“Immediately” and “likeable” are two words that aren’t usually used together in the fashion world, but Style Riot’s founder Laura Walters is immediately likeable. Walters was born and raised in Indianapolis. Though she’s lived in Chicago and Los Angeles, her Midwestern charm shines through. She’s an Intelligent businesswoman, a lover of people, and has a natural zest for creativity.
Maggie Voss: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Laura Walters: I’ve loved fashion since I was very young and would experiment with different looks, layers, textures all the time throughout my youth and into high school. I loved trying new things. I watched pop stars and celebrity fashion religiously and just loved turning pages of magazines checking out the latest trends. Unfortunately upon going to college I kind of lost myself. Looking back on photos I wasn’t really dressing like “me”. I lost that personal sense of style. Mostly because I chose a major that I wasn’t passionate about. There was nothing fueling me creatively. Once I got my degree and moved to Chicago, I really feel I regained that sense of personal style. You can’t help but be inspired by big city living and seeing what other people were wearing. While working at a marketing company, I had a coworker ask me why I hadn’t decided to work in fashion. I blew it off as just a hobby. A fun way to express myself, put outfits together and have fun. Truth be told, I never really felt it could be a career for me.
I stayed in marketing all through my time in Chicago, and then on a whim decided to move to Los Angeles. I got a job with Anthropologie and started helping with their windows. I gained confidence in my ability to style. I realized quickly that I had an eye for it. I was praised for my ability to create out-of-the-box looks that customers wouldn’t normally put together.
I didn’t stay in L.A. very long and was really ready to move back to Indiana and be with my family. I struggled though, because so much of a large city resonated with me. The fashion, art, design, and theater, its a very big part of who I am. But truth be told, I’m also a Midwestern girl who likes the small town mentality. I was torn, but I knew I needed to come home.
MV: What happened next?
LW: I moved back to Indy and got a job in marketing. It was a field I knew and I wanted to follow through and try to continue my career path. I also knew I needed to find my ‘people’. Find my creative outlet. So I moved downtown. In moving to the city, I found PATTERN. It opened up a million amazing doors for me. PATTERN helped me build my confidence and gave me that creative outlet I so desperately needed and craved. I had found my place with creative people who challenged me to come out of my creative shell. My love of fashion just continued to grow from there. I knew I could make my contribution by helping people realize that fashion is fun and not something to be terrified or bored with. Now, i’m happy to say, I’m finally doing it full time.
MV: How’d you get the idea to start your own business?
LW: I started Style Riot because I love personal style. I love helping people find it, the way I found mine. For me, it was so freeing, I wanted to give people that feeling as well. So why not become a stylist? A consultant? Offer a concierge service for personal style and fashion focused entities? It really is my dream job. I also love fashion. I love everything about it. The construction, the design process, textile choices; the art of clothing. When people find something that they love, they do as much research and retaining as they can. For me, it’s fashion. There’s never an end to the amount of knowledge you can take in. I’m still learning, retaining and will never stop.
When I started Style Riot, I was still working full time but quickly realized that in order to make it successful, I needed to put a lot more energy and time into it. I recently left my full time job and I relaunched Style Riot in the beginning of January.
MV: What’s a mantra you tell your clients if they aren’t confident in themselves?
LW: I try to remind people that fashion is fun. It’s a blast actually. I always encourage my clients to wear one funky out there thing that they wouldn’t normally wear. I also want my clients to embrace their bodies and their whole sense of self. It’s all about loving yourself and being open to trying fun and interesting ways to promote self-expression. Don’t be afraid to turn heads and stand out! We often underestimate the power of being our complete unique selves. I am proud of who I am, but is certainly something that I had to work on, work towards. I’ve gotten to a wonderful point in my life where I’m OK with me. I’m ok standing out. I love wearing outlandish clothing. So why shouldn’t I wear it, right? Life is too short not to just enjoy how you look and have fun.
MV: What are some fashion/lifestyle Instagram accounts that give you life?
LW: I like Catherine Baba because she is unapologetically herself. She has such a unique sense of style that commands attention. She has a certain sense of whimsy to her and mixes vintage with the new so beautifully. I love her chaos and and symmetry all at the same time. I also LOVE following Maja Wyh and Petite Meller. Maja is just brilliant and I love her style. She is the layering queen, and an oversized junkie. So basically she’s the cheese to my mac. Petite is much more on the spectrum of cartoonish. I love that. Again, same with Baba, I am certainly drawn to those who march to the beat of their own style drum. I find for women like them, “out of the box” is even too boring of a saying. They simply wear their souls.
MV: Do you think your family had an affect on your style?
