Most aspiring fashion designers go into the business not only with a passion for what they do but also with an ambition to make a career out of doing what they love. They long for everyone to wear the creations they lovingly made. Who doesn’t dream of that moment a celebrity walks the red carpet, a reporter stops and asks “who are you wearing?” and that person says your name for the entire world to hear?
Lana Neumeyer is not your typical designer. She has the heart and the passion for her creations as much as the next Armani or Christian Siriano, but she doesn’t make one dime from any of the beautiful clothes she designs. Her passion not only lies in her clothes, but also in helping others, and her role in the fashion world is to be a designer with a heart.
Neumeyer’s life journey was always inspired by creativity. Growing up in Brazil Center, Brazil, close to Brazilia, she grew up in a culture where everyone made their own clothes, and they still do to this day.
“We make everything at home. We sew everything at home,” she said. “Everybody has a sewing machine. My mom is 87, and if you call her right now, I bet her sewing machine is open and she’s there fixing something or remodeling something.”
The tradition of making and mending clothes for everyone in the home was strong, but Neumeyer made sure she stood out.
“I was the only one who didn’t want to buy a magazine and copy this exact design here and go to the store and buy this exact same fabric, buttons, zippers, everything. I never did,” she reminisced. “I always wanted to do something different. I wanted to create something.”
As a professional, Neumeyer is actually an architect, as are many of her family members. Other relatives are engineers and lawyers, and in Brazil, they own thousands of acres of farmland. When she lived in Brazil, Neumeyer was a residential and commercial architect, and she also did interior design.
“We have a lot of buildings, very high towers. We have apartments…I don’t know how many thousands of square feet! And I worked a lot in interior design for these buildings or commercial buildings.”
Tragedy brought Neumeyer to the Pittsburgh, Pa., area in January 1990: She moved with her husband and two sons because her husband needed a kidney and liver transplant. Sadly after two liver transplants, he did not survive. Newmeyer returned to Brazil for the funeral, but her sons, ages 13 and 15 at the time, wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, so while they visit their family often, they have made Pittsburgh their home.
“What I do is not for everybody. It’s for people who are confident, who don’t care if they make some statement, who walk into the party and want people to look.”
Color year round is very important to Neumeyer’s designs. She feels color brings happiness and is an important part of what she creates. As for her latest line, much like past ones, she doesn’t follow trends, brands, or fads. She follows her heart.
Neumeyer spends her time searching fabric stores for material that feels special to her. She will pick up one yard here, three yards there, whatever she likes, and she makes it work. She doesn’t go into a line with a definite plan. It comes that easy to her.
Neumeyer then packs all of her material and takes it with her on a plane to Brazil, where she stays with her family and works nonstop until the clothing line is complete. For her most recent line, Neumeyer estimates that it took her three weeks to make 50 pieces. She worked together with her mother, her longtime florist, and her seamstress of 43 years, Miss Aparecida Vaz. Neumeyer is not designing her lines for the runways in Paris, New York, or even Pittsburgh. Her work is strictly a passion— she doesn’t sell any of her pieces—and it is all for charitable purposes.
“The commitment I have is to myself. I have to please myself. I have to like what I do. What is important for me is to live this as a passion, as a charity. I never feel good just writing a check and putting it in the mail. I feel so artificial. I feel I am not helping anything.”
Being involved in the event makes her feel like she is contributing much more. “I have to call my models. I have to feed them. I have to organize what pieces I want to take. I have to be there early […] it makes me feel like I am doing more than giving money.”
Neumeyer strongly feels one must be born a designer, but anyone can be creative. Inspiration, however, must be continually self-motivated.
“You know, a person’s creativity is important for doing anything. You can be a fashion designer. You can be a food designer. You can be creative with your financial situation. One of the most important things we have to have—and that we can develop and improve—is creativity.”
Neumeyer continues, “Some people say to me ‘I’m not creative!’ And I say ‘Why not?’ Have you tried? Do you make an effort to do better and better and better? It’s like exercise. Exercise your creativity!”
Exercise and passion has made this designer one with a heart of gold.