About a month ago, Lorna Jane tweeted me (@LornaJaneActive) saying that she had tried some of my POP Pilates workouts. I replied with a warm thanks and went on with my day…not REALIZING until much later what a HUGE deal that was until some of my Aussie fans said she’s basically the biggest thing in Australia! I was like whhaaattt!!?? I did some research and Lorna Jane (the brand) is actually a huge women’s activewear presence in Australia, comparable to what Lululemon is in the US. I WAS STUNNED. STUNNED. STUNNED. STUNNED!
So get this…Lorna Jane (the person) is actually the head designer and founder of the Lorna Jane premiere activewear brand. Not only is she an entrepreneur and a designer…she also has a background in teaching aerobics classes! And before she started her empire, she was working a 9-5 medical job – then quit to pursue her dreams. Ummm, omg, does this not sound a wee bit too similar to someone else’s story? (ahem) Oh! And she models her own clothes. Yea we’re def soul-twins from afar! (‘cept I only model my own bags because I can’t afford “real models” haha)
I was immediately drawn to read more about Lorna and what she was all about. It’s impossible not to wonder about someone when you feel like you have so much in common. What drives her? What makes her so successful? What does she eat??? Haha. I couldn’t find too much on the internet, so decided to conduct an interview myself – wasn’t even sure if she would accept. But she did!!! And very graciously.
POPsters, I would like to introduce you to one of my new role models – Ms. Lorna Jane! Let’s talk the woman behind the fashion…we’ll get to the clothes later.
Cassey: You were working as a dental therapist when you first started designing your own fitness clothes – what made you quit a stable job and venture into a world of fashion design and retail? Did you have prior experience?
LJ: While working as a dental therapist I also worked part-time teaching aerobics. I was becoming frustrated with the lack of fashionable fitness clothes available and so decided to make my own. I unpicked my favourite swimsuit, laid it out on newspaper and cut around it and that’s how I got my first pattern. I made pieces for myself but I wore them to my classes and soon people started asking me where I got them from and could I make one for them too. As demand grew I made the decision to give it a go full-time so I quit my job as a dental therapist and starting designing. I didn’t have any prior design experience although I used to crochet bikinis for my friends when I was 14.
Cassey: Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
LJ: The Lorna Jane customer knows that when they buy Lorna Jane clothing it will be both fashionable and functional. In order to stay up to date with the latest trends we closely watch the seasonal shows so that we can make our designs trend focused. However most of my inspiration comes from my own active lifestyle. I’m an active women so the chances are that if there is something that I need in terms of activewear or a particular style or fit that I think would be comfortable then I’ll design or incorporate it into a collection. That is how the brand started in the beginning, I was creating pieces for myself, so its important to me that that same heritage remains today.
Cassey: What’s one design you’re dying to release but don’t think people are “ready” for yet? (because it’s too bold!)
LJ: In the 90s we produced some fabulous cut out swimsuits – they were a bestseller back then and quite daring. I’d like to bring those back.
Cassey: Was there a defining moment when you felt like you “made it”?
LJ: I remember I was sitting in a Starbucks coffee shop in Hong Kong and through the window I saw two girls walking down the street both head to toe in Lorna Jane. I couldn’t believe it; I wanted to jump up and run after them to say thank you for wearing Lorna Jane! It made me realise that we weren’t a small brand anymore and we were building something that was growing quickly and expanding internationally. This year we celebrated the opening of our 100th store in Melbourne which was a huge milestone and we were also named Outstanding Retailer of the Year in Australia – both of these made me feel like we had made it.
Cassey: You and your husband are a power couple! How is it working with him and does he ever try to design clothes :) ?
LJ: Bill and I are lucky in that we both have skills that the other doesn’t. We handle different areas of the business and have worked like that from the beginning. Bill is very good at the business side of things and I handle the creative side. However, we do both have ideas for each other’s areas and Bill has suggested a few items that I should design. In fact he was the one that suggested I make tights and crop tops rather than leotards and tights which were the fashion back in the 90s. I listened to him and it definitely paid off!
Cassey: Tell me what’s going on in your head right now about debuting your new store in the US! You must be crazy excited!
LJ: I am so excited about opening our first store in the US. Bill and I have been talking about this moment for a long time and I can’t believe it is actually happening. Its also scary though as we have spent the last twenty years building our brand in Australia and now we are venturing into a new market and are going to have to do the same again.
Cassey: Fave healthy food?
LJ: Porridge made with oats and topped with rhubarb, natural yoghurt and almonds. The recipe is in my book Move Nourish Believe: the fit woman’s secret revealed, which was published in November. I have this for breakfast almost everyday and just change the topping.
Cassey: Fave “bad” food!!
LJ: Banoffee pie or ice cream. I love dessert but I’ll normally share one with my husband as I know its only the first or second mouthful that I really enjoy.
Cassey: Fave type of workout?
LJ: An early morning strength workout followed by a walk with my dog Roger.
Cassey: What’s one quirk or surprising thing your employees don’t know about you?
LJ: There are hundreds of un-cool things that I love or do as one of my beliefs is to always be myself no matter the pressures that society may put on you SO … I only dance at weddings, I LOVE Beatles music, I eat dessert with a teaspoon, I love reality TV but only watch it when I am on the treadmill and I pick a reataurant based on their dessert menu
Cassey: What advice or criticism will you always remember? Who said it and how has it helped you stay driven on your successful journey?
LJ: When I was about to open my first store a good friend and mentor advised me not to do it. He was worried about the responsibility and financial risk for me. If I had listened to himLorna Jane certainly wouldn’t be where it is today. Luckily I chose to follow my instincts and my heart; sometimes you have to take that leap of faith. It’s a lesson that I’ve followed since then; if my instincts are telling me something its usually right.
Cassey: Thank you Lorna for your fab answers – I will be following you very closely now :) And I am flattered that you’ve done my POP Pilates workouts. That’s really, quite cool. Congrats on your new store grand opening in the US. I will try my very best to get to the grand opening!!!
I will be getting some LJ clothes in the mail very soon (can’t wait) and will review the stuff for you guys then. Excited for cute fitness clothes!!!! WOOOO!!! If you’re curious to see what else Lorna has up her sleeve, visit the LJ store online here.
Question for you: who are some of your idols? Is it your mom? Oprah? Your professor? Let me know in the comments who inspires you to stay motivated and reach for your goals! Give it a good think – this is important :)