OTL Community Spotlight: Laura Gambucci
Our interview began at her store: nestled on a street in La Jolla, Laura Gambucci’s boutique is the culmination of mixed textures, raw materials and sophisticated yet inviting fashion. Beyond its aesthetic, Laura’s store tells a narrative of female empowerment, the therapeutic power of reimagining oneself, and the importance of building community relationships. As I sat down with Laura, we traveled through this array of ideas as she reflected on not only how she built her store from the ground up, but how she continues to practice authentic and intentional styling fifteen years later. We also took time to discuss what it means to be a community leader and how, ultimately, with honed passion and dedication, it’s not about whether or not one will create positive impact, but simply how they will get there.
Q: Why did you decide to create your store?
A: As a professional of 35 years with a background in textile and design, I thought there was a real need out there for interesting collections. There’s a tendency for stores to buy something for the name - to buy safe. I always felt like that wasn’t for everyone; I was styling a range of women, all at different points in their life. You can’t just expect everyone to fit that mold.
My store is about really understanding women; understanding where they are in life and helping them become who they want to be. I always say it starts from the inside; if you feel good you look good, and if you look good, you feel good. I see that in the way I dress women. For so long the attention hasn’t been on themselves; it’s been on kids, husbands, work, or sometimes their own doubts. When you can see yourself in the mirror in a way that you haven’t in a long time, it does something transformative on the inside.
At the end of the day, I’m a woman’s woman, and I will always inject positivity in not only the way I speak with my clients, but also how I dress them.
Q: You said the store is an authentic version of yourself. How did your personal story translate into elements of your store?
A: The architect, Jennifer Luce, told me the store needed to be about me, she wanted to know who I was. So, in the beginning, she had me find objects that represented who I was and had me give a presentation of myself. It was unnerving, yet, what happened afterwards was immensely powerful and empowering.
When I looked at the collection of items I chose to define myself and my store, I realized that most everything I had chosen was a reflection of the women in my life. They affected and inspired me to become the woman I am, and continuously inspire me through their strength and their passion.
For example, the hanging bronze mannequin is a homage to Louise Bourgeois, an amazingly powerful feminist, and her sculpture The Arch of Hysteria. For me, the sculpture is about strength. There was a lot of turmoil in Louise Bourgeois’s personal life. Yet, she rose against this, becoming a tiny yet empowered woman who went against society’s view of the taboo female form.
Q: Can you describe your journey with Outside the Lens?
A: I’ve always loved and appreciated Elisa so much, especially what she stands for. So when she started Outside the Lens, I immediately reached out to help her. We had the first two what we call “friend-raisers” in my store. To this day, I spread the word and share the importance of Outside the Lens’ work and encourage my clients to support and participate in the organization.
Ultimately, it’s been amazing to see and be a part of the growth of this nonprofit. It’s a perfect example of the power of community building and empowering others, and it’s one of the best things to come from my store.
Q: What has been the highlight of your year so far?
A: This award. I am not very comfortable in front of a lens - I prefer to be behind it as a supportive role. To get this award is an honor and means a tremendous amount to me. Both of my parents always found something to give, even when they didn’t have anything. So now, to be able to give back in the way that they did, I’d do that happily without recognition.
Getting this award, especially from Outside the Lens, is really special. Outside the Lens gets the youth in our community to open up and bear themselves in a way that can be uncomfortable, revealing, and vulnerable. Yet, what happens after that is beautiful - it allows them to redefine who they are and who they can become.
The work that you do, the amount of lives that you affect, and how that’s going to impact future generations - it’s a domino effect in the right direction. How can one even put into words the far-reaching impact of Outside the Lens?
Q: What’s your philosophy on community outreach?
A: Do whatever you can do. Recognize your own strengths. No matter how big or small, every contribution is integral to the success of the organization. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to get others involved. Together, Elisa and I, we just make it happen. It’s about not putting boundaries, but simply figuring out how you’re going to get there. The process may not be a straight line, but you will figure it out in the end.