Designer Sarah-Jane Duff from Lost and Led Astray – LaLA.
Sarah-Jane Duff created her womenswear label Lost and Led Astray – LaLA in 2014 after several years designing plus-size women’s clothing for The Carpenter’s Daughter. She proudly manufactures her garments in New Zealand and LaLA has gained a loyal following for its beautifully fluid pieces which focus on silhouette, cut and texture.
We caught up with Sarah-Jane to find out more about her brand, what inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection?
This season LaLA collaborated with Jase Richards of Who’s Jase? As a result, LaLA now has its first custom print. The development process was really exciting for me. The design allows me to produce garments that are cleaner in line and detail. I like the fact that this lets the print speak for itself. My ranges always include my favourite “detail de jour”. This season I am pretty obsessed with bias cutting and pin tucks. I love the way you can use these techniques to manipulate the silhouette.
What made you become a designer?
Originally I enrolled at Whitecliffe to study art. I quite fancied becoming a painter. As a student, I didn’t have much money and struggled to find styles I liked that fit me properly so I ended up making a lot of my own garments literally by hand. In the end, I took a year off and studied pattern making and learned how to use a sewing machine. I was hooked after that and never went back to Whitecliffe.
What inspires you?
My customers, who make me want to be better and do more. And the people who believed in me when I had nothing. They invested in my first collection so I could start my own business. I started out on the dole with no savings, just a vision for a younger generation of women and a strong desire to change perceptions of fashion.
I love playing dress ups with my clients, I love seeing them change their perception of themselves as they model an outfit they would not previously have thought they could wear. I am a real people person and I find these interactions give me the energy to keep going.
Looks from LaLA’s Summer 2017 collection.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your brand?
In a word, black. I love colour, my ranges contain colourful pieces and my home is a bit of a rainbow but ultimately my collections are based around what I would want to wear and black figures strongly in that. I like elements that can take you from daywear through to a more formal event so my pieces are what I would call transitional. Almost all of my pieces layer very well with one another so it is easy to go casual with one look and add another element and rock off to a cocktail party.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
My textured chunky silver ring by Amy King. Over the past two years I have given everything to my business, scrimping and saving and even house-sitting for a year and a half (moving every few weeks or so), just to make sure I had cash in my business and could pay my bills. Amy was off to Amsterdam to exhibit, and needed some cash to get there. I bought the ring knowing that I was supporting her dream just as others did for me and it felt really good.
What wardrobe item should every woman invest in?
Well-fitting under garments. Start with a good bra and knickers. It is super important to get your bra fitted properly so that you have good lift and support. Not only does it feel better but you look so much better too.
Shape-wear and sleek under-layers are also really important. In the LaLA range we have our bias slip and the body con dress. They are every day basics that you can’t go past if you want to achieve a great silhouette.
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
The only good thing about rules is that you can break them. The irony is that we wouldn’t have fashion if we all obeyed a set of rules. Fashion is an organic, living breathing thing that constantly changes. Rules would crush it. I guess you could say I have ethics though. My main one is that the women I dress feel comfortable and confident in my clothes. I love it when they thrash their LaLA pieces.
Looks from LaLA’s Summer 2017 collection.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
When I was the designer for The Carpenters Daughter, Caroline Marr gave me the opportunity to have my own show at NZ Fashion Week. It was amazing to challenge the perceptions of fashion and what is viewed as the epitome of feminine beauty. She is a dear friend and still supports me by stocking my label. I owe her a lot.
What can’t you live without?
Cheese. I think I may have been a mouse in a former life. People who don’t eat cheese can’t be trusted as far as I am concerned.
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing… Colour