Connecting Founders, a platform supporting women entrepreneurs in Asia, panned the spotlight onto Ponytail Journal this week. Lauren shared her story, inspiration, and aspiration with them as we move forward into better business practice for the future. [ much business ]
“I went to art school and studied to be a photographer in Australia. When I was 14, I was scouted to be a model, working full-time. Fortunately my agent never let me miss school and she forced me to go to university. I used to hate her but now I thank her. I did modelling for a long time and then I started shooting as well and became a commercial fashion photographer. I got involved in many different areas within the industry but then got sick of the advertising world. I didn’t know how much I could keep doing it so I started my blog as a way to keep my brain sane. Writing is really cathartic. I started two years ago. And then magazines started hitting me up and asking me to write for them. It happened more and more so now I write for several magazines, some regularly and some on a freelance basis. It takes me wherever and now I can choose whom to work for.
My journal is about finding and sharing good things. It’s about the new luxury – artisanal products handmade with best quality material, and small sustainable production. Fun is also a key drive of my brand. I write about something if I really believe in it, for free. That’s what the journal is all about. As a blogger, I realized that the more selective you are the better it is for you. Some people just accept any kind of income from anywhere and then their blog becomes a confusing patchwork where they are pushing so many different things that their authenticity becomes questionable. Coming from art school I feel I already had this stubborn sense of elitism, the need to keep my integrity to be a real person. When you are really selective and what you run is really well curated, your value goes up and people respect you for that. That’s how I created my brand.
I just launched my new garment label, called W’menswear. It’s my first collection, produced here in Thailand with distribution in Japan, New York, and London. My target segment are informed customers who know what good fabric is. My clothes are about a woman that is ready to get her hands dirty and is going to keep these clothes until they absolutely fall apart and she’s going to have so many memories with these clothes that you are going to repair if they rip. It’s about creating timeless pieces that are so well made that you might even hand them down to your daughter. I am trying to produce sustainable and with the smallest ecofoot print as possible. We are also putting money back into production and supporting the local community with fair and secure employment.
Most successful brands I have seen are the ones that have a strong core about who they are, what they are doing, and where they come from so they will always be able to continue building on that. If you don’t know what your core is and just try to keep up with everyone, how can you build something you don’t understand? One of the most challenging lessons to learn is to choose between being popular and standing for your own artistic integrity. It’s about forming your own wolf pack of people that share the same interests and values rather than appealing to everyone. It’s not about being popular; it’s about finding the right people. You are not going to be effective if you try to target everyone. If you have a tight wolf pack of people who love your brand and believe in what you do, then they will also buy what you do.”
Who’s your mentor?
“Nigel Cabourn. He’s very similar to my dad. They are like twin brothers separated at birth. Both of them are British, entrepreneurs, and very inspiring people. My dad went down the more traditional business route and Nigel is this crazy designer, wild, loud, so energetic, who always says what he thinks. Both are really passionate about what they do and they are all about helping young people get to where they are. With Nigel, I have seen almost every part of the designing process, from buying vintage for upcoming collections to designing the collection to preparing trade shows. If I didn’t have all this experience, I wouldn’t have been confident enough to start my own garment label.
Most editors in chiefs of the magazines that I have worked with are humble and down to earth. They are not flashy or loud because they don’t need to be. They are all very passionate about what they do and super dedicated. Their personal and professional lives are sort of mushed together. They appreciate human contact and they will always push something aside to hear what you need because they understand they are never going to know everything so they are not closed off. They listen to people.
Never create anything that already exists in the world. There is a lot of the same and unless you come from a lot of money or for some reasons people trust you, why would others want to buy from you things that they have already seen 100 times? Or if you want to create something that already exists, learn how you can make it better. It takes strong stubborn commitment and patience. It takes a lot of work to build something and you need to say your same message over and over again in different flavors for people not to get bored. And never close your door to feedback.”