Lauren Aitch: Designing a Dream
There are a lot of things one might notice when first introduced to Lauren Aitch.
At 6 foot, 1 inch, she is tall, but it’s not just her height that makes her striking. Her long hair and bright smile only add to her beauty. Her energy is contagious and if you happen to catch a glimpse of it, you’d notice a fairly unique tattoo on her wrist.
The tattoo is one Aitch (pronounced like the letter “H”) shares with her mother Karen. The two got the matching tattoos on a trip they took to the Cayman Islands last summer. It was designed by Aitch to look like the waves they admired on vacation. The symbolism of the tattoo, however, is what’s most important — just like the water in the ocean — whatever life throws your way — keep flowing.
“What is meant to be will be,” says Aitch.
It’s a philosophy she has lived with most of her life, but one that became increasingly important in 2007 when her happy life took an unexpected turn.
Born in Lansing, Aitch grew up with her mother Karen and her father, former Michigan State University basketball player and coach and former Pacer’s team member Matthew Alexander Aitch. While she didn’t live with her half sister Casey, who is 18 years older, Aitch has always been close with her and Casey’s two children — Cazzy, 14 and Macey, 9. Involved in a myriad of sports, Aitch said her father always told her when she was ready to really learn how to play basketball, he wanted to be the one to teach her.
“He never pushed me into basketball,” she said.
Around the age of 11, Aitch decided she was ready to play ball. She was a natural. “I wanted to (play) because my dad did it,” she said. Aitch has many fond memories of those early days, including her first-ever layup at I.M. West on Michigan State University’s main campus.
“I loved it,” she said. “It came natural … It was something I was good at.”
Immediately attached to basketball Aitch began playing on multiple basketball teams — including the ones at Waverly Middle School and High School where she helped the team earn their only state championship to date. “That was a magical year,” she said.
Given her skills on the court, Aitch was invited to a number of college recruitment camps throughout high school. Before her senior year in high school and thanks to the many conversations she had with Al Brown, a coach at MSU, Aitch held a press conference confirming that she would play for the Spartans.
Aitch enjoyed her freshman year, but had to sit out her sophomore year because of a torn ACL. That same year tragedy struck. Aitch’s father suffered an allergic reaction to a medication he was prescribed and suddenly passed away.
“He was very, very healthy,” said Aitch. “It was shocking.”
Soon after, MSU Coaches Joanne P. McCallie and Brown announced that they would be leaving MSU for Duke. Despite the setbacks, Aitch knew what her dad would want her to do and she did it by finishing out the semester.
“I pushed through it,” she said.
When she was done Aitch went to stay with her mom, who at the time had a home in Minnesota where she often traveled for work. That summer Aitch’s mother offered her the strength she needed.
“My mom is the strongest woman I know,” said Aitch.
Aitch returned in the fall, leaner and stronger than ever, to coach Suzy Merchant’s program and in 2008 the Spartans beat Duke during the NCA Finals. “That game was kind of a statement,” she said.
In 2009 Aitch graduated with a degree in advertising and design. She stayed for a fifth year at MSU and followed in her father’s footsteps completing her master’s degree. After an internship Aitch was poised to enter the working world, that was until she received an offer to play professional basketball in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Again, taking a note from her father, who backpacked around Europe, Aitch accepted the opportunity.
“A lot of things I’ve done (have been following) in my dad’s footsteps,” she said. “I always wanted to play basketball overseas … Your goal is to play pro … I wanted to go overseas and see what it was all about.”
Although it was her first time living away from Lansing, Aitch, who wears a tear drop necklace filled with her father’s ashes, said she was ready for the challenge since her dad would be with her.
While there were some rocky roads in her first few weeks in Denmark, Aitch eventually settled into a routine. Still, she felt something lacking. Other girls on the team had jobs or school to attend after practice. When Aitch began looking for a hobby to fill her spare time, a passion of hers — fashion — came to mind.
“I love clothes … I just love the feeling of looking good,” she said.
So, one day Aitch walked to an art store, bought a sketch book and got to work. Before she knew it, she had a book full of looks she wanted produced. After seeking advice from friends and family in the states, Aitch decided to find someone to make her designs. And given the excitement she had stirred up back home, she had to act fast. As soon as Aitch shared her fashion idea with those in Lansing, it was decided that when she returned in the spring she would put on a fashion show that would benefit the Aitch Hidden Key Foundation, a foundation she created to aid research in hidden cancers. The foundation’s logo is the same design as Aitch’s tattoo.
Finding someone to bring her designs to life proved a difficult task, but with some searching Aitch found her dream team. After an investment of about $4,000 Aitch left Denmark with the first pieces of her Lady Aitch line.
But fashion wasn’t all Aitch left Denmark with, her team won the national championship and she walked away the title of MVP and Center of the Year.
On May 19 the Spartan Club hosted the first-ever Hidden Key Fashion Show, which featured fashions by Aitch along with others and raise more than $10,000. “It ended up being an amazing event,” she said.
The event also solidified Aitch’s commitment to Lansing and her decision not to return to Denmark.
“I feel Lansing has a need for a lot of things right now,” she said. “I went over there and I did it all … Copenhagen will always have a special place in my heart (but) you grow where you are planted.”
And grow is exactly what Aitch is doing. Along with Lady Aitch, she has also partnered with Todd Duckett on a line of t-shirts, some of which will feature images of women in power. “We hold so much power as women that sometimes we don’t see,” she said.
She also hopes her own line will grow. “I don’t like to put limits on my creativity,” said Aitch. “As big as Lady Aitch is going to be is as big as Lady Aitch is going to be.”
Aitch is also growing as an entrepreneur. “I know how to work hard. I know what I want to do … I want to live with a purpose and everything I’m doing right now has a purpose … Everything happens for a reason. I’m starting to understand now things that happened to me in 2007.”
Most importantly, Aitch knows her dad would be happy.
“My dad was a dreamer just like me,” she said. “He would be proud of me.”
For more information visit www.aitchfoundation.com
Tags: Lady Aitch, Lauren Aitch, msu women's basketball, The Aitch Foundation
Emily Caswell is the Managing Editor of CAWLM. She has a passion for fun, family, friends, shopping sprees, cold drinks and Lansing.