It may only be March, but Lela Orr is already having a milestone year. The Project Runway alumna from last spring was awarded Womenswear Designer of the Year by Fashion Group International of Dallas — she also received a nod from FGI New York — and now she’s putting the finishing touches on Sept, a Trinity Groves showroom opening this spring.
“This year was big for me,” says Orr. “To win in your hometown means everything. It’s really something special when your own community recognizes your talents. Dallas has such an amazing fashion community.”
While in graduate school at Parsons School of Design, Orr created the first collection of her womenswear label, Ferrah, as a thesis project. Designed with a focus on eco-friendly practices, pieces are crafted to produce zero waste. Patterns are cut to ensure no fabric is left unused and any scraps that are produced are repurposed into accessories or donated to quilting guilds.
Orr uses natural, locally- and ethically-sourced materials, seeking out suppliers who employ innovative practices to reduce their carbon footprint, such as making non-toxic “leather” from plant-based alternatives like pineapple and cactus.
“Fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world after oil and gas,” says Orr. “I took a zero-waste class at Parsons and learned about the Rana Plaza disaster [a deadly garment factory collapse in Bangladesh], which shifted the way I think about making clothes. I wanted to set up a supply chain that was ethical and had the least carbon footprint.”
Eventually, Orr brought on Lea Nyland Poulsen of Denmark as a business and design partner. Together, the duo honed the Ferrah aesthetic, which Orr describes as “wardrobe staples with a feminine edge.” The Arabic root for “joy,” the brand name embodies the company’s ultimate goal: “to create timeless clothes that make customers happy.” Currently available online and by appointment at the atelier, Ferrah will be among the collections displayed at Sept, which will also house the brand’s atelier.
Likening Sept to a “co-op for sustainable designers,” Orr says she’ll stock the store with a rotation of women’s apparel, jewelry, and accessories from sustainable brands. Pieces will be displayed much like works of art in a gallery, available for purchase for a limited time. The goal, says Orr, is to “bridge the gap between sustainable designers and customers, while connecting designers with other creatives and commerce.”
“I feel like there’s so much potential in the Trinity Groves area,” says Orr. “It’s such a vibrant community. I felt like there was an untapped market for luxury retail.”
Sept is expected to open in late April. For updates and more information, follow @septstudios or visit sept-studios.com.