Lara Hodulick on growing community organically and mindful purchasing on a budget

Lara Hodulick is a designer who hand-paints emotive artwork on one of a kind textiles and silk clothing for her project Lljuka, and in collaboration with brands such as Jason Wu and Sunad. Having worked in the art and fashion industries for over twelve years, Lara has navigated the highs and lows of these landscapes with utmost grace.

Welcoming us into her home, Lara talked to us about how she dreamed up Lljuka, the virtue of patience, and how to take measures towards conscious sustainability in our daily lives (and introduced us to her roommate's regal dog, Lily).

Lara, tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Lara, which means protection in Latin. I’d like to think that translates into my work and lifestyle. The clothes I paint protect you and make you feel special. I am from upstate New York near Beacon, and have been living in NYC for the past twelve years.

For your business Lljuka, you produce hand-painted designs on one of a kind vintage pieces. What moved you to pursue this?

I was on road trip from Sedona, Arizona to Los Angeles with my pal, Travis Iurato, who is an artist, and our long conversations with the desert backdrop ultimately led me to picking up a paintbrush the day I got back from that trip. I did some research and found painting on silk was my favorite medium. With everything so technical today – I am unbelievably not tech savvy – I felt there was a lost art to hand painted pieces. Everything is digital now. I wanted to explore that and to revive vintage silk at the same time.

You have been working with Breanne DiDomenico – owner of Brooklyn’s beloved Horizons Vintage – for many years, and have cultivated deep ties with local businesses, artists and community members. What lessons have you learned through this journey about being successful in business?

I owe a thousand thank you’s to Breanne and the Horizons community. Horizons was the seed for Ljuka and incredible opportunities and relationships have blossomed from there. Horizons has taught me the importance in growth and that takes time. Breanne has been doing Horizons for 10+ years, not including vintage markets before that. She doesn’t stop even when things are very difficult, and I have learned to enjoy the process rather than want to always be at the finish line. Also staying true to who are you and your vision. Horizons opened pre-social media, so it truly built its community and following organically. Social media had played a great role in the recent years and helped the business, but Breanne has always maintained to stay true to herself rather than follow trends.

What are some challenges you’ve encountered in both the creative and business realms in your work as a designer?

Living in New York City is extremely expensive. I work seven days a week (including Ljuka) and still cannot afford a studio space to paint in. With my multiple jobs I also juggle scheduling time to paint but I have to remind myself I have only been painting for about three years. Each year I find a new layer of the process and Ljuka is always moving forward.

What steps can we take towards conscious sustainability in how we approach fashion?

Making small productions of clothing is a huge step, by not over-producing, and of course being conscious of the fabric choices and where it is made. A huge reason I paint on vintage is because there are so many beautiful silk pieces with a spot or a defect that someone would toss. I can paint over that issue and revive the piece. I am also working on a small production of hand painted silk pieces with a studio in Industry City locally. I recently volunteered for fabric warehouse called Fabscrap, where I worked with sorting old fabrics left from corporations and high end designers that rid of their fabrics after a season. These fabrics are then sold at a low cost to make clothing or textiles with (if you volunteer you get upto 5lbs of fabric free!). This gave me the idea to produce my pieces with deadstock or scrap silk yards, in that way I will not be producing new silk and will be recycling. Also buying vintage clothing or local designers in general is a small step in supporting sustainability, there is too much fast fashion on the planet. I also understand for many they cannot afford higher end designers and emerging designers so avoiding non-biodegradable textiles and fabrics when purchasing new clothing is a great step. America alone tosses upto 11 million or more tons of clothing a year and unfortunately non-biodegradable items that sit for years release harmful gasses in the air.

If you weren’t working in the fashion industry, what would you be doing?

If I weren’t a hypochondriac I would love be a doctor or veterinarian or working in science. I know it sounds cheesy but I wish I could do more or help people. I also have always been a huge fan of architecture and interiors and can see myself going down that route at some point.

You were born and raised in upstate New York and have lived in New York City for almost twelve years. How have these two distinct spaces shaped how you approach life?

I am so fortunate to have both beautiful places in my life. Living in nature with a horse and chickens and a meadow behind my house grounded me, it gives me my calmness. New York City gives me the opportunities and community I craved as I became a young adult and eventually moved to the city


Who are some artists whose works you are inspired by?

I look at a lot of art constantly but mainly pull inspiration from things I see in life, a building, a flower, a horse in a field. I’ve also always gravitated towards sculptors such as Barbara Hepworth and Constantin Brancusi – I am attracted to shapes.

Between working with Horizon’s and designer Szeki Chan, as well as pursuing freelance projects and working on your own brand, how do you maintain balance in your world?

I visit galleries and museums monthly, it gives me a sense of calm and also inspiration. I wanted to live in NYC to be close to the culture, so I try to utilize that as much as possible. I also visit the West Coast at least twice a year and plan little trips. Whenever I travel I feel somewhat rejuvenated and ready to be back in the hustle of my life in NYC.

Looking ahead, what’s next for Lara?

I am excited to do my second silk production! And collaborate with more friends and artists. I have a collaboration coming out this Spring/Summer with the Madrid based designers Sunad. I also painted a series of scarves for a pop-up in Mexico City where the proceeds will go to earthquake victims. Also, in May I am bringing Ljuka to the West Coast and hosting a pop-up at a wonderful vintage shop called Weepah Way. I want to continue to make work that is part of something progressive and simply bring more beauty to the world if I can.

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