A Maple Ridge entrepreneur has taken her hourglass clothing designs to Toronto for a show that brought together fashion industry talent from across the nation.
Lalena Whitcombe, founder and owner of Hourglass Heaven, attended Startup Fashion Week, where her designs hit the runway for the first time.
“For me it feels like my first real fashion show,” said the former Maple Ridge resident who had previously participated in small local trade shows but nothing centred around fashion.
Startup Fashion Week was launched in 2014 by Jodi Goodfellow and has provided opportunities for emerging models, entrepreneurs, designers and creative media.
But Whitcombe’s success didn’t come easy.
Her journey began after she was laid off from her job of 10 years with a large computer software company.
The company went from 41 offices worldwide to 12 that Whitcombe was part of the massive amounts of layoffs that took place.
She tried to find a similar job but was not willing to move. She had just purchased her house in Maple Ridge, when the market was high, about one month before she received her notice at work.
“I was able to find jobs but everything was a step down,” said the entrepreneur.
She searched for work for a solid year and ran through her severance package.
It was at that point that she found out about the self employment program at Douglas College through her case manager at WorkBC.
The program is partly funded by the government for people who want to start their own business.
However Whitcombe could no longer afford her mortgage and decided to sell her house and put that money towards her new business that was launched in 2017.
Whitcombe designs dresses that fit women with classic hourglass figures, in other words with hips and a bust that are about equal size and a narrow waist that is more than 23 centimetres smaller than the hips and bust.
She started with the classic black dress, something that you could wear to the office and then to a party at night.
“Busty women like me often have a hard time finding clothes that fit and look good,” said Whitcombe.
“Most of the options are so baggy you look 10 pounds heavier and like you’re wearing a sack, or so revealing you’re concerned about the kind of attention you’ll get and where people will be looking,” she added.
The idea came from her previous job when she started working in project manager roles and had meetings with CEO’s and business owners.
“I didn’t have the right business wear. Up until then jeans and t-shirts were fine because it’s tech industry, nobody cares,” she said.
The clothing Whitcombe produces is designed to be elegant and professional and fits DD+ up to a J cup in a wide range of sizes from 0-26.
One of her biggest challenges was finding the funds to start her business and also creating brand awareness.
Whitcombe says she is proud she has been able to build an ethical and sustainable business in Canada that manufactures clothing in Metro Vancouver.
Startup Fashion Week Toronto took place Oct. 21-25.
The runway show included 11 other designers.
For more information on Whitcombe’s fashions go to hourglassheaven.ca.