OK, so you just got your very first pad or your boyfriend has finally convinced you to move in. Now the hard part begins . . . turning this house into your home. Worry no more, Tina Shoulders, founder of uber chic urban decor brand Laidback, is here to the rescue! “Laidback came from me wanting to come up with something funky and catchy that can relate back to home dÃ©cor products,” Shoulders says. “Having worked in the fashion industry for years and understanding graphics and names that have become staples in our homes I knew it had to have an urban feel to it.” Since there is such a void in the home decor arena, Clutch wanted to pick the brain of this up and coming brand to find out out more.
Q: When did Laidback Home launch? Laidback unofficially launched December 3, 2006 at a Shop N Mingle hosted by Harriet’s Alter Ego. That was the first time I actually put it out there for people to see. I was always trying to wait until I had everything together, until everything was right in my eyes, however that provided the opportunity to put it out there, and it was a great way to launch.
Q: What’s the Laidback story? Laidback home was birthed while I was working at a freelance gig. I quit working full time about four and a half years ago. I started freelancing as a textile and graphic designer for fashion companies; the big guys. One day I saw an add for a designer for a home dÃ©cor company. I knew I wanted to try my hand at home dÃ©cor so I applied and got the job which was technically full time, but just a training camp for home dÃ©cor experience to me. While working on towel designs one day, I started talking to my assistant about how cool it would be if the towels had skulls, and skateboarders and graphics that were really funky. I started conceptualizing towels, linens, sheets, and pillows that were the equivalent of street or urban gear but for the home. I wanted the graphics and the fabrics that we rock on our T-shirts while sporting jeans to be the look that I would create for the home. My assistant at the time got hyped we said “yeah, let’s do it!” We started working on graphics and I just knew we could rock this but I think it was a bit much for her to conceive at the time and I was pretty much trying to work it the same way we worked at the office. I was setting deadlines, scheduling meetings, and the like, and then she just straight up disappeared. I had left the company after working on some very successful projects for them and we basically lost contact. However it was real enough for me to see it, so early last year which was two years after the initial thought I set out to create it. I started drawing and coloring and creating, I took a class at FIT, and the rest is what you see. Laidback is hip hop or street gear for your room.
Q: We have noticed there are not that many African American DÃ©cor companies, if there are, they’re hard to find. Why do you think that is? And is there a lot out there that are just not publicized or highlighted enough? Where can you find them?
Well I would have to agree as far as I could see we are very scarce in the industry. You have the interior designers that are creating product like Sheila Bridges, Tracy Reese has a home dÃ©cor line, and I think baby Phat or Phat Farm were/are working on one. However when I go to trade shows, design meetings, events, there is a Black out. I don’t think we are as exposed to product design as we are to fashion design. I speak at design classes at FIT and will be teaching a class in the spring, and everytime I go to a home products class to speak we are rarely represented. I think once more of us get to the forefront and introduce it as a viable creative career we will see a lot more students enrolling in classes that later become the future product designers. You see black fashion designers sprouting up everywhere doing their thing. However it has not crossed over into the home as much yet, for one it is not as glamorous, however home dÃ©cor is a billion dollar industry. There might be some but I have been talking with Jerise the blogger from Riclectic (riclectic.blogspot.com) that covers African Americans in interiors and design and even she finds it hard to find new designers of color to feature. She has been my most recent source on blacks in interiors and product design. I also network a lot, search the web and ask people about designers of color. I also find that there are some good designers of color out there that are well known that do not get the coverage on some of the popular design blogs when they introduce new pieces. I don’t know for sure why that is, maybe they are just not hitting the blogs for exposure. There is a big DIY and crafters movement going on right now that might introduce some new designers of color into the market. I have seen some great pieces on etsy from us that could sprout into quality businesses.
Q: What makes Laidback Home different from others in the industry?
Laidback is different because we are setting out to be a lifestyle brand and become a part of a culture that already exists. Hip Hop is growing up, it is a culture, and we are becoming a culture of home buyers, apartment dwellers and have always been trendsetters. So now Laidback is coming to your home to fill the void in the home market, to add the flair the color, the graphic, the conversation pieces to your living space. Laidback is driven by denim, and fashion colors, bold graphics and pop culute imagery that is not seen in the home market right now. In the rare instance that you do see it, it is forced not authentic. I am bringing it to you from my closet, my friends closet, the streets and giving you fashion for the home.
Q: What’s included in your collection?
Right now the main collection is the pillows. I have been doing custom pieces to compliment the pillows for customers, but the main assortment is made of the various pillows. We do have totes that were birthed from the most popular pillow designs. That happened because so many people said that they would love a tote in the design. I tried to fight it, but one day I made one for myself and everyone stated asking for it. So the totes exist.
Great things are on the horizon for this uber chic urban decor line such as the new collection of pillows and totes will be out in time for the holidays. Laidback is also working on rolling out an entire home collection for summer 2008. The summer collection will include duvets, sheets, throw pillows, and complimentary lounge wear as well as some plateware.
Laidback is available online at www.laidbackhome.com. Laidback is also available at the Studio Museum in Harlem, A&G Merch in Williamsburg, Hacyclon, in Dumbo and at my Tina Shoulders home studio on Saturdays in the Bronx, NY.