Close to home

Home + Garden Style

May 1, 2024

Laura and Sumner Park

Laura Park branches out with new lines that are all in the family.

by Cathy Martin

Laura Park never set out to create a flourishing home-décor brand. Eight years ago, the former schoolteacher and mother of four turned an art hobby into a bona fide business when she began photographing her paintings and transferring the digital designs to pillows, wallpaper, rugs and more.  

The pandemic only fueled the business — those long months when everyone was sitting at home thinking, “I could really use some new throw pillows.” Today, along with a flagship store on Providence Road, Laura Park Designs’ textiles and accessories from pet beds to picture frames are found in showrooms and boutiques across the U.S.

Given the family’s penchant for creativity — husband Trip is an artist and illustrator — it’s no surprise that two of Laura’s daughters are now growing the business in new directions. Lawson, 24, is the founder and designer of Brooks Avenue, an apparel offshoot of Laura Park Design. Sumner, 28, curates a line of jewelry, handbags and accessories under the label Pieces by Sumner.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the design space,” says Lawson, 24, a UNC Chapel Hill grad who’s studying for an MFA in fashion design at FIT in New York City. In high school, she started an upcycled clothing business. In college, she heat-pressed graphic designs onto tees and sweatshirts and sold them online. “I’ve always had a little side hustle.”

Soon after graduation, Lawson tagged along with her mom to a networking event for the Southern Coterie, a community of women entrepreneurs. There, she met the founders of BURU, a Los Angeles-based clothing brand. “I was not expecting to get a job or to move to LA,” Lawson says, but that chance meeting led to a yearlong role as a design assistant at BURU. During that time, the seed for Brooks Avenue — her most ambitious side hustle yet — was planted. 

Left: Lawson Park, founder and designer of Brooks Avenue. Right: Laura Park with daughters Sumner, Cameron and Lawson

Brooks Avenue launched in July 2023 with colorful printed maxi skirts, pajamas and handbags. The prints are a collaborative effort — some were pulled from Laura Park’s archive; others are original to Brooks Avenue. Today, the line — including dresses, blouses and quilted totes — is sold in about 100 boutiques, mostly in the southeast. The idea for the brand is to encourage women of all ages to wear color with confidence, Lawson says. “The age group doesn’t really matter, but [the customer] is a very on-the-go, confident woman who just wants to have fun with her style.” 

Lawson isn’t the first Park sibling to dip her toes in the family business. “Sumner’s been with me from the beginning,” Laura says of her eldest daughter. “She went to one of my first market shows with me in New York, and helped me set up the booth. She’s always had fun sourcing and [with] product development.”

“My genuine artistic and business curiosity took off,” adds Sumner, who works full time as a news producer in New York. “Whenever we attended market shows together, I always tried to get her brand out in front of designers, publicists and corporations looking for the next rising star.” Sumner also helped organize Laura Park trunk shows in the Triangle area while she was in college. 

Sumner chooses items for her accessories line, which she began as a side gig pre-Covid, to complement Laura Park’s vibrant patterns. Along with stadium bags with punchy patterned straps, Pieces by Sumner includes colorful stone earrings and bright beaded handbags sourced from India and Turkey. Future collections will include accent pillows and home-decor items. 

“I love playing off of each other’s ideas and finding ways to work collaboratively,” says Sumner, who enjoys a part-time role in the business as she continues pursuing her media career. 

In January 2025, Pieces by Sumner will roll out a collection featuring block prints sourced from India and derived from Laura Park patterns. For Lawson — a dreamer who muses about the someday possibility of New York Fashion Week or even a Laura Park-inspired hotel — the possibilities are endless. “I am so grateful for the years that my mom has dedicated and spent building her business, because it created the opportunity for me to pursue my childhood dream of being a fashion designer,” Lawson says. “Expanding the Laura Park brand into the world of apparel is a new area for both of us, and it’s special that we get to figure it out together.”

She attributes her drive and work ethic to her parents and her experience working for the husband-wife team at BURU. “My role model for what it looks like to start a business is to be working all the time… At dinner conversations, we’re always talking about it. I think [my mom and I are] both just really passionate about it, so it’s a natural part of our daily lives.”

While there was never any master plan for building her brand, Laura is savoring time spent with her daughters, whether through late-night phone calls to discuss work or on sourcing trips to search for new products. “It’s just evolved over time… It’s been really fun to see where it’s going and having both my girls involved now.”  SP

Featured image: Laura and Sumner Park. Photograph by Olly Yung courtesy Laura Park

TENNIS FOR A TERRIFIC CAUSE!

Join us for the
SouthPark Magazine Pro-Am benefiting Wheel Serve NC!

 

Saturday, June 1 at Olde Providence Racquet Club

Presented by Audi Charlotte

Spots are limited! Sign up to play today!