Pippa of La-ze Studios
Pippa has an amazing sense of style and has selected some absolutely gorgeous fabrics for her first range. The entire range was the talk of the workroom…with most of the team anxiously waiting for launch so they could buy some!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and La-Ze Studios.
La-Ze is about sleep and leisure. It’s about being at home and feeling really good about yourself. High quality fabrics combined with great fit for being at home, but a long way away from tracksuit pants. Styles that you want to wear and look good in them. It’s not really aimed at a particular person, but I guess 25+ who spends time at home and is happy to pay for beautiful clothes to wear there.
You could also wear the sets outside, to the beach or lunch with some friends. Come to think of it, some people might think it is too nice to wear to bed!
Oh, and of course, sustainable. Small quantities, locally produced to help reduce our impact.
Me? Well, I actually work in the fashion industry! I work for a wholesale label and we import from China, so I have seen some of those challenges that facing people right now.
Just quietly I did used to have my own swimsuit label a number of years ago, but without having the foundational knowledge of production and what is required in launching a label it just didn’t quite work out. If only I knew about this course at the time!
What makes La-Ze unique?
Quite simply, high quality and Australian made. I also want to get ethical accreditation as well. Given you are accredited it means I can hold my head up high and know it isn’t greenwashing. That is really important to me.
How did you find the Fashion Label Launchpad?
It was really good. I think it was a bit of a surprise, because I didn’t even think that manufacturing in Australia was an option at the start. When I came to Sample Room it was in my mind I would get Tech Packs made and head off to China. But when I contacted Sample Room, you recommended an information session that opened my eyes to what was possible here.
The Fashion Label Launchpad gave me lot more structure especially about timing. While you didn’t rush me, there were little nudges that pushed me. Milestones and meetings which meant it was harder for me to procrastinate.
It was like having a mentor. Someone who could answer your questions and push you in the right direction and not allowing you to waste your time “researching”. It’s very easy to waste time and simply not get anything done.
The other thing that really made a difference was being able to do a manufacturing run of 20. You made it clear that you won’t make money from it, but it gave me that chance to try and gain the confidence in my styles.
This has also given me the ability to look at different colours, different silks and the like without changing my shapes or styles otherwise. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel which will help with the costs going forward.
You thought about going off-shore?
Yes, but then I sat down and thought about how am I going to deal with simple things like freight. I’ve got a full time job, how am I going even just deal with that, let alone all the other things that would need to be done.
The fact that you are in Melbourne was such a blessing. Local time, local location, nice people, it was obvious that it was going to be much easier. And it did. It made the process just so easy. And I didn’t know at first that you also did manufacturing. As soon as I found out that, I realised it was going to be even easier.
Do you think there is anything missing in the program?
I actually flicked back through the notes and videos last week to remind me, because I anticipated this question.
In short, no.
There are some parts that I think can be expanded on, like selling wholesale, but I know not many are going down that path. And marketing, but I know the program is not about marketing. I cannot understate how important the marketing is. But the terminology and how to understand the different elements is absolutely brilliant.
When you heard about the Fashion Label Launchpad, did you hesitate?
Oh yes! It’s a big investment for sure. But then I took a step back and thought about what it was I wanted to do and realised that the cost of doing a production run of 100 was going to be huge. And that is even after finding someone who would do as few as 100, because even that is uncommon.
Having access to the run of 20 was, financially, a really sensible thing and I just looked at the Fashion Label Launchpad as an investment in that. As it turns out, the program was in itself worth every penny of the money.
I really ended up loving the Facebook group. While I didn’t ask a lot of questions in it, I really enjoyed reading other people’s questions and the fact that anyone and everyone would answer. I came to realise they were all doing the same thing as me…not sleep/leisurewear, but starting a label. People were so generous with their information, helping each other out.
The monthly calls were also fabulous. I didn’t get to attend many live but being able to watch them later was great. I recall watching the one with Sarah from West of the Waves a few times and was so impressed. Clearly a very clever person who got as much out of the program as me and was so inspiring. I also wondered if people did their development and first run and then, that was it? But seeing Sarah and hearing how she kept coming back for more and more production runs was a revelation.
