Former fashion designer sews a new beginning in Kitsilano

Kids, parents, grandparents welcome at sewing studio

Laurie Franks has opened a sewing and fashion design studio in Kitsilano that she hopes will connect the young and old.

“I would drop [my kids] off at a class that I would want to take and then I would drive around in my car or sit in my car for an hour… And I thought that sucked,” Franks said.

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“So the idea is that it’s a place to come where you can bring your kids, you can join in and it can be separate or together.”

The award-winning former fashion designer opened La Movida Design Studios on West Broadway near Alma in September, hosting its official grand opening earlier this month.

The studio’s storefront at 3625 West Broadway is small and easy to miss. But the interior of the former doctor’s office sparkles with colour and creativity. It features a retail space where students can sell their wares, a sewing studio where stitchers face each other in sewing bee style, a studio for screenprinting and painting and a giant red sink that Franks fashioned from a wheelbarrow.

Although young people tend to sign up for the after-school classes and adults the evening sessions, she and Samantha Weaver, marketing and communications officer, have seen some of their hopes come true.

One grandmother in her 70s made her own silkscreen based on her five-year-old granddaughter’s drawing. The pair visited La Movida a week later so the granddaughter could paint the image her grandmother had screened onto canvas for matching tote bags.

“That’s our ultimate experience, where you can do multigenerational, you can do different things, the kids can enjoy it, adults can have some fun,” Franks said.

She’s developed her classes to accommodate all kinds of learners. Projects are deconstructed with samples students can see and feel to augment written and verbal instruction.

“Your can see, touch, feel and learn,” Franks said.

La Movida offers beginner to advanced sewing classes, silkscreening and printmaking workshops and teaches students how to dye fabric and make polymer clay buttons.

“You can make the fabric, make the buttons, draft the pattern, make the bag, screen-print it,” Franks said.

Classes are suited to beginners and those who need to prepare a portfolio for fashion design school. La Movida’s sewing machines feature stop and start buttons for those who can’t reach or are unable to use the pedals.

La Movida offers workshops meant to attract boys, hosts winter and summer camps and birthday parties. Visitors can book time in the sewing studio.

“Sewing can be really quite lonely,” said Franks, who noted two quilters who have machines come to La Movida.

“They have a bigger space rather than their kitchen table to lay it out and stitch it up and then get some feedback and it’s a little bit more social,” she said.

La Movida’s oldest visitor has been an 85-year-old woman who wanted to learn how to use the surging machines.

“She was so happy,” Weaver said. “She was like on a regular day I do crosswords. I came in today and I learned how to make something.”

Franks and Weaver hope La Movida will become a community arts space for the West Side. They’ve posted photos of students’ projects on Flickr and plan to sell them on an Etsy site.

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