LW: My family definitely had an affect on my personal style. My grandmother, mother, and aunt are huge influences for me. My grandmother is so comfortable in her creative skin. She’s forward thinking, always has been, and extremely talented in interior design. She and I are very similar. I’ve always loved that, and feel grateful for her influence to be unique and march to the beat of MY own drum. My mother is the epitome of style and grace. And she always appreciated beautiful clothing. When I was little, I remember slowly running my hand over the fabric of her dresses. Watching her put on her jewelry. Her statement pieces. My mother styles herself in a very architectural way. She’s very similar to Diane Keaton, whom we both love. She’s got this cool menswear look going on, but there is a femininity to it. I include my Aunt Anne here as well. Extremely creative, graceful and impeccable taste and style.
MV: How would you describe your personal style?
LW: It’s all over the place. I don’t really have a specific aesthetic. If I had to give an answer it would most likely be kind of a rock ’n’ roll bohemian thing going on. When it comes to my style, I like more of a hard edge with a feminine touch. The pieces I gravitate towards are bold with a lot of exaggerated details. I like clothing that could qualify as a piece of art.
MV: What’s the most bizarre styling or editorial request you’ve ever gotten?
LW: I was a stylist for one of PATTERN’s photo shoots. It was one of my first and it was a really big learning experience for me. I had to convey the story of this woman going from innocent girl to Frankenstein monster. That shoot was really fun but also dark and eerie.
MV: Besides your family, where do you find your inspiration?
LW: I get inspiration everywhere. Just walking down the street, really. I’m also a magazine junkie. I watch a lot of fashion shows, documentaries. I also keep an eye on all the women I respect and love in fashion. Just to see what they are wearing. Women like Leandra Medine, Taylor Tomasi Hill , Jenna Lyons and Carine Roitfeld. As a woman who has just started a business, these women, among many others (my list of role models is long) remind me that I can keep going. They are very human, and they have a wonderful sense of style that is all their own.
MV: I hear you love Kimonos. What intrigues you about them?
LW: My grandmother had a lot of vintage Kimonos. Kimonos are the epitome of everything I love about fashion. They represent culture, history, craftsmanship, vibrancy and I love the boldness of their exaggerated sleeves. I also like that they are feminine, chic and so so fun.
MV: How do you feel about the Indianapolis fashion scene?
LW: I think one misconception about this city is that you won’t be able to find inspiration, find a scene or find any creative outlet. That’s not true. It’s everywhere, but you just have to look for it. I’ve had the opportunity to work with countless talented people, and I am proud of the work that we’ve done together. People here collaborate a lot easier because we are still in the building up phase. The competition here is healthy. There is no where to go but up. There is an opportunity to be experimental and out-of-the-box. There is an opportunity to grow. People of many talents are staying here instead of leaving. People here, who have influence and the ability to financially support fashion, are starting to understand that this industry can be a huge economic push for this city. That there is so much talent here to support and engage.
MV: What are a couple of local places that you love to shop?
MV: What look are you most excited about for 2017?
LW: I’m obsessed with Gucci’s prints. I’m also loving the bold colors, exaggerated designs, fringe and metallics.
MV: What are your talents outside of fashion?
LW: I just love being social and connecting people. I get my energy from others. I also love working with interior decor and of course writing.
MV: How did you get started in publication writing?
LW: I have always loved to write. Since I was little. Years ago I had a blog called Succotash. Just your basic free-thinking mess where I could write about anything. As for publication writing, it began with Urban Times, a local Indianapolis paper. A few different people gave me a shot at writing after that, including Indianapolis Monthly. My true passion is creative writing, so anytime I have the opportunity to write something that’s weird and off-the-wall, I will. I hope that writing opportunities continue throughout the new year. I love doing it.
MV: What advice would you give an aspiring stylist who wants to start their own business, but didn’t get a degree in fashion and hasn’t had much experience?
LW: The best thing I did for myself was participate in shoots with other stylists. I sought out mentors who I could follow around, pick their brain and learn. I can sit here for hours and tell someone what to do; but the truth is, you’ve got to live it and do it. You have to get an understanding of the process by shadowing someone else. Talk to as many people as you can. If you want to learn, collaborate with a photographer, hair stylist, or makeup artist. You’ll have fun and make lots of connections too.
MV: Simple fashion advice?
LW: My main piece of advice for people is to work really hard at wearing clothing that fits. It’s crucial. Don’t worry about size and numbers, just work at loving yourself and wearing clothing that flatters your body type. I know it can be hard though, I really understand that. I have struggled before too. But what’s great is, if you need help, that’s what Style Riot is here for!
MV: What’s your ultimate dream outfit?
LW: How about a beautifully designed military jacket. A blouse with massive billowy sleeves. Leather pants. A kick ass wide studded belt and a metallic bootie.
Photography by Esther Boston.