La Vie Boheme
Meet Amber Laforet, an inspiring South Bay woman who transcended personal tragedy and challenges to becomE a successful local businesswoman.
Written by Tanya Mongahan | Photographed by Coco Knudson
This year has already been a major marker for women. We made history as 750,000 of us took to the streets of Downtown LA to march peacefully but passionately for our human rights. Here at Et Cetera, we really wanted to find a woman to put on the cover who represents these times—a modern individual who embodies strength, resilience and beauty with balance.
When I first met Amber Laforet, her siren-like beauty drew me in. With her long, perfect, spiral curls and immaculate skin, she looks like a contemporary, bohemian Venus. But as I got to know Amber, I realized she is so much more than a pretty face. It wasn’t long before I knew she had to be on our cover.
Her design company, Head Regal, embodies so much of what we want from the products and companies we support. They make beautiful, artistic blankets, quilts and other goods that are not only designed for the way they look but for the way they contribute back to the community and the way they make you feel.
The way Amber tells it, Head Regal began as a collaborative idea that was born after a divorce and the need to find oneself again after becoming a mother. “It was about finding something that makes you feel good on the inside yet expresses your individualism on the outside,” she shares. “I draw my real inspiration to make blankets from things such as safety, comfort, wellness, staying in the moment, restfulness, peace, calm, truth, vulnerability, playfulness, love and home. They are essentially personal blankies for all ages, created with the intention of making you feel good. The fact that it looks good at the base of your bed or on your couch is really secondary.”
As a child of the ‘70s, there is a consistently vintage vibe to all of her designs. “I generally don’t like things to feel too new or perfect,” she says. “I am most inspired by the ocean and the sky, colors of the rainbow—from pastels to rustics, and the endless quest to stack the perfect vintage spectrum of indigo, reminiscent of the greatest denim shirts and faded blue jeans. I make small batches at a time, so I am able to have quality control and there is no waste. All of my blankets are hand-dyed, distressed or vintage—so they are all unique. I work a lot with closeout, vintage and recycled materials.”
Amber’s journey has not been an easy one. She has suffered immeasurable heartache and loss, but what is most admirable about her is her resilience, positivity, generous spirit and how she allows those qualities to filter down to her children.
“I try to practice good business karma and give back in ways that I am able,” she explains. “I will give a blanket to someone if they are really sick or have lost their home, or if they have experienced the death of a loved one and need some extra comfort. I have organized fundraising sales for our local PTA, a local family in need or simply donated to organizations I really want to stand behind.”
This last holiday season Amber was able to raise enough money to purchase eight water filters through Waves For Water, providing 800 people with clean drinking water—which came out to 8 million gallons.
“My kids are very involved in the giving back aspect of the business. It’s a family thing,” she adds. “I believe in just doing what I can—whether it’s recycling when possible or making a small, tax-deductible donation. There’s really no reason not to. There aren’t any separations in my life. Everything I do is pretty connected, although I try to compartmentalize. I try and treat everyone the same—with kindness, respect and total honesty. It’s important to me that everyone is happy. I usually will do anything for the people in my life, including my customers and stores. That seems to create pretty great relationships that I am proud of.”
Amber has grown accustomed to dealing with adversity, being a single mother and running her own business. But to understand this successful entrepreneur better, it’s helpful to start from the beginning.
Amber was born at home, six weeks premature and breach, in Silverlake, California, which at those times was a borderline miracle. She was so incredibly jaundiced that her mother called her Amber. She grew up in the valley riding her bike down Ventura Boulevard, riding horses in the mountains and going to the beaches in Malibu over the canyon from Calabasas, where she and her family eventually lived. She had three brothers and was a poster child of a California girl.
But as a teenager she wanted to grow up fast. By the age of 17 she had already moved into her first apartment with a friend in Hollywood. After a brief stint modeling, she found photography.
By 18 she had convinced one of the best printers to give her a job at his lab on La Brea. It was here that she had heard stories about an active artist community in Prague. People were comparing it to Paris in the 1920s, and this idea intrigued her.
