Curious, passionate and motivated, Laurel DeWitt embraced one of the most obscure assignments she had been given at New York’s Pratt College. The professor for “Wearable Art” instructed students to create something that didn’t cost any money. Immediately, she felt lost.
DeWitt’s father, who works for a high-end lighting company, sent her a few spare metal scraps. She braided six wires and crafted a bra that stuck together with hot glue. She wasn’t impressed, but the piece left the class in awe and the professor was amazed. DeWitt’s idea to use metal in fashion helped her win a “Best Collection” award for her senior thesis.
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What started as a novel idea has become routine for DeWitt, who after a stint as a designer launched her own brand. It has evolved into a recognizable line that Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj have requested to wear, and one that Beyoncé donned in her new “Spirit” video. “I had a blinded vision to keep going, and now it’s a world-recognized brand,” DeWitt said. “It’s pretty cool.”
DeWitt’s eye for fashion emerged during her childhood in upstate New York. She purchased clothes from the Salvation Army and cut them into pieces to change their appearance when she got home. She also won a high school contest for murals she painted in her room. A friend recommended she study fashion in college. DeWitt agreed, becoming a third-generation Pratt student.
After graduation, she worked in corporate fashion designing handbags but grew frustrated because the focus was on sales rather than design. She quit to launch her own operation.
DeWitt’s brand regularly appeared in fashion shows in Manhattan lounges and became increasingly popular when she started adding gold to her pieces.
A dark silver shoulder piece made with metal disks struck Minaj’s stylist, who was seeking an outfit for the artist’s BET Rip The Runway appearance. “Her stylist found me, freaked out and brought a shoulder piece back to Nicki and she loved it,” DeWitt said. “For me, being an independent designer, I never had a bug to be bigger. Celebrities love it and gravitate toward it.”
Once her brand developed a reputation among celebrities, DeWitt aspired to have Beyoncé wear her products. She found the artist’s work ethic to be inspirational.
Beyoncé’s representatives had contacted DeWitt twice before, but the plans fell through. But one night at an art show, she received a message that said Beyoncé wanted one of her crowns for the “Hymn For The Weekend” music video. That made DeWitt an obvious choice for her latest “Spirit” video in which the singer wore a blue jumpsuit that DeWitt designed.
“Even though I haven’t met her in person, she’s a fan of the brand, which is crazy to me,” DeWitt said. “She’s just so epic so it’s amazing.”
DeWitt, who designed Cardi B’s outfit in her “Twerk” music video in an eight-hour day, said her items range in price from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on the materials used. That hasn’t deterred Amber Rose, J.Lo, or any other of her repeat clients. “I want everyone to know the art and the brand and become a household name,” DeWitt said. “I’m motivated by evolving and becoming the best artist I can be. I love creating moments for these people.”
DeWitt recently moved to Los Angeles, partially so she can help design outfits for movies, and she already has a client lined up. She’s currently working on a piece for Ruth Carter to wear in “Coming To America 2.”
While designing the metal bra for class, she didn’t anticipate her work would reach celebrities. “I don’t think I knew I would get to this level,” DeWitt said. “It wasn’t really something in my thought process at that time.”
You can hear more from Laurel DeWitt in the video above.