Megan Gale, Rebecca Judd, Whitney Port, Millie Macintosh, Rachel Zoe, Ruby Rose, Zoe Foster Blake, Anna Heinrich, Elyse Knowles, Rachael Finch and Natalie Bassingthwaighte – no, it’s not the guest list for a VIP red carpet event...
They’re the women Lana Wilkinson counts among her clientele, and some of them are even her shoe namesakes. The Elyse is a streamlined, simple mid-height while the Bec boasts a stiletto heel with a fluorescent ankle strap. Given Lana’s label only launched last year in 2019, the glittering clientele is even more impressive…
As with all good business stories, Lana’s started with a gap in the market. She was running her own styling business, and “one year I spent $8,000 on shoes for my clients for the Spring Racing Carnival”, she recalls. “I knew there had to be a cheaper alternative, but I couldn’t find one that would still give the coveted look.” Like any good entrepreneur, she saw the opportunity and stepped up – literally, into a pair of gorgeously towering Lana Wilkinsons.
We spoke to the designer about how she’s managing a new business in a pandemic, why being affordable was as important to her as being aspirational, and how she juggles her label with the demands of WFH with children. We also picked her styling brain for insider tips – “a blazer always makes you look like you had more time in the morning than you really did!”.
Go to www.lanawilkinson.com
What was your own childhood like?
I had a great childhood growing up in Melbourne with my mum, dad, and my younger sister Gemma. We were always playing sport and socialising with family and friends. From a young age, I just loved to be around people – I used to help my dad at his dry-cleaning business and speak to all of the customers and staff all day.
What did your career look like prior to becoming a mother?
I was very driven to succeed from a young age, so this meant working long hours at my corporate marketing role and then later working on weekends to start my styling business. Before I became a mother I had so much more time to devote to my career however after I had my first child Ava, I had to learn how to work smarter and not harder. I knew that I still wanted to work but I needed to make sure that I was present at home for her also.
Did your career change at all after welcoming your daughters?
My career changed, naturally as my priorities began to switch after having my second daughter Elle, now aged 3. I took the leap into styling fulltime when Ava was just born as I knew this was my passion, however, this also allowed me to be self-employed so that I could be more flexible with my work times, making sure that I could be home when I needed to be.
What surprised you most about becoming a mother?
Not much surprised me, except how much I loved becoming a mum. I had friends who had already warned me of what I could expect once I gave birth, and I was one of those mums to be who asked EVERY question. I’m a control freak at heart. I think I was quite nervous beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to do what my mother did for me and that I wouldn’t get it ‘right’. What you learn is that there’s no normal way to parent, you just find what routine works for you and your partner and then figure it out along the way.
What have you found to be the most challenging part of motherhood so far?
I have found “mum-guilt” the most challenging part of raising my two daughters so far. I struggle with the fear that I’ll miss out on things with them or feel like I’m not there as much as I would like to be. It’s hugely conflicting to be a working mum and I know that I’m not the only person who feels this way. It’s a constant balance and I don’t always get that balance right, but I try not to be too hard on myself when dealing with the guilt.
Tell us about your divine shoe collection...
Thank you! My shoe collection has been a long time in the making but I’m so excited that it’s finally out of my head and into the marketplace. I’ve always found there was a gap in the market for aspirational but affordable shoes. I knew that not everyone could afford designer pairs of shoes, so I wanted to bring people pieces that they would look and feel amazing in, but that wouldn’t break their budget.
What inspired the launch? Who is your ideal customer, and how did you manage to find a gap in the market?
My clients and styling work inspired the launch of the brand. I was designing shoes that I knew they would love to wear. I really wanted to thank everyone who had done so much for my career and acknowledge their loyalty by naming styles after friends and loyal clients and friends in the industry. My ideal customer is really anyone who wants to look and feel great in a pair of my heels. I’m all about making people feel amazing from the inside out, because you’ll always look great in any outfit when you’re projecting that kind of confidence. I found the gap in the market while running my styling business. One year I spent $8,000 on shoes for my clients for the Spring Racing Carnival – I knew there had to be a cheaper alternative, but I couldn’t find one that would still give the coveted look.
What has been the most challenging part of pivoting into this new arena?
The most challenging part of this experience is venturing into manufacturing and learning about a whole new world. I had been involved in the fashion industry for a long time and thought I knew how most things worked; however manufacturing gave me a whole new set of rules and processes to learn.
