Klas squared’s designer and founder, Lori Schmidtke, knew she was destined for a career in fashion. On her first day of middle school, Lori’s sense of style and love for colour, pattern, texture and design already stood out as she wore a white peasant blouse with a long ruffled purple and pink floral skirt; the first item she designed and made herself. Growing up in a small town, there weren’t a lot of options for shopping so Lori decided to continue to make her own clothes so she could sport the styles she wanted to wear – a true testament to the creative brilliance and solid work ethic that would eventually lead her to an entrepreneurial career in jewelry design.
Jewelry was at first elusive and magical to Lori, her first memory of it being her Grandmother’s jewelry box: a little box of drawers and compartments with a treasure behind every door. It was around this same time that she was beginning to learn the finer skills of design including sewing and knitting. Though she was only eight, Lori was hooked and only wanted to learn more. Soon she found herself enamoured by another medium; one that provided endless colours and combinations. The world of beads captured her attention and she began learning woven beading and loom techniques. As she continued to develop a keen eye for composition, it became clear where her future would lead her next.
Her creative talent took her to Ryerson’s fashion design school in Toronto where she mastered the art of pattern making by bringing her designs to life. By now, Lori’s obsession with colour had now grown to include texture as demonstrated in her final project: a one-piece silver ski suit that unzipped around the waist to become two pieces, featuring a teal mohair neck tube and a mustard yellow ski vest. Lori’s vision was bold and original, echoing the same spirit that had inspired her to start making clothes in the first place and what was to come.
After a short time designing knitwear, her children were born and she began designing children’s clothes under her label Tilly Togs. Featuring easy to wear silhouettes in bright solids and prints, she built a strong customer base that would help her to launch a new venture when the babies fled the nest. When the time came, Klas squared was born from a need to reinvent, refuel and relaunch a lifetime of designing. Jewelry design was a natural transition for Lori. She had always admired it’s ability to evoke emotion and cast a feeling of timelessness. After identifying a need for fashion jewelry in the market, she began playing with different materials and that familiar feeling of excitement began to surface and she knew she had found her passion in jewelry design.
Designing for Klas squared over the past 11 years has been all consuming for the designer. Lori thrives on the process of sourcing materials based on colour, shape and texture and finding new and modern ways to compose jewelry for the everyday, powerful woman: “I see everything through a lens: colour, shape, composition. Whether it’s admiring nature, fashion, contemporary art or travel, I’m always envisioning it as a piece of jewelry”. Though her approach might sound simple, this small-town-girl knows how to dream and design big.