion/celebrity/music photographer. I went to Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City – for four months, until they tossed me out. I was never very good working in an environment where I couldn’t direct myself, so I went to work in the photo district in Manhattan, and taught myself as much as I could, while both assisting and modeling for other photographers. I learned a lot about business during this time – specifically, how hard it is to distinguish yourself when you’re surrounded by other very talented, hardworking people who deserve success just as much as you do. I believe this is the most valuable thing I learned at this time: That success is not guaranteed just because you have a talent, or even if you’re particularly gifted. Success is really only achieved by those who work hard every single day, and keep their eyes on the prize regardless of how many setbacks they experience.

That said, in 1997, my most successful year as a photographer, I quit. I had started making clothing for my daughter, who was born in 1996. My mother-in-law taught me how to sew so I could make little dresses and onesies for her. The commercial patterns I was buying were extremely confusing and difficult to work with (at least for me), so I went to the library and found this book from the 50’s on patternmaking. This book has since disappeared from my local library, which really blows because I’d recommend it to anyone looking to learn patternmaking. It was really fantastic. Anyway, after that I learned to make everything, from string bikinis to Renaissance-style wedding dresses (I still have a version of one I made for myself in black printed satin for a Bauhaus concert in 1998). Between 1996, when I founded Pinup Girl Clothing (Just called “Pinup Girl” back then), and 1999, I custom made clothing for a client base that included everyone from personal friends, to girls in the Swing Dance scene (precursor to our current Rockabilly/Pinup scene), to strippers and burlesque performers. In June of 1999 my husband and I launched the site, and we’ve been plugging away ever since! In 2006 when my main photographer and good friend Octavio Arizala became too busy to shoot for my site, I brushed off my camera and started shooting again. I’d link you to some of my images from 2006-2007, but they suck.

What are your top 5 passions in life?

In no particular order:
I love to travel. I wish I could see every country before I die. One of my biggest motivators to do well in life is to have the money to travel. My dream is to shoot for National Geographic one day. I’m thinking about working toward this once I hit my 50’s.

Friends and Family: I am so lucky to have a brilliant supportive husband who built my first website with no experience – he just bought a big thick book on HTML coding and went to town. My daughter is really brilliant, which is great because hopefully she’ll want to take over once senility claims me. I am extremely lucky to work with some of my best friends at the office every day – most of the people on my team are people I’ve known for about 10 years, in some cases even longer. They understand what we’re trying to do at PUG, and they are so passionate about it. I am so grateful for that. Words cannot express.

Problem Solving and Achieving a Goal: This really is a passion of mine. It’s a lot of fun to set a goal then go after it, even if it’s a stupid, pointless goal. For instance, I am currently involved in a rivalry with Paul Rudd (he knows nothing about this) to get more facebook fans than him. Why? No reason, other than breaking 100,000 fans on facebook would be cool, and getting into a fake war with Paul Rudd is hilarious. But seriously, I’m an extremely competitive person and I really do get off on stupid stuff like this.

Photography and Design: As a kid in the 80’s I had my Jesus and Mary Chain and David Bowie posters, but most of the stuff on my wall were posters from fashion exhibitions I’d attended (OMG Charles James – he’s little known but FABULOUS) and photos I loved that were ripped out of the pages of Details and Interview Magazine. The day I met David La Chappelle in 1987 was huge for me – his images from Interview were all over my walls. Over time we became friendly and I credit him with helping keep me focused – not through anything he ever said to me directly, but just through watching him. He is a highly creative genius who LOVES what he does, and this was evident even in the beginning. That passion was so infectious – and necessary. You cant create the way he does without it.

Learning and Getting Better: Nobody is so awesome that they can’t learn something new, correct their own bad habits, behavior and thinking, or be even better at what they do. My team won’t let me be at our trade show booth because whenever we show the line, I can’t stop myself from pointing out every imperfection in the sample (“This strap won’t be so thick in production, it’ll be better. Ignore this wrinkle”). I am a disgusting perfectionist, and for the sake of my personal and work relationships I’ve tried to tone this down a bit, but I feel that when it comes to clothing, it SHOULD be perfect. And I enjoy messing with stuff until it’s as close to perfect as possible, so I guess it all works out.

What draws you to pin up/rockabilly style?

Pinup has always been an interest and passion of mine. I’m sure it stems from my longstanding obsession with every dress Christian Dior created while alive, coupled with seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s at age 14. I just wanted the world to look like that again! As for Rockabilly, I’m sure this was a direct result of listening to my mom’s Elvis and Chuck Berry records all day as a child. My mom loved Big Band, Swing, and Rock & Roll, and her record collection was epic: Original Al Jolson and Frank Sinatra 10-inch vinyl, The Ink Spots, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Louis Prima – it was amazing. I grew up on that stuff.

When you see a girl, what about her makes you want to photograph her?

This is hard to answer. I get a visceral reaction, it never follows a specific formula or pattern. Here in Los Angeles we have so many beautiful women, so we’re looking for someone who is beautiful, but who is also smart, funny, professional, kind, and sexy. I believe that the best models have a combination of the qualities I’ve listed, and to me, it shows on camera. I’m really looking for something more than beauty – the model needs to be able to break my heart a little. That’s the only way I can describe it.

What is “Fashion” to you?

It’s art, plain and simple. Fashion gets disrespected a lot, but people forget: You are using 2-dimensional (for all intents and purposes) material to cover a 3-dimensional object – one that moves! That isn’t easy to do correctly. I used to mock $5000 designer dresses, until I started looking at them up close. Then I saw all the insane construction, fabrication, and finishing, and went “Oh, yhea, right”. I’m not saying that $5000 dresses make sense. I’m saying that there really is an art to fashion, and we should respect that. I try to respect that.

♥Laura

One Response to “Laura Byrnes; Queen of Modern Pinup Photography and founder of Pin Up Girl Clothing”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pinup Girl Clothing, LG and Cholita, Laura Byrnes. Laura Byrnes said: everyone at the office is always telling me to do interviews so I went and did one: http://www.rockabilly-online.com/?p=2430 […]

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