Written by Pat Craddick
Byron Lars started designing under his own label in 1991 with a small collection of sportswear focusing on what Mr. Lars refers to as “twisted American classics.” A leading contemporary fashion designer, Mr. Lars distinguishes his designs from others through his signature body enhancing fit, meticulous workmanship and obsessive attention to detail.
This level of thoughtfulness has rendered his clothes must-haves among celebrity A-listers. Dressed by Byron Lars label are former First Lady Michelle Obama, Angela Bassett, Taylor Swift, Gabrielle Union, Kim Kardashian West, Vanessa Williams, Felicity Jones, Regina King, Katherine Winnick, Jill Scott, Mariah Carey, Ruby Jay, Kim Fields, Amanda Seales, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell Martin, Nicole Ari Parker, Amirah Vann, and Toni Trucks to name a few.
Byron Lars, President, In Earnest, Inc.
POP Social Enterprise: When and how did your fashion design journey start?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: A neighborhood friend who sewed, refused to make a pair of pants for me that I wanted very desperately. With her refusal, she also very generously offered to teach me the ins and outs of sewing 101 and lent me the use of her highly prized sewing machine.
At that time, however, there were no commercial men's patterns available that any fashion enthusiast would be interested in, so I was left having to make my own pattern out of newspaper. I was 15 years old then with a couple of high school architectural drafting courses under my belt at that point, so I was familiar making flat pattern shapes of 3D structures, and I was also familiar with basic garment pattern shapes from having watched my friend sewing commercial patterns for herself.
The pants turned out great to my delight and to the overwhelming approval of my classmates.
POP Social Enterprise: When did you first know that fashion design was your calling?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: Having no plans other than making clothes for myself as a high school sophomore, a junior female classmate approached me to design her junior prom dress. That would be the first women's garment I ever designed. Very thankfully the dress turned out great having gotten rave reviews from the female junior contingent, so my dance card was filled for prom dresses the following year.
A few years later, I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology to advance my craft and learn proper pattern making and garment construction.
POP Social Enterprise: What fashion professionals did you work with before starting your own company?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: Although I gained great work experience from all of my garment center employment stints which were few and all short lived, I never worked full time for a designer of note. I did however do some freelance patternmaking for Amsale Bridal and Ronaldus Shamask, the latter of which was one of my most enjoyable professional experiences before starting my own business which I did shortly after attaining freelance work at Shamask.
POP Social Enterprise: Who were your mentors?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: Kevan Hall, Arthur McGee and many others in various capacities, including Kal Ruttenstein via my friend and then business partner Maryann Wheaton.
POP Social Enterprise: How do you portray your design philosophy in your fashion designs?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: At the end of the day, my design philosophy is all about women's advocacy through the product itself.
No matter what painstaking lengths I've gone through to make a dress or other item of clothing as perfect as I possibly can, I feel a much greater sense of accomplishment when a woman looks in the mirror and comments on how beautiful she looks as opposed to how great the dress does. I see fashion as a vehicle of her having that moment.
POP Social Enterprise: What is your design philosophy or point-of-view?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: Style "mash-ups" are an integral part of my design DNA because I see them as fashion icebreakers. “At the end of the day, my drapery twisty sarong rifts on a men’s button down shirt are just that…button down shirts. Every woman knows and trusts a button down shirt and even when she’s fashion-reluctant, she isn’t intimidated to wear a variation of one… even when that variation evokes a REAL FASHION MOMENT.
POP Social Enterprise: Where could we find your design collections?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: You can find IN EARNEST at Anthropologie, The Garden Room (Dallas, TX), Un Bacio Boutique & Morning Glory (CA), Looks Boutique (Cambridge, MA ), Personal Pizazz (CA), The Liberty Shop (MS) , Femme Boutique (AZ), Couture N More Boutique (FL), Apropos (FL), La Donna's Fashions (Oklahoma), Contessa Bottega Boutique (Chicago), Aspen Boutique (Colorado), Story Falmouth (Massachusetts), several other brick and mortar stores and of course at our own web store www.InEarnestOFFICIAL.com
POP Social Enterprise: What is one of your rewarding accomplishments?
IN EARNEST'S Byron Lars: I’m responsible for the first collection of African American Barbie Dolls that authentically represented the complexions, hair textures and fierce style of African American Women. As a result, I’ve garnered the affection of thousands of Barbie enthusiasts over the world, many of whom collected the entire 16 glamorous dolls created for Mattel from 1995 to 2011.
POP Social Enterprise: Do you have a philanthropic plan to support the community?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: Up to now, the majority of our philanthropic efforts have been in support of charities that have approached us rather than taking the reins ourselves and organizing and initiative but, this past year has made me bit more intentional about how we as a brand direct that energy. To that end, we are now working on an upcoming fashion related project that supports disadvantaged youths, which I will share more about as it develops over the coming months.
POP Social Enterprise: What advice would you give aspiring young designers?
IN EARNEST's Byron Lars: Learn as much as you can on someone else's dime… meaning, seek gainful employment in your field of interest before embarking upon starting your own business since there is so very much to be learned while earning a paycheck. I've heard many young people assess working for others as a dynamic of giving away something precious of theirs which might otherwise be directed toward something they could be building for themselves, rather than seeing the knowledge attained on most any given job in their field as being the true building material for future progress.
Contact IN EARNEST'S Byron Lars at: