Fotoula Lambros’ dream is to save the world, one dress at a time. The up-and-coming Detroit-based designer specializes in multifunctional pieces in natural fibers with an eye toward being eco-friendly and promoting both fair trade and American-made goods. Her looks combine avant-garde thinking and environmental sustainability, with beautiful results.
She not only walks the walk, but talks the talk. When interviewing Lambros via phone, she apparently sat dressed head to toe in her own designs, including organic spandex leggings and her version of a trench coat.
Lambros prides herself on her garments’ multifunctionality: Many of her clothes can be worn forward or backward, plus have special seams to be reversible. A convertible tank with shawl piece attached, for example, can be worn up to six different ways, including as a scarf or simply hanging.
“I think that’s where I separate a little bit from the rest of the market is there is a little more thinking involved, and I’m very thoughtful about what the garment can do,” the designer said.” So I’m not just designing one look. You’re able to use it to create different looks with one piece.”
Her line is sustainable in more ways than one. In an attempt to be environmentally conscious from design to final product, she recycles wherever she can; works with natural, organic fibers such as hemp, bamboo, cotton and tencel; and uses the max amount of fabric to eliminate waste.
“Anything we can pull from natural elements and resources and to eliminate anything man-made is important to me,” Lambros said. “I don’t like how polyester feels on the body; I don’t like working with it. I’m a silk girl. I like cotton. I like the natural stuff.”
Wanting to keep her products American-made and contribute to the local economy, she is excited her pieces will be manufactured in her home state of Michigan.
Lambros’ design career traces back to age 16, when she started studying design in high school, including sewing and pattern design. Growing up, she knew she wanted to work in fashion and dreamed of attending a fashion institute. When a school opened up locally, she made her move.
“I knew a lot about design, I just didn’t have a degree to back it up,” Lambros said. “So I really wanted to become certified, to have a piece of paper to show what I know.”
To be able to afford starting her own fashion line, she worked hard at her day job as a bartender and bar manager.
Within a year of graduating from the International Academy of Design and Technology in 2006, Lambros was well on her way to fulfilling her ambitions when she started Femilia Couture in 2007 with a friend.
After three and a half years of working on the Femilia Couture label, the line became too demanding. Wanting to have more time to be a designer, Lambros knew she wanted to move on.
“With whatever creative partnership, people move in different directions,” Lambros said. “And that’s okay. I feel with whatever we were able to establish in Detroit was a wonderful platform for us to pursue other things.”
At the end of 2010, knowing Femilia was over, she decided to take the plunge and pursue her dream full-time by starting a label of her own: Fotoula Lambros Design.
“I wanted to really test myself and my talents and pursue my design career,” Lambros said. “… So I kind of just rolled from one into the other.”
It was an equation that worked. Her collection has been picked up by boutiques around Detroit and Washington D.C. Soon after, her talents lead her to being added to the Fashion Group International Board of Directors’ Detroit chapter.
When inquiring about her design process, Lambros reports she pulls inspiration from everywhere.
“I’m inspired by everything,” she said. “I can even touch a fabric and feel inspiration … Going out in Los Angeles and looking at palm trees is an inspiration.”
Her collection—full of readywear separates such as leggings, tees and tanks—is just downright more wearable. Her clothes, she says, need to be able to move at her speed.
“I’m a pretty active person. Not just in the studio, but in life,” Lambros said. “I’m always running around doing things. And I feel my clothes can move just as fast as I am moving … Who wants to be fussing with their outfits when there’s things to be done?”
With only four dresses in her collection today, she sees herself expanding into more dresses in the future.
“Maybe it’s not selling a thousand units, but at the same time, I’m building something. I’m contributing,” Lambros said. “I’m learning it is nonstop, constant work. But I love it so much, I can’t imagine it any other way.”
Check out all her pieces at fotoulalambrosdesign.com.