Buffalo’s fashion industry just got a big boost. Bambi “Bam” Layne of B. Layne Creations has opened a studio at 500 Seneca, bringing with her some top talents that she intends on lavishing upon Buffalo. Bam recently moved back to Buffalo after spending years living and working between LA and Paris.
After leaving Buffalo in 2000, Bam set out for Boston where she worked as a chemist for ten years. During that time, she took classes at Harvard in the field of sustainability. “My grandparents were farmers,” Bam told me. “So we learned to reuse everything. I learned early on the importance of using everything over and over… for me, it’s a way of life.”
In 2009 Bam moved to LA where she and her husband (now ex) began to get involved in humanitarian efforts in Cameroon (his home country). They split their time traveling back and forth from LA to Paris, but it was their home in Paris that Bam was particularly fond of. “Even there, we built and lived as ecologically sensitive and as low impact as possible,” she continued. “It’s a state of mind for me. My apartments have always started with reclaimed furniture. In my family, we pass items around from person to person.”
The book was part ‘how to’, part eco lessons, and part informal biography.
It was while she was in Paris that she started a line of clothing to coincide with the Ethical Fashion Show (in Paris). But the German investor canceled the Paris shows and opted to hold them in Berlin. Not knowing what to do with her new line of eco-designed clothing, Bam decided to create a book, which turned out to be an enormous undertaking. The softcover became a functional workbook format for designers, and the hardcover became a coffee table book.
An example of the type of content is Bam’s bomber jack, which she completely deconstructed, reconstructed, while outlining the process with photos and illustrations from A to Z. The book also featured upcycled furniture, reused housewares, elements of historic reclamation, recycling, sustainable forestry, and fascinating commercial product paradoxes. The book was part ‘how to’, part eco lessons, and part informal biography.
By the time that Bam had finished the book (Eco-Transformations | Volume 1), she found herself in a hybrid role as author, designer, teacher, and environmental steward. It was around that time that thoughts of Buffalo began to swirl around in her head. She had been paying attention to the city’s rebirth, and felt that she could help to make a difference in her hometown. So she packed her bags (trucks full), and headed home.
It didn’t take long before 500 Seneca caught her eye, which is now where she has her eco studio – B. Layne Creations. Walking into the studio is like walking into a structured tornado. There are fabrics lying around everywhere, and deconstructed and found objects – racks of clothing, a sewing studio, a small retail component, and stacks of books. “It’s a functional chaos of creativity,” she told me [laughing]. “I loved being a chemist, but art therapy led to the line of clothes and the book. My latest fashion line is called Been There Clothing – everything is made from items that I found in people’s closets, or pieces that were given to me, or that I found along the way. I’m also very busy with clothing repairs and alterations. At this point my entire clientele comes from the 500 Seneca building. I’ve only been open since fall, but somehow word traveled and everyone found me. I’m consistently backed up one week, which is a good problem to have.”
Her five year plan is to open a functional eco transformations work studio in every design school city in the US.
Before she moved back to Buffalo, Bam was going to put on a fashion show in LA. Now her plans have turned to Buffalo and the 500 Seneca building (stay tuned). She has also hooked up with the Buffalo State Fashion and Textile Technology department. The department asked her to be a judge in an upcoming fashion show. Bam is very interested in bolstering the education arm of her business. Soon she will be teaching classes at her studio, but her five year plan is to open a functional eco transformations work studio in every design school city in the US. The concept will allow design and fashion students to have a place to perform their sustainable design intern hours. Currently Bam has brought onboard an intern from Buffalo State, a part time independent contractor from FIT and a part time employee from Fredonia State. As if she wasn’t busy enough, she has been asked to speak at Occidental College in April for Earth Day.
From designing her first handbag from scraps when she was ten years old, to gunning for the 43North Competition, to setting her sights on her second book (showcasing Buffalo’s eco/fashion/design bootstrapping efforts), Bam is ready to help elevate the fashion realm of Buffalo. “My client is the sustainable person,” she told me. “From the small repairs to massive creations, I am happy to have landed in a place that has been so receptive to what I do. More than anything else… it’s good to be home.”