During a class on 19th-century art, Lauren Field ’16 found herself lamenting that so many classic works of art were trapped in museums and textbooks. She wanted to find a way to give those exquisite pieces more circulation in everyday life. So she teamed up with Shriya Samavai CC ’15 and created a proposal for a company that would incorporate works of art into clothes and accessories. Their pitch won the Columbia Venture Competition’s Undergraduate Challenge last year, a prize that comes with $25,000.
The company’s first product is “The Great Wave” raincoat, a sleek, navy-blue jacket that bears, on its lining, a reproduction of the Japanese woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. Field and Samavai selected the 19th-century image to evoke water with their raincoat, but also to provide access to an artwork that usually cannot be enjoyed without buying a ticket to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or another museum that owns the print. (The students licensed the image from the Met.)
At Barnard, Field was an English major concentrating in creative writing, but her art history classes frequently brought her to New York City’s many museums, including the Met. She first studied The Great Wave during Professor Anne Higonnet’s course on 19th-century art.
For the contest, which evaluated proposals based on innovativeness and viability, Field and Samavai learned how to put together business projections and a marketing strategy, and delivered a seven-minute pitch to the judges. Their proposal highlighted the importance of bringing more female leadership to the business world. “Going to Barnard, gender politics is at the forefront of my thoughts,” Field says. “We included statistics about why women-led companies outperform their counterparts.”
The raincoat started off as a drawing; the students tweaked it using a computer-based design program. Working with a variety of professionals—including a sample maker, a pattern maker, and a size grader—the duo sweated every detail. They refined technical issues such as fit and measurement, scoured stores in the garment district, and chose buttons from hundreds of options. They also learned tricks of the trade such as how much fabric is needed to create a cuff or a lining.
Field credits the fashion professionals she met with providing indispensable assistance—and in doing so, teaching her a broader lesson: “Friendliness can be the best tool of persuasion when it comes to getting things done.”
The pair created 25 unisex jackets, which were manufactured in New York and New Jersey and are available through the website for their company, Studio Lucien, for $350 each. They have sold most of their inventory and are looking forward to their next collaboration, most likely a bomber jacket that incorporates an original artwork they plan to commission from an emerging New York artist.
Field credits her experience at Barnard and her award from the Columbia contest with giving her the bravery to try unfamiliar things: “Barnard gave me the confidence to try new projects and the skills to follow through on them.” •