For hometown girl Lauren Aitch, Michigan State has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her dad played basketball for MSU in the '60s and after playing for the Pacers, came back to East Lansing to coach at State. Lauren grew up playing sports all over Greater Lansing. “I pretty much played every sport including ballet and gymnastics.
But when her Waverly High School basketball team won the state championships, she caught the eye of recruiters, and wound up following in her father’s footsteps playing basketball for Michigan State University
. Though she played every game her freshman year, she wanted more. “It’s that year that you’re trying to figure out your position, your place, your role on that team that’s made up of awesome stars.”
Lauren’s sophomore year, however, didn’t turn out how she planned.
“I was playing the best ball of my life, but one day I had the worst attitude ever. Just not being grateful about the position I was in. Being a collegiate athlete there’s so many girls that want to be there and I just had the worst attitude.” And fate intervened that day: Lauren tore her ACL. She wasn’t able to play the rest of her sophomore year. “It was hard. I definitely had to take a position of learning and watch it from the sidelines.”
That learning led to personal growth and both her attitude and her health improved. “I had to find out who I was outside of basketball.”
After her sophomore year of college, though, Lauren lost her father. “He taught me how to play basketball.” Then the MSU coaching team left for Duke. “After that I could have done a lot of things. I could have quit and not finished what I was doing.” Instead she finished her Bachelor’s in Advertising and stayed on an extra year in college to complete her Master’s degree.
A Basketball Player Abroad
Lauren’s dad used to tell her basketball doesn’t define you, it just gives you opportunities. After college, that opportunity came in the form of playing basketball in Copenhagen, Denmark. “I don’t think it was a mistake I was there.” She would spend her days off exploring the fashion capital of Denmark and draw. While developing a new appreciation for home and family, she was also planning her soon-to-be fashion line Lady Aitch
. “A lot of people wouldn’t think a basketball player would cross over to being a fashion designer, but I’ve always been creative.”
Building a Business
When Lauren finished playing in Denmark, she chose to return to Greater Lansing to launch her line. “It’s definitely very different than being a basketball player. I’m figuring out how to translate what I’m doing in business and things from basketball. I’ve learned, every day you get wins.”
Her fashions focus on professional women. “I’m really excited about building Lady Aitch into a business that empowers women. We’re in a paradigm shift of women in business. My mom was a working woman and I understand that when we go to work and we do things we still want to have a feminine look to what we wear that still has a business feel to it.” Her 2012 look book features suiting and women’s business casual pieces. She’s been responsible for several looks MSU Women’s Basketball Coach Suzy Merchant
wears on the sidelines.
“When I was at Michigan State and living there, you’re in a really close knit community with the athletes,” Lauren explains. “When I was in college my focus was basketball and school. I really wasn’t aware of too much that was going on in Lansing. We were involved in a lot of community events being the basketball team and everything, but I wasn’t really aware of everything that was going on.”
Now, Lauren sees Lansing in a different light. “There’s a really nice rich mix of people here. I always felt like it was a great place to raise kids. I have a different view now, I see a little more of what’s going on. There’s a lot more things in Old Town, downtown that happen.”
Lauren’s experiences living abroad shaped her perceptions of American culture, but also the value she places on family. “I think being over there helped me learn a healthier lifestyle, a more simplistic lifestyle and what you need to be happy.”
She also wanted to give back, and started The Aitch Foundation
. “We’re really looking for ways to find cancers at their earliest stages,” what Lauren calls hidden cancers. “It shows up in so many different forms, it touches everybody.” Lauren also wanted to honor her father’s memory with the foundation. Though he didn’t die of cancer, his influence and mantra that basketball does not define you are evident in Lauren’s work. Last year, the foundation raised $10,000 at its Hidden Key Fashion Show. “We’re keeping the money here in this community. They’re doing the research here in mid-Michigan.” This year’s fashion show on May 19
will feature Lauren’s designs and others’ with celebrity models including Suzy Merchant.
The support Lauren has received is one of the reasons she chose Lansing to start her business and foundation. “I think our community is so close-knit. With my foundation I’ve received so much support and if you ask people they really want to help. I think our community is just a testament to the strong support system and how much people care. We’re a capital city but there’s a small town feel to it because everybody know everybody and if you reach out for help, you’re going to get it.”
Kate Tykocki is the interim news editor and a freelance writer for Capital Gains. She geeks jazz hands
, knitting and theatre. You can also follow her at @katetykocki
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Lauren Aitch, swatches and drawings, and bracelets for her foundation
Photos © Dave Trumpie