Women-Owned Business Series: Andrea from Risen Division

Welcome back to our Women-Owned Business Series! We are excited to feature fellow Red Hooker, Andrea Lauer from RISEN DIVISION! Andrea loves paying attention to the most subtle of details to create an inspired and unique jumpsuit design, each hand-crafted in NYC. Read on to learn about her journey and all about her niche fashion brand.

First, tell us about your business and anything special we should know about it or you.

I founded RISEN DIVISION, a fashion company dedicated to the art and legacy of the jumpsuit and to create a uniform for the polymath, aka the Renaissance human, all sourced and made sustainably in NYC.

Niche, I know, but I always felt the most connected to the idea of a garment that felt like a second skin or a kind of personal/professional armor.

The desire to create a garment that can shape shift with its wearer and accompany them in all the versions they become in a single day but also with the craft and care of clothing from the past. For me, this is the future.

I combined my background in costume design, fashion history, and material science, and the brand was born. Fast forward 4 years, I went into small production here in NYC and opened a brick and mortar on 70 Van Dyke in Red Hook, Brooklyn in 2022.

The store doubles as my working studio so you can find me there most days drawing, sewing or making new items for the shop and for my private clients.

Why do you feel a connection to your work?

I love people and all their curves inside and out. Humans hold such complex secrets and stories that makes them who they are and i wanted to find a way to engage in this concept through everyday clothing. I also name and design each of one my jumpsuits after what I consider a polymath from history – women and men who have moved the needle of culture and continue to have an imprint on the world today.

So if you come into the shop and you choose a jumpsuit named the Woolf, it is not only inspired by the essence of who Virginia Woolf but also the details of the design are informed by her. and her era. You will notice a slight Victorian puff sleeve and a back pointed collar detail that was inspired by a jacket she actually wore that is inside the Met costume collection.

This riffing off a collection of ideas, people and deep research of the past and bringing it into the present and future, is how I connect most to everything I do. I look for the obscure detail and I amplify it in hopes that a new visibility will some how seep into the the collective conscious of the people around me and the garment itself.

As a business owner, community is everything. In what ways do you serve your community and how has your community served you?

Having a shop and Red Hook has been an amazing conduit for meeting awesome people, both locals and visitors. My hope is that I provide a place to just play, try things on, drum up a conversation and share a story of what each of us is doing in the world. I also love the challenge of finding the right piece for the customer, and sometimes it isn’t here, but none the less I learn about what I am missing, so in a way the community feeds the future of design. This totally lights me up.

What advice would you give to young women who want to start a small business?

Be brave, but also be prepared for it to be a slow start. Just because you don’t make money doesn’t mean you haven’t successfully committed to something you love, which is success in and of itself.

What women inspire you and why?

I’ll start by saying the women who currently inspire me are Virginia Woolf, Hedy Lamarr, Harriet Quimby, so much so that my current collection of suits is named and designed after some of their own clothing. These are women who defy definition, are somewhat controversial and have really impacted the world around them. Each of them has paved the way for women of today, they went beyond the cards they were dealt and persevered even when people said no or told them that they couldn’t fly across the ocean (Quimby) or be an inventor (Lamarr) in which her work, outside of being a gorgeous movie star, gave way to our modern wifi. I learn about these women and it gives me more permission to continue to try new things, keep experimenting with my thoughts or talent, and to seek out similar women to create a network of connection and growth.

What do you think are the most significant challenges for women business owners or women in leadership positions?

The hardest challenge for me actually has been charging money for my suits. It’s not that I don’t think they are worth it, they are, but I am mindful of how hard it is to make money as a women. We so not receive fair or equal wages, we often work harder for a dollar. I wish I could outfit everyone no matter what their income. I also find it extremely challenging to ask for funding/investment when it come to building my own business as opposed to championing others. It is hard to be so exposed and vulnerable but I think necessary in the pursuit of a dream.

Andrea is the recipient of an upcoming grant at NYU for future innovators, will be participating in a fashion show for LGBTQ Youth in October (stay tuned for details) and is designing Melissa Etheridge on Broadway in September 2023. Learn more about her here, and about RISEN DIVISION here!

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