What is the biggest thing you have learning during development?
The real cost of developing a range. Even with my experience overseas, I never really had the visibility as you just kind of send a tech pack and the costs are rolled up into the production. It was eye opening to have a breakdown of costs, you just think the style just appears and it get produced. But of course, when you consider it for a moment, of course there are costs involved in development.
I used to think that you could just take a garment and copy it and avoid the development costs, but then you realise that a pattern still needs to be made, a sample to test the pattern, grading…so all the elements that make up development anyway.
It’s only when I look at making in China, did I realise that the cost isn’t really that much different to here, once you factor in all the other costs, like freight, etc.
At any time in your journey, did you think that there was something you couldn’t overcome? That it was too hard?
Fortunately no. I was so determined to get it not just done, but perfect, that I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way.
Finances were always on my mind though. At times it seems like you keep spending all this money, but it is hard to see the tangible advances. You know that things are moving through a necessary process, but at times it felt like I was running in sand a little. Once you see the samples in real life though, it all started to fall into place and I was able to see where the money was going and why.
Is there anything you would do differently the next time?
Tricky question, but I would probably say that I would have much clearer idea of the shapes I wanted. That’s because I changed the shapes of my robes a few times and the shorts, I changed where they sat as well. If had a much clearer vision of what I wanted there, I think it would have been a little easier.
But seeing the samples and how they worked on a body is so important to make sure it is what you want. I suspect I probably would have changed things anyway after seeing them in real life.
The other thing is fabrics. All of my fabrics are beautiful, but also expensive. So, making additional samples after changes cost money. The cost of fabrics in Australia is relatively high but purchasing from overseas comes with its own challenges.
Where do you see La-Ze in 5 years’ time?
Well, I do want to move the wholesale space at some point. But that is going to depend on a lot of things. It’s a space that I know well and am comfortable in, but I do like the direct-to-consumer margins, so I am sure I will maintain my own virtual store as well.
I think the biggest challenge with wholesale is that once you get the orders, you then have to fund the production yourself, knowing you won’t get paid until 60-90 days after delivery. You have to carry a lot of cost and there is still a risk that someone cancels an order.
Net-a-Porter is another place I think I would like to be. High end stores like this.
What do you think the Australian fashion industry could change or improve on?
Oh! Something that drives me crazy is constant seasons. Labels that are releasing new ranges all the time. That concept of constant newness to try and keep the customers engaged. I think the industry is starting to reconsider that and get back to a bit more of the actual seasons, though releasing summer in July and winter in February doesn’t make sense to me.
If you’ve got stockists overseas it may make sense, but otherwise it doesn’t.
I just wish the industry would slow down. Slow fashion is no longer just a fringe thing, it is just starting to become a more mainstream, but I really think it needs much more focus. And to throw into the mix, just well-made clothing that people will actually wear, not things that will expire quickly.
I also think a little more transparency in the industry, especially about costs. I think there are a lot of people out there who think we make massive margins. That we are making jackets, say in China, for $50 and selling them for $500. Obviously this is not the case. Educating the consumer why it costs as much as it does to develop and make. What the actual cost of clothes are and why they are priced the way they are.
Any tips you would like to share?
Mailing lists. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have a great mailing list. 1,000 to 1,500 when you launch is going to make a big difference but getting that many is not easy. It might be to offer an introductory discount to your mailing list or something, but anything to get people who are interested in you and your styles. It’s also really helpful if it talks with your e-commerce platform so you have them working together for you.
But don’t wait for the launch to engage with them. You need to be speaking with them regularly to keep them engaged. It can be about anything, but as long as it aligns with your brand and styles. Your story as well. It helps your mailing list feel like they have a connection with you and your styles. I also want to make sure I write in my style. That means my socials speak the same way.
Where can people find La-ze Studios?
On my website – https://www.la-zestudios.com/