Tuesday is traditionally an important day of the week in politics. Maybe that’s why Lauren Bush, niece to George W. and granddaughter to George, chose it to introduce her first ready-to-wear collection called Lauren Pierce, a capsule line of environmentally sustainable styles. But before we get to the clothes, an obvious question looms: Why Pierce and not Bush? “It wasn’t a conscious decision,” says Bush.
Oh, come on.
This story first appeared in the September 10, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Obviously my last name is associated with politics,” she continues, from her perch in the Bryant Park Hotel. “But Pierce is my grandmother’s maiden name and my younger brother’s name. I was always told that if I had been a boy, I would’ve been Pierce, so there’s that idea that I could have just as easily been a Pierce as a Lauren. It’s not about downplaying my last name as much as it is about loving Pierce. And my brother is very flattered.” (Pierce also happens to be the young designer’s middle name, as well as that of her cousin Barbara.)
Name games aside, the first niece is already well-known in fashion circles. In fact, of all the political progeny with designer potential, Bush is the most likely candidate. She’s a former model, once the face of Tommy Hilfiger’s campaign. During college she spent summers studying design at Parsons The New School for Design and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She also interned for Zac Posen. And, for the past few years, Bush has been on the arm of David Lauren, who, with a father named Ralph, could well be considered the first son of American sportswear. While she acknowledges her admiration for the Lauren taste and tradition, Bush makes it clear that anyone expecting a Lauren Pierce line of polos and cable knits is mistaken. “Obviously in dating David and spending time with his family, they’ve been inspirational in some way,” says Bush, noting that she hasn’t shown her collection to Ralph Lauren. “But I’ve been interested in doing something like this since before ever meeting David.”
In fact, Bush’s biggest influence is of the socially conscious sort, and she already dipped her toes in design when, as an honorary spokesperson for the United Nation’s World Food Programme, she designed a burlap bag to benefit the WFP in 2006. The FEED bag project, as it’s known, has since raised nearly $5 million for hungry children. “I wanted to expand on that in a way that targets women and makes an impact on the sustainable world,” says Bush of Lauren Pierce, which she began working on at the beginning of this year. The 15-piece collection of simple, smart styles, all of which will be produced in New York, is anchored in sustainability. Fabrics include hemp silk, bamboo and organic cotton, though Bush is quick to point out that there is a difference between sustainable and organic, and not every piece falls into the latter category. “It’s less about, ‘I have to be an eco line,’” she says. “But if I was going to make a line, it was important that it was about low-impact fabrics.” Additionally, several of the styles, including the lively nipped-waist dress that Bush was wearing, are made of colorful cotton hand-dyed by women living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, enlisted through a program called Women for Women International. One of the goals of Bush’s collection is targeting underprivileged women; she’s been advocating the issue since writing her senior thesis at Princeton on women in the developing world. “They’re more oppressed, they eat less, they suffer much more just because of their gender,” says Bush, noting that her U.N. travels further opened her eyes to their plight. “The important thing to me is giving them a trade, a purpose, a livelihood, a job.” Thus, 10 percent of Lauren Pierce’s profits will go back to Women for Women, and Bush hopes to work with a different group of women each season.
As of press time, retail accounts for the collection, which wholesales from $52 for a bamboo T-shirt to $345 for a reversible cape, had not been confirmed, but Bush hopes to land the line at stores that “understand the vision.”
“Fashion is such an amazing vehicle,” she adds. “There’s something neat about a woman putting on an outfit that she loves and then looking at the tag and realizing it was hand-dyed by a woman in Africa.”
All these weighty issues certainly resonate this year. And, Pierce-schmierce — it’s political questions that are on the table. Will Bush be thinking Obama or McCain two months from now, on another important Tuesday? “I don’t know. [Obama is] still so new. He seems like a strong leader, but we’ll see,” she says. “I haven’t decided who I’m voting for.”