Laura is the founder of Lilja The Label, we didn’t have the chance to do a telephone interview, but she very kindly replied to my questions with the below, to give us great insight into her brand and vision.
- Tell us more about your background ( how/why did you end up building your brand).
I’m Laura, I’m 27 and I’m from Helsinki, Finland. I started my brand in 2016 and it originally started just as a small test project/hobby – I was studying full-time and working in another field. I had always travelled a lot and was super inspired by the beauty of our world, different places and different cultures. I felt like I could never find suitable swimwear here in Finland, especially in winter. All we had at that point was fast-fashion chain stores selling a swimwear drop once a year, and apart from that, swimwear was really hard to find. So that’s what I did! I travelled to Guangzhou, China and Bali, Indonesia to look for a small and ethical factory for my brand. It was super important to me to find a manufacturer that was small, just like my brand, so that communication would be easy and both sides of production would be transparent. I was studying Economics in a university in Finland when I started Lilja, so I had no background in design or textile industry but I had a lot of understanding of how companies work, how to start one and where to find different resources. The brand took off surprisingly quick and I was able to quit the job I had and start working for myself full-time.
- Vision/Mission of the brand (maybe some challenges you had on your way).
My mission is to create high-quality swimwear ethically and sustainably. It’s super important to me to work with a manufacturer I can trust so that I know everything along the manufacturing process is ethical and that they have values I can stand behind. Later along the way, sustainability came an important aspect in Lilja’s production as well. We have swapped into mostly recycled materials and are making the final transition during 2021 – after this, we will only be using recycled materials both in packaging, manufacturing and all steps of the product chain.
- Explain to us more about your supply chain/manufacturers/artisans (due to the difficult times we are living, this has become a very hot topic for a lot of brands).
Our products are designed by me in Finland (or wherever I’m located at the time!). After I’ve finished all designs, they are sent to our factory. Lilja currently manufactures at two ethical factories – our swimwear is made in Bali, Indonesia by a small, family-run factory. Our surfwear is made in Guangzhou, China by a small factory as well. We have divided our production into two different factories as they focus on different aspects and both are absolutely amazing at what they do. I absolutely love both factories and have had the pleasure to personally visit them, make friends and see each step of production myself. After the products have been finished, they go through a quality check by the factory. After this, they are shipped to our warehouse and we conduct an additional quality check, sort the products, organize photoshoots etc. and then upload them on our online store or take them to our wholesalers!
- Your opinion about where do you think the fashion industry is heading? (for example; some studies show how customer behaviour is slightly changing when buying fast fashion, do you think this trend is going to keep increasing, as people are more conscious about what they are buying?)
I definitely have noticed a lot of customers being more mindful in the last couple of years. Sustainability and ethics are getting more and more important and fast fashion is starting to lose customers to more ethical brands. Nevertheless, fast fashion brands are unfortunately still huge as they are able to provide a huge volume of products with a fraction of the price. But the more we all talk about the issues regarding fast fashion, the more demand we create for sustainable practices and products. Once people learn more, they will reflect on their consumer habits and take action based on their own values. I’m hoping to see this trend continue so that a lot of small, sustainable brands can be born and bigger brands will start looking into their choices as well and start offering more environmental friendly or ethically made options.