Category Archives: Fashion


Barbara Laken Starts Couture Clothing Store Contrarian

Former Highland Park resident Barbara Laken has started a couture business called Contrarian with her daughter, Alexis.

When former Highland Park resident Barbara Laken with daughter Alexis first developed their small capsule collection called Contrarian in the fall of 2009, friends thought they were crazy to start this company in such a dire economic environment.”Contrary to their opinions,” Barbara Laken said, emphasizing the very reason Contrarian was the name chosen for their couture, “we felt the time was perfect.”

Consumers would become more discerning because of the new economic uncertainties, she felt, looking carefully for clothes and wanting more for their money.
Mother-daughter duo

Working with Alexis, 30, a fashion stylist in New York, Barbara, 55, who now lives in Lakeview, travels to New Your twice a month where Contrarian has a loft. The women shop for fabrics and work together on patterns and sketches.

“New York’s downtown provides a fashion show every day — and we both benefit from that,” Alexis said.

The Lakens work in steps. “We do the design,” Barbara Laken said, “recreating our picture in a muslin.” Their pattern maker then comes back with a pattern. Fitting the new clothes on themselves, they can see how the fabric falls and if their ideas translate into wearable, functional clothing.
What designers wear

When she works, Alexis usually wears a Contrarian T shirt and jacket or one of the line’s kimono sweaters which Drew Barrymore and Gail King both bought — plus jeans. But at night, “it’s real girly sexy stuff for me — like our famous Colette dress, or one of our backless bib dresses.”

During the day, Barbara Laken often opts for one of Contrarian’s cotton shirts with wide-legged pants, while at night, she loves to combine those pants with a backless cashmere turtleneck, or “train” shirt that has a bustle at the back, if she’s looking for a more dramatic entrance. All 40 pieces of the spring 2010 collection are priced below $500.

Contrarian is 100-percent American made and New York City produced. “We’re never going to outsource,” Barbara Laken said. “There’s no need to do it. I personally think it is wrong. There are so many talented people here and they produce a better product.”

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Barbara Laken


Barbara Laken introduces CONTRARIAN Clothing line

Take a look at this new line, Contrarian, from the former Creative Director of Alice & Olivia, Alexis Laken and Barbara Laken.
Barbara Laken3
Barbara Laken3

It’s AMAZING. Such luxurious, rich statement pieces. Contrarian offers some really amazing architectural shaped pieces with drape AND structure…. perfectly combined to form truly modern clothing. The line creates a decadent wardrobe with a 1940’s inspiration, like a post-wartime gala in France. The pieces from the line show an incredible range of fashion history savvy, with looks reminiscent of 1980’s Yves Saint Laurent, Celine and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Contrarian’s designs take the differing generational views on fashion to design a line of clothing you’ll actually want to wear. And your parents will approve of. The company is pretty brand new, just launching their Spring 2010 line and I’m pretty excited about it. The clothing is all made in the USA and is inspired by the Edwardian Era and New York street fashion and it’s hard not to love. Right now, the collection is full of dresses, blazers, kimono cardigans, and military-style jackets.

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About Barbara Laken


CONTRARIAN New York by Barbara Laken and daughter Alexis

NEW YORK design team Alexis Laken and Barbara Laken, are the mother-daughter duo behind the label Contrarian.
Barbara Laken1
Barbara Laken1

Officially launched in Spring 2010, the label continues to embody the raw sex appeal and classic refinement that made their Fall 2009 capsule collection an instant favorite among stylists and celebrities. Now poised to market to a wider audience, the designer continues to focus on materials and styling that speak to individuality, ingenuity and glamour.

The label is designed by a mother and daughter duo whose goal is to create every piece with a sense of sophistication, but also add a unique and edgy twist. To further elaborate on the reasoning for the name, Barbara Laken (the mother), commented that the launch of the line in the fall of 2009 was “contrary”

to many industry opinions due to the poor economic environment at that time.With deep admiration for fashion, Alexis exercised her abilities at Alice and Olivia where she was one of the prestigious creative directors for three years. Alexis handled the marketing, events, fashion shows and celebrity involvements for the brand. Through her endeavors she has channeled her experiences to establish a sought after, intriguing clothing brand and company that brings high quality to her customer.Many other labels retailed in the under $500 price range simply reinterpret current trends.  Contrarian aims to create trends by synthesizing the three essential elements of good modern design: originality, curiosity and craftsmanship.   Contrarian creates designs that anticipate the mood of the moment.  With many integrated pieces that can be mixed and matched, Contrarian offers a fresh alternative to “cookie cutter” designs at accessible prices. The collection seamlessly combines inspiration of the quality and wit of French Couture and the edginess and cool esthetic found in downtown street style.

Contrarian is 100% American Made and New York City produced. Find them in specialty boutiques nationwide including Koros, Sarca, Legends, Pixie and Ivy, One Cube, Nous, Harajuku, She Boutique, Red E and Pik Nik.

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