Shoe Designer Lauren Brinkers on Project Runway’s “Extra Meaningful” Accessory Challenge

In the November 18 episode of Project track, the contestants each faced a unique challenge: collaborating with a local accessory designer to create a whole new look. To make the project even more exciting, the winning pair received $ 25,000 from Visa as part of the company’s efforts to unlock access for small businesses by giving them the tools and resources to thrive.

The winning team included Lauren Brinkers, a New York-based shoemaker. “I do painted boots,” Lauren explained in the video below. “They are very organic, abstract, very fluid shapes, so our design was based on one of my shoes. The result is beautiful.”

Winning the cash prize was “a huge deal” for her business, Lauren explained. “Before COVID, before the city closed, my business was pretty much like now: small, it’s run by me and me alone. I do everything myself,” she said. “I get my materials, I make my product, I ship it and sometimes things are difficult.”

After working as a pediatric hospital nurse for 10 years, Lauren “retired from the bedside for five years” as she devoted herself to her shoe business. However, in the midst of the pandemic, she put her business aside to provide medical care to those in need. “I remember feeling that instinctive feeling and that feeling that I was going to be needed in the city, which I was very quickly,” she recalls. “So I closed my business completely and the next day I was deployed to one of the downtown hospitals.”

“This particular challenge of highlighting New York creatives and designers who have been affected by the COVID pandemic was very meaningful to me,” she continued. “Just to kind of support and uplift independent designers in the city.”

To learn more about Lauren and her amazing business, watch the video above!


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