Her wild and free nature prompted her to get rid of everything she owned and move to the Czech Republic with a Pentax 6×7, 100 rolls of HP5 film and a duffel bag of clothes. While living abroad, a friend lent her a stack of books that deeply struck a chord in her. She was so profoundly touched by these books, when she found out the author was a teacher at Western Kentucky University, she moved there a few weeks later.
A series of internships took her all over, allowing her to witness this beautiful country through newspaper photography. She was awarded scholarships and awards and received the honor of Most Accomplished Photojournalism Senior at her graduation.
After graduation, she spent time in New York City—where she met her soon-to-be husband, then a staff photographer at The New York Times. Post-9/11 was a time of uncertainty. Being a journalist seemed to change overnight from being a neutral storyteller seeking truth to becoming an extreme target.
Life had become crazy and a bit scary, and Amber decided it was time to put the camera down. She worked in New York City at a large picture agency as a picture editor and multimedia producer. It was at this time that the most important thing to her became being a mother. Amber soon became pregnant with her son, Noah.
She was a young mom and really struggled to find other moms her age. It was a weird time. The “California earthy mama” in her was present, but she felt isolated and alone living in a fast-paced city. All looked good on paper, but Amber felt like she was losing her true self in trying to keep up with the hectic world surrounding her.
It was at this time that she received a phone call from her father—one that would crush her world and make her question everything. Her younger brother, Gregg, was lost in the ocean off Hawaii, and they could not find him. There had been a small tsunami on the other side of the island, and a rogue wave had knocked him into the water.
After many hours, rescuers found his body. Her parents brought him home and buried him under a 100-year-old oak tree in the hills just north of their home in Calabasas. Amber was devastated by the death, but what came out of it was a very bold, visible line designating what was important and what was not.
A year after the tragedy, Amber was pregnant again—this time with her daughter, Eliana. Noah was 4, and they decided it was time to move back to California. After 12 years, Amber was finally home in the South Bay.
The sunshine was healing. Her family was close by, and being near the Pacific Ocean felt right. Unfortunately, although everything seemed great on the surface, Amber and her husband could not find happiness. After 8½ years of marriage and once they felt that every stone was turned they sold their house and the rest of their belongings and started the divorce process.
Fresh out of her divorce, she found herself at the age of 35 living in a tiny, 1920s Spanish bungalow in North Manhattan Beach as a single mom with two young children who really needed her. She had no idea how she was going to go back to work.
The first thing she did for herself was make a headboard out of a vintage kantha quilt. They had never had a headboard, and for some reason this really bothered her. It was from that headboard that Head Regal was born.
With her business partner at the time, she started making all kinds of things that they both loved—from headboards and blankets to purses and key chains. They held private sales in friends’ homes in Manhattan Beach and Malibu and received incredible support. Instagram provided them with the platform to become designers overnight.
“It’s been amazingly liberating to be able to start and sustain a business within the confines of raising two children as a single mom,” says Amber. “I view the early Head Regal years as my business/design schooling and the surrounding areas of DTLA and Compton my creative playground. I source materials and work with the washhouse and my sewer on samples until they are right. When I first make a new blanket, I usually drag it everywhere with me first—the movie theatre, the soccer field, the beach, my parents’ house, the couch, etc. It’s usually when I live with it a bit that I come up with how I could improve it—or the next color I want to try it in. My kids and I give it the snuggle test, and I know if we all love it, then it’s ready to share.”
From brainstorming design ideas to cutting the final product, she is present and passionate about each step of the process. As you hold this magazine and look at this beautiful woman on the cover with her arms around her children, you will realize that it is more than a pretty picture. She is a passionate woman who has overcome adversity, persevered through painful times and successfully followed her heart. That is why we believe she is a woman to celebrate—a true South Bay woman. |||
Find Head Regal items locally at BLVD
in Manhattan Beach or at headregal.com and @headregal.