The beauty of blogging, as opposed to journalistic writing, is that rather than suppressing emotion you can actually pour it directly into your posts. I’m grateful for that, because today I am writing about an extraordinarily talented woman that I’ve had the pleasure of calling my friend for over thirty years. Let me introduce you to the Head Designer for White Elegance, Lisa Raty.
I wanted to share a bit about the woman I know before telling the story of her career and what brought her to White Elegance. First and foremost, Lisa is a remarkably dedicated mother and friend who remains loyal through thick and thin. She is passionate about creativity in all of its forms, whether it is sketching a new silhouette on whatever scratch paper she has handy or listening to her children play Rachmaninoff. She infuses everything she does with a sense of purpose and carries it out with deliberateness…characteristics that definitely show in all of her designs.
She is also a faithful, intelligent, spiritually minded deep thinker. She relentlessly pursues understanding in her gospel study, as well as in all other aspects of her life. I often receive texts from her including references to some new and interesting topic she is exploring, and I love having her share her insights with me.
Lisa is one of the most down to earth people I know; firmly grounded and always ready to share her honest opinion. Like all of us, she has had her share of difficult days, but has remained hopeful, determined and resilient. In fact, of all the admirable qualities she possesses, it is her underlying strength that I appreciate most. A mutual friend described her as “an extraordinary fusion of ferocity and grace,” a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.
As for her career as a designer at White Elegance, that began during a shopping trip around 2009. Her local temple had announced that they would not have rental clothing available when they opened, so Lisa headed out to find a new temple dress. While she was at White Elegance, purchasing a few items, the salesperson handed her a comment card on which she wrote, “I’d be happy to help with some new designs if you’re ever interested.” Co-owner, Tamera Perkins, got in touch with her right away and, knowing a good thing when she saw it, hired Lisa within the month. The rest, as they say, is history.
Lisa’s experience with and love of design and fashion has spanned a lifetime. I recently sat down with her for a brief interview.
Q: When did you first know that you wanted to pursue a career in design?
A: My earliest memory of being in church is drawing clothes and shoes on the back of the program. That’s what I remember. I eventually went to BYU and my mother told me I should be in communications. I went to Communications 101, and it was completely uninspiring to me. I was talking to my mom on the phone and I’m drawing a dress, and I’m having that moment where I am remembering, “You’ve been doing this …as long as you can remember…sitting around drawing dresses.” And it just hit me, that’s all I want to do.
A: I don’t know if I can define it, and I think that’s because every person has a different reason for their clothing choices. Sometimes it’s to project an image, but what I find for most people is that it is more complicated than that. It’s “how do I feel comfortable?” I have to feel equal parts attractive and comfortable…and it has to be easy to put on.
Q: What is your favorite piece in your personal wardrobe?
A: I do have a jacket that I absolutely adore. I love it inside and out. I love the way it makes me look and feel. It’s a black jacket with a high collar and it has these cool buttons on it. The inside is lined in pink, so every seam is covered in hot pink. I think it is really beautiful.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of design?
A: I think one of the most fun things I do is picking out fabric. I love every different kind of fabric. I love how it smells and how it feels when you run it through your fingers, how it feels against your body, how it floats. I went to the Jordan River temple recently and I was walking up the stairs and I saw a woman in the original Boho dress coming down the staircase and the back of the dress was floating down the stairs behind her and I teared up because it was so beautiful.
If you are asking about the process, it’s drawing fifteen different dresses and finally saying, “That’s it! That ticks all the boxes.” The fun part is thinking, “This is the customer and I think they are going to be happy with this dress.” I read all of the customer cards…every one…and look for all the things they wish we had.
A: Alexander McQueen. He was a pattern making genius, and that’s what I wish I was. That man could make fabric lay against a body like butter. That’s what I wish I could do. I want to collaborate with someone who can teach me something like that.
Q: Which is your favorite White Elegance temple dress and why?
A: We are decommissioning the Starburst, but that was my favorite dress. I think it was because I was given free rein. They didn’t ask what I was designing, they just let me do it. I thought it was something my mom would have worn. I thought, “My mom would be proud of this dress.” I feel like these dresses are kind of like my children and I worry about them like the toys on the island of misfit toys…are they all going to find a home and be loved and be worn by someone who loves them.
Q: How do you want women to feel when they are wearing your designs?
A: I want them to feel like they don’t have to think about their clothes; they are so comfortable that it’s no longer an issue in the temple. They feel like themselves. Nothing is binding or bothering them, they can just focus…their clothes are taken care of.
Q: What is the difference between designing the temple wear line and the new Ava Raquel everyday wear?
A: Color! There is so much more involved with the new line…things that I haven’t had to think about [with the temple dresses] like hem length and sleeve length. Again, decisions are always driven by the customer, just like in our temple line. But picking out colored buttons was really fun!
Q: What was your inspiration for the new line?
A: My inspiration is always the customer. It’s getting to know them, their needs. It’s almost always how to help them hide what they want to hide and show what they want to show and make them look and feel beautiful.
So, there you have it. As a White Elegance customer, you are a part of the process from inception to completion. You are at the forefront of every design. And behind that design you will find the immensely talented, Lisa Raty.