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Handmade Tales: Lindsey Lu


Published June 18, 2008 at 5:02 a.m.

Lindsey Lu, the baby-and-mom clothing store in Colchester, takes its name from both owner Lindsey Louchheim and her daughter Lulu. The business wouldn’t exist if not for Lulu, explains the 32-year-old mother of two. When Louchheim became pregnant four years ago and needed maternity clothes, she taught herself to sew by hand. Soon she began outfitting her daughter and, later, her son Wolfgang. “Then a ton of our friends all got pregnant at the same time, so I started making clothing for their kids,” explains the petite, serious blond.

Louchheim’s baby clothes fit children up to age 6 — the size range grows along with her kids. She tries to make her garments unisex, she says, because “I find that girls’ clothes are too girly, and boys’ are too boring.” One line features colorfully patterned cutouts appliquéd to neutral cotton bibs, baby hats, T-shirts and three-quarter tees made by American Apparel. Some infants’ shirts in this line are black with red appliqués — a chic, unexpected combo. The cut-outs are bold, basic shapes, such as concentric circles, curling waves, bugs and dragonflies. Louchheim clips these from fabric in eye-catching patterns: Japanese prints of mountain scenes or women in kimonos, or geometric flowers and polka dots snipped to highlight their contrasting shapes and colors.

Louchheim’s choices stem from her training. After a year at Burlington High School, the Queen City native attended fine-arts-friendly Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and went on to complete a double major in architectural design and visual arts at Brown University. Her undergraduate work focused on Islamic and Asian traditions and the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements. With her husband John, whom she met during a college summer job at Snow Farm Winery, she spent six months over two years in Tonga, New Zealand and Bali, among other places. Living for a month or more in each spot allowed her to absorb the cultural influences that now inform her couture.

They also influence the Louchheims’ two other small-business enterprises. Veritable poster children for Vermont’s creative economy, the couple makes custom furniture under the company name Louchheim Designs — Lindsey sketches; John builds. They recently partnered with a friend to start BauHeim Builders, a construction company specializing in additions and renovations to houses in Burlington’s Hill Section as well as full construction. The furniture and building ventures reside in an office adjacent to the Lindsey Lu retail store, in the Malletts Bay shopping plaza across from Mazza’s General Store. Paco, the Louchheims’ friendly dog, greets customers of all three businesses. Folks with toddlers in tow can plunk them down in a toy-filled corner room.

Though Louchheim sews custom-ordered skirts for women, she is currently focusing on children’s clothes, including a new line of matching halter-and-culotte ensembles for girls. She has never used a pattern; she simply tests all her creations on 4-year-old Lulu and Wolfie, now 1 and a half. The two tots and their friends are also Louchheim’s website models, and Lulu occasionally helps her mom cut shapes from material in the back workroom. “I tell her she’s my business partner,” Louchheim says with a smile.

The entrepreneur is contemplating “taking [Lindsey Lu] to the next level” — producing on a scale large enough to sell to retailers around the country. “It’s getting kind of hard to do all the sewing myself,” Louchheim admits. Already in the offing is a partnership with Vermont Bosna Cutters, which uses metal dies to slice several layers of material at once. Louchheim says the Winooski cloth-cutting and -sewing business is owned by two Bosnian immigrants who went to fashion school in Europe. “I like keeping it local and staying cost-effective at the same time,” declares the self-taught businesswoman. “I want to be able to see where my stuff is being made.”

Click a photo above to see the location.