Laila Fernandez was a new mum discouraged by the range of clothing available to new mums so she set about creating a line to fill that gap in the market and help make life easier, more comfortable and look better for new mums. Her first range is very close to being released which I’m sure you’ll agree is very exciting both for her and for all new mums out there because we all want the opportunity to look amazing and still be able to do all of those things new mums need to do.
Welcome to Beauty and Lace Laila and thanks for taking the time out to talk to us.
What is your vision for Laila & Spot?
My vision for Laila & Spot is all about filling a real need for New Mums – beautiful clothes designed for the challenges of new motherhood. I want to bring out clothing that is stylish and feminine, functional and designed to fit with the life of a new mum while making them feel amazing without spending a fortune.
Our first range is a Basics Range, which includes all the most important everyday items for new mums such as tops, leggings, skirts and simple dresses. I want to keep building on our offering, including a wider collection for different occasions, not just seasons.
Can you tell us a little about how Laila & Spot was born?
When I had my first baby, I discovered the needs of New Mums are very different to those of pre-pregnancy and pregnancy. I struggled to find suitable clothing that was comfortable and flattering. I found the only options available were maternity clothes (with some sort of breastfeeding access) or my regular wardrobe. Sadly, I didn’t fit into my old wardrobe straight after my little boy was born and I couldn’t wait to put away (or even burn!) my maternity clothes. But I also found these clothes didn’t provide all the functionality I was looking for as a new mum. Simple things like pockets, soft waistbands and flattering cuts became high on my list of priorities, along with the obvious things like discreet breastfeeding access. While I could get some of these requirements from maternity clothes, there were no options available that even came close to checking all the boxes for me.
Frustrated by this, I hit the design table and created a new range of clothing, designed specifically for New Mums.
Before embarking on the Laila & Spot journey, what was your field?
Contrary to what most people think, my background is actually in the IT field. I have a Bachelors Degree in Commerce and Science and worked with various businesses from development through to Project Management. While this sounds like something a world apart from fashion, there are actually a lot of similarities and learnings I pull out from there and utilize on Laila & Spot.
What has been the biggest challenge on the road to getting your designs into the marketplace?
Setting up a new business, I struggled with the need to suddenly be an expert in so many different fields. Its hard wearing all the hats. But I found the new world of motherhood empowering and tapped into these new experiences for inspiration. Great business ideas solve problems and mums are in the best position to spot ideas that will help make new motherhood easier.
Laila & Spot was created with a very specific market in mind, what would you say is the most unique feature of your range?
The most unique feature in our range is being able to combine fashion and function to really deliver what new mums look for. The beauty of our garments is not only what you see – but also the things you don’t see; features like hidden support, our magnetic clasps and concealed breastfeeding accesses to name a few.
Our business is all about new mums, and to ensure we deliver this, we have other mums on our team, from design to testing to production.
I was reading on your site about magnetic clasps on your dresses, can you tell us a little about how you came up with that feature?
I wanted the clothes in my range to look like everyday clothes, and not scream “I’m a new mum!”. I wanted not only functionality but also elegance in the garments and the commonly used plastic drop down clips just weren’t going to meet the mark for me. And so I went about looking at other avenues. The magnetic clasps we use on our garments are not only elegant, they’re also very functional, snapping back into place with just one hand.
Ethics and the environment are a big part of your company ethos, how did you ensure those requirements were met?
It was important to me to crate a brand that respected both ethics and the environment.
When sourcing our fabrics and factories, I do not rely on agents or second hand information. I personally visit the factories that make our fabric and our garments. I have worked there alongside the employees so I can vouch for the workplace myself. From yarn to completed garment, I understand and know the process first hand. This is the only way I can ensure our whole end to end journey is ethical and our garments environmentally friendly.
We are also big advocates of mums and women, and only use factories that offer equal opportunity for everyone. We also support the CARE Australia Empowerment Program that aligns with our values – “Help 1 woman out of poverty and she’ll bring 4 others with her.”
Can you tell us a little about your manufacturing journey?
When setting up this label, I looked at various manufacturing options. While we do all our design and sampling right here in Australia, getting it manufactured here was not a feasible option. So I turned to a country I called home for many years, a long time ago – India.
Ensuring our clothes are ethically made is high on my list of priorities, so I wasn’t satisfied with just sending our garments offshore to get made. Instead, once the initial phase of design and sampling was done, I headed off to visit a few factories over there myself. I’ve spent many weeks over several trips in India working in different areas. This investment of time and energy has given me an invaluable insight to understand the end to end process, as well as ensure the workers there are treated fairly.
The factories I work with treat their employees with the utmost respect. There are three breaks during the day that are mandatory – no lunch breaks working at your desk like I used to. Child labour is not only unheard of at our factories, but there is also a strong sense of community in this manufacturing town. So each factory looks out for the other to make sure they are all following the same guidelines and ethics.
It’s always tough being away from my own family when I make these trips, but I feel this is an important aspect of my business. During my time over there, I was able to get to know not just the workers, but also their families as we enjoyed cups of tea together and shared a few laughs.
What’s your favourite piece from the range?
That’s a tough one! I love each item and didn’t approve the samples until I was 100% satisfied. But if I had to choose just one, I think I would pick the first design I came up with – the short pleated dress. It is flattering, comfortable and I just love the flair of the skirt.
Where can we find Laila & Spot?
Our first range will be available for sale by the end of April this year. We’re excited to have Laila & Spot garments sold in stores in my home town of Melbourne and other cities around Australia. Our clothes will also be available from our own web site for new mums who don’t have a retailer near-by. We’ll be updating our list of stockists closer to the launch of our range so keep an eye out on our website – www.lailaandspot.com.au
Are you working on anything new to add to the range?
I sure am! We already have the next 2 ranges in design mode and we will keep adding complementary pieces just for mums. While we’ll continue to use natural fabrics, I’m excited about introducing different textures and prints to our range.
What does being a woman mean to you?
I think a lot of people underestimate how much women are capable of. I read this quote once, that always makes me smile and summarises my personal philosophy – “Women are quite simply amazing. We can make a baby, have a baby and feed a baby, all without even getting out of bed.”
Women are naturally very empathetic and generally genuinely want to help each other out. I find being a mum empowering. Motherhood has brought about love, strength and drive I never knew existed.
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!