Laura Bavlnka ‘14
Entrepreneur - Bavlnka Brand
Study abroad to Paris leads designer to find herself
Laura Bavlnka, ’14, discovered early on that she was passionate about art and fashion and “knew I could have a career in fashion design.” She chose Mount Mary University’s fashion design program to stay close to her family, and for the opportunity to study abroad in Paris which “sealed the deal.” Paris museum visits, backstage access to work on fashion shows, and a day spent working with a couture fashion designer “did not disappoint!”
Throughout her time at Mount Mary, Laura found lots of other aspects to love and appreciate about the fashion design program. She learned technical skills, including sketching and collection building in Adobe Illustrator, and she flourished creatively as she learned to conceptualize and construct garments that reflect her vision. She realizes “everything I learned in class is foundational to the experience I continue to build upon in my career.”
New beginnings began post-graduation
After graduation, Laura accepted a job at the Kohl’s corporate office as assistant designer. She utilized the technical skills she mastered in the Fashion Design program to create garment tech packs. She values the product development skills she learned as she collaborated with the technical design team and overseas vendors. “I had a really good work ethic, a positive attitude and a good eye for color and design. I found there wasn’t anything I didn’t know that made me unequipped for the job.”
Laura believes these attributes are the reason she decided to leave her corporate job behind to establish her own label, Bavlnka Brand. “Starting a business is a whole other animal, literally. As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned to be flexible and take things as they come, and to respect what I’m capable of that day. There are tasks that are not fun, like creating expense and income reports, paying taxes, securing business insurance, reviewing contracts with wholesale partners, and representing myself at events – essentially as a salesperson, etc., etc.! It's so much more than simply creating products that I love.”
In her entrepreneurial role, Laura utilizes a different set of skills she learned as a student at Mount Mary – hands-on tasks including sketching, patterning, draping and constructing her own designs for specific customers who seek out her shop in Milwaukee.
“Currently, I love that I get to be creative. I love working one on one with clients to help make their dreams a reality. It’s satisfying to see them feeling so beautiful and confident in my designs. Everything I do is one-of-a-kind or very small batch, and this truly aligns with my ethical perspective to minimize waste and work sustainability in the apparel industry, so that feels good.”
Social media leads to boost in career
Bavlnka Brand has also established a following through social media. She designs and creates one-of-a-kind or small batches of jewelry and hand dyed silk scarves. The accessories represent Laura’s work ethic and design aesthetic in another way – each item is expertly crafted and unique to her brand.
“I've gone through a lot of changes throughout the three years I’ve been on my own, and I've learned so much. It's been a process – I feel I am constantly straddling the line between establishing a business that has sustainable income – while also maintaining my creative passion.”
Advice from Laura Bavlnka
Laura’s advice to current fashion students is to use this time to explore what it is they really like to do and discover what it is they’re good at. “You’re at a time in your life when you still get to really play and dream, so allow yourself that freedom to explore.” Also, “take any opportunity that comes your way! Volunteer for local fashion events and say yes to any chance to create an outfit for a random fashion show or photoshoot. Fully engage yourself in the world and learn all that you can from those around you – be a sponge!”
I realized that I really wanted to try my hand at entrepreneurship, which has allowed me full creative freedom.
Laura Bavlnka ‘14