Interview I had with Shortpress late last year after winning one of their small business grants.
Kultivate winners’ series: cutting it with Lorenza The Label
No matter what stunts supermarket chains try to pull to lure us through their doors, there will always be people who walk right past on course for the independent grocer. And they’ll happily pay more for the privilege. But this isn’t done in vain, nor is it [always] intended to be a middle finger to domineering conglomerates; it’s because they value quality. There might not be many of these types of consumer, but there’s enough of them, and Lorenza Doyle knows it. Doyle also knows that while Australia has recently seen large clothing chains like Topman, H&M and Uniqlo land on its shores, their cheap, mass produced offerings – just like the supermarket chains – simply don’t ‘cut it' for all of us. Excuse the unavoidable pun.
For Doyle it’s all about quality and individuality – that’s why she launched her Melbourne-based clothing business, Lorenza The Label. With a passion for sewing and ten years’ experience in the graphic design industry, she’s the perfect candidate to bring said individuality and quality to the fashion space – and so far, so good.
Doyle speaks to ShortPress about some of the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ of her journey so far:
Describe the ‘moment of inspiration’ that led you to start Lorenza The Label?
“It was quite a while ago when I think about it. Back in 1999 living in Perth, I spent $120 on a skirt from Atlas clothing in Fremantle that did one of a kind garments in sizes eight to fourteen, thinking no-one else will have this skirt. I wore it to a festival and saw another girl wearing it and felt immediately annoyed and like I'd wasted my money.
“At that point I was already sewing simple skirts and jackets and making screen-printed tee-shirts. But I knew I had a long way to go to improve my sewing skills to the point they’d pass for professional and sell. Fast-forward ten years and I'm incredibly good at sewing now!”
What’s the toughest challenge you’ve experienced?
“Money, Isn't everyone's money?! I resigned from a job I was unhappy in and ended up in debt, but this gave me the gift of time to create my first collection. I’d never have had the clarity and mindset to do this whilst in such a stressful work environment each and every day. Leaving that job was the best decision I ever made.”
Do you have any myths to dispel about entrepreneurialism?
“Starting a small business in Australia is easy! Especially compared to other countries. It took me a few hours of filling out forms, a credit card and some moments of ‘am I really going ahead with this?’ I had a registered business name, an ABN, a web domain – the lot. There's nothing stopping you starting your own business. You need Google, a Mastercard and some real tenacity. Oh and a great accountant who gives you advice on the order in which to do things.”
What’s been the biggest surprise on your journey so far?
“Nothing has really surprised me. As I do have a design background which exponentially helped me every step of the way, I haven’t had to pay someone to do my branding, website, sample making or pattern making. I've done it all myself. I also grew up in a home that ran a small business so possibly a lot of things that come naturally to me may not for everyone else.
“I was aware of costs, thoroughly researched and spoke to as many people in and outside the fashion industry. I really knew what I was in for. I listened with an open mind and also listened to a lot of negativity, which I always pushed to the back of my mind. People who aren’t doing what they want with their lives can be real negative Nancy’s about yours.
“I also used friends as sounding boards asking for their feedback on everything from marketing to pricing and took it on board as I do with my current job when listening to clients every day.
“Never think you know everything. Even after sewing for ten years and studying for two including a year of couture dress making. I recently watched six hours of sewing lessons from the US and it taught me more industry techniques than I'd ever learned studying and has cut down my production times.”
If you had to start over again, what would you do differently?
“Not faff about so much and make excuses. Put yourself out there sooner rather than later. A lot of people said things after I’d launched like ‘well that took you long enough to do’ or ‘what took you so long?’ and I had to acknowledge that and say ‘yes this did take me a long time to do! And also a lot of hard work!’”
What motivates you – daily?
“Coming home and seeing my industrial sewing machine, honestly I love it. When I see it, all I want to do is sew. As well as the lovely comments on social media, accolades from friends and colleagues and having people from the fashion industry say they can't believe I did everything myself; or that the construction on a skirt was the best sewing they’d seen in seventy years. That's the stuff that really makes me think this is what I'm good at and this is what I'm meant to be doing.”
How do you feel when you think of the future?
“That this is a slow build sort of business. It's not going to happen overnight; people are too used to paying $15 for a top from H&M and don't understand the time and effort that goes into making a custom fit, bespoke designed garment. But then there are people who actually do... and they are my clients.
“I realise that client base will take time to grow and I've still got years to build my reputation and brand.”
First published on Shortpress, Kultivate Winners Series. http://www.shortpress.com.au/kultivate-winners-series-cutting-it-with-lorenza-the-label