Laurinda Sutcliffe, co-owner and designer of Loobie’s Story. Image supplied.
Loobie’s Story was founded a decade ago by designer Laurinda Sutcliffe and her husband Brent, and they’re delighted to be celebrating 10 years of their successful business this year. Laurinda had previously been creative director of a womenswear brand for 20 years and Brent had grown his own menswear business in that time but they decided to combine their talents to create their own womenswear label together.
Loobie is an affectionate nickname Brent gave Laurinda many years ago and Loobie’s Story’s collections are each inspired by a fascinating location that they’ve either been to or dreamed about. Each collection is full of vibrant prints created by the brand’s graphic designers with lots of modern bohemian pieces designed for the free-spirited woman. The brand has grown a loyal following here and in Australia for it’s colourful ranges and the success of Loobie’s Story has seen the Laurinda and Brent launch a playful diffusion label called Madly Sweetly in 2017.
We caught up with Laurinda to find out how they’re celebrating a decade in business, what her favourite collections to date are and what makes her excited for the future of Loobie’s Story?
Congratulations on celebrating 10 years in business this year, how are you marking the milestone?
Thank you! It’s been a pretty incredible decade and I feel very lucky to be able to create collections for our fabulous Loobie’s Story customers across New Zealand and Australia, season after season. We’re marking the milestone with our SS19 collection ‘A Tropical Daydream’ which to me is a quintessential Loobie’s Story look – inspired by far-flung exotic locales, featuring tropical prints, bohemian colour and essentially wearable shapes. As part of our high summer 2019/20 capsule we have also released a limited-edition anniversary wrap in Silk Habotai that features some of our favourite prints from the past ten years.
Take us back to 2009, what was the original plan and vision for your brand?
Loobie’s Story was born after an unexpected change in my career where I suddenly found myself out of a job. With an opportunity to carve my own future I had a really hard look at the market here in NZ and I couldn’t find the kind of clothes that really made my heart sing. After some blue-sky dreaming, much research and soul searching I felt that there really was a niche that we could fill by bringing our own brand to the market and so, Loobie’s Story was born. The collections are designed with a free-spirited yet modern woman in mind. We went bold and colourful when everyone else was doing black and our signature is unique prints, quality materials, fuss-free wardrobe buildability and a simple mission at the heart of every collection – to bring a touch of the exotic into every day.
How do you balance the creative and business demands of your role in your brand?
I have a fabulous team around me and I am incredibly lucky to call my husband Brent my business partner. Day to day I design the collections with our wonderful team, oversee all creative elements of the business and work with our wonderful retailers while Brent runs the business side of things – we are very much a partnership and make all the big decisions together. Over the past decade, I’ve learned that I need to work hard to create some life balance as it doesn’t just happen on its own and to give myself permission to create some of that balance. I’ve had to develop better skills and to look after myself more, in order to be valuable to the business and to ensure that it doesn’t become something that takes over my enjoyment of life. I feel incredibly lucky to work with Brent as I know he is completely on my team; he shares the same values and has the same goals – I think this has been an integral part of the success of Loobie’s Story over the past decade.
Looks from Loobie’s Story collections in 2010 (left) and 2015 (right).
How would you describe your personal style and how does it influence your designs and collaborations?
My personal style has always been that of a free spirit. I’ve always loved colour and print and a feminine aesthetic. That femininity developed more of a bohemian twist as I got older and discovered that this was really my true style. This has also been reflected in our home and the way it is styled with treasured pieces collected from our travels. That said I don’t like fussy, so whilst our home has an exotic slightly indie vibe, it’s set in a modern context. I see my fashion style this way too as whilst I love bohemian styling, I like mixing it up with cleaner tougher pieces and I also love luxe sport looks when the occasion calls for them. Our new brand Madly Sweetly has grown out of this flip side of my personal style and given I’m a Gemini it makes sense that I have this twin ‘style personality’.
How do you maintain a personal connection with your customers and how does social media help you to connect with them?
A personal connection with our customers is so important to what we do – at the end of the day if the customers don’t like the collections or they don’t fill their needs then we don’t have a business. Social media has become an integral tool for us to connect with our Loobie’s Story customers across NZ and Aus and we love hearing their feedback. In-store events are also a crucial part of our connection to customers – there really is nothing better than chatting face to face with Loobie’s Story lovers, helping them with styling and getting direct feedback about how they feel about our product in real-time.
What have been your favourite collections to date and which pieces are go-tos in your wardrobe?
I think our very first collection will always live in my heart, as it was the first time I was truly able to express my personal design style unencumbered by anyone else’s expectations or boundaries. The fact that it was met with such a positive response also helps! I also loved our Viva Mexico collection which we launched following celebrating my 50th Birthday with my family in Mexico. It was such a vibrant, joyful and celebratory collection that brings back memories of a wonderful time. The winter collection hitting stores in Feb 2020 called Seniorita is also a favourite, as I love the new rich, moody colours in the palette and the soft floaty blouses and dresses mixed back with pinstripe blazers and pants for a modern take on our bohemian style. My go-to pieces are our resort styled silk kaftans which I drag out everyone time we’re off to Bali or Fiji and for in the office I love pairing our little tiered dresses and maxis with our great fitting jackets and sneakers or boots. Our jeans are some of the best fitting, most comfortable on the market and teamed with our luxurious knitwear they’re an easy choice for those colder months.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you keep referring back to as a designer?
Never lose sight of who your end consumer is and whilst it’s important to be responsive to feedback don’t lose sight of your own aesthetic. God is in the detail, as this is what sets you apart from the pack.
Looks from Loobie’s Story’s SS 2019 collection.
What is your advice for anyone who wants to become a fashion designer now?
Innovate don’t imitate. You may have short term success by jumping on someone else’s bandwagon but it will never be sustainable and whoever you’re imitating will always be one step ahead of you. If you can carve out your own niche you will be on the road to success.
There are many facets to being a good designer but the strength of your ideas and how you deliver those shapes a brand. What factors play into your decisions to turn your ideas into reality?
We always start a new collection with a thorough analysis of what came before, what worked, what didn’t work, what we missed, what do we need to let go of and where do we need to be heading. We are always trying to balance the commercial realities with being innovative and exciting whilst ensuring we stay on brand. We work hard to say abreast of market trends whilst ensuring that we give every piece the brand’s signature twist. Our design process is a thorough and robust one where we are constantly critiquing each other’s work and the collection as a whole, to ensure that we are delivering well considered, co-ordinated collections that merchandise well and excite our consumers.
Looking to the future, how far ahead do you plan and what makes you excited about the future?
Fashion is such a fast-paced game that we are always looking ahead, especially in this market there is no room to be complacent and we are consistently striving to lift the bar – both creatively for us as a design team and in terms of what we can deliver to our customers to excite and delight them. Sustainability is also a growing focus for the business and we have recently released a roadmap to our sourcing and manufacture processes online, a source of information for customers which will be added to regularly with new developments in the coming months and years. For the future, I’m excited about the next ten years and what it might hold, we have some exciting plans so watch this space!