What about the most joyful?
I have two responses for this one. Definitely, seeing customers wear and style my shoes, that they believe in my brand and wear them – is really rewarding. As selfish as it sounds, I get to design shoes that I would love to wear. My rule is that if I wouldn’t wear it, the piece doesn’t go to production. I really want to believe in my product and I know that I would never sell anything that I wasn’t 100% happy with.
How are you navigating these particularly challenging times? Is there anything that you’re finding particularly helpful - whether as a businesswoman or simply as a human surviving 2020!?
I think that everyone has been affected by this global pandemic in one way or another. It’s been stressful and as a small business owner, I’ve had a lot of things to think about and manage over the last couple of weeks. The thing that makes me feel better is simply reminding myself that COVID-19 will end, and life will go back to normal again. Everyone is confused, but we must keep checking in with our loved ones and remember that we are in this together.
What does a typical outfit look like for you on a day-to-day basis?
Pre-COVID19 my go-to look was a tee, blazer, jeans, and a pair of Lana Wilkinson heels. This always felt casual but put together, and perfect for how I want to look in the office.
Where are your favourite places to shop? Do you have any go-to brands?
Net-a-Porter and My Theresa always have an amazing selection of items with great customer service. I always receive my orders quickly and without hassle. In Australia, Desordre Boutique have such a beautiful selection of brands and pieces so I can always find something special there. I have so many favourite brands including alice McCALL, Aje, Steele, Jaggad and Manning Cartell just to name a few!
f you were to share 3 styling tips for our readers, what would they be?
- Stay true to your own sense of style. There’s no point wearing a trend that’s ‘in’ if it doesn’t make you feel comfortable or confident.
- Make sure you invest in tailoring. Having your clothes fit you perfectly makes a big difference to the look of the item; nothing looks better than a garment that’s precisely measured to you.
- Don’t be afraid to experience with colours and patterns. Fashion is meant to be fun!
What’s a go-to look for a mother who is short on time?
A blazer always makes you look like you had more time in the morning than you really did! It’s perfect for the office or a more casual setting and can be worn with almost anything.
Is there any way to look and feel stylish in quarantine?
Definitely! Just because we’re all inside doesn’t mean we have to feel sluggish and unlike ourselves. I encourage everyone to put on your favourite outfit and a little bit of makeup when you need a mood boost. We’re all different, but I just feel more like myself when I spend a little bit more time getting ready in the morning.
What type of mother do you aspire to be?
I aspire to be a role model to my girls; I want them to know that if you work hard you can achieve anything. This work ethic is something that my parents instilled in me from a young age and I hope I can pass it on to my children.
Do you experience mother’s guilt? How do you move through it?
Yes, of course, I think every mother does at some point. It’s taken me a while to admit that I need support in order to do everything that I do at home and at work. It truly does take a village and that’s okay. We’re never going to get it 100% right so we need to throw away the idea that we can be ‘perfect’ all the time.
How do you manage the mental load?
Sometimes it’s exhausting juggling my work and home life but I have a wonderful partner in my husband who helps with the planning of everyday tasks. We try to balance the load equally so that neither one of us is too overworked.
What does a typical dinner look like in your household?
I’m not too creative in the kitchen unless I have time! My husband Liam is the cook in our house. We will usually eat protein and vegetables, so really anything that’s fresh and easy to cook.
Who inspires you?
My husband Liam, he is very calm and rational – I try to adopt his behaviours in business. My parents, Santo and Annette and my sister Gemma, have always been a great source of inspiration in my life. My dad ran a business with his brother (still does) and for as long as I can remember, has worked tirelessly to build it to what it is today. I would love to see that kind of success for my business in the future. My mum is an amazing, very supportive and is my best friend. When my business was starting she minded Ava so often, I’ll never forget the help she gave me and is so supportive. Finally, my sister, who is also my Operations Manager is thorough and methodical and has such a strong sense of self – I want to be more like her.
What is on your list of loves at the moment?
– My Dermalist skincare products. I’ve recently finished their 6 week challenge and my skin has never felt better!
– Houseparty App. It’s such a great way to catch up with family and friends during social isolation. I’m addicted!
– Shameless Podcast – I love Zara McDonald and Michelle Andrews, they give me life!
– Spray Aus Fake Tan. It’s keeping me looking bronzed while in isolation.
– Batch and Co Spritz. My isolation drink of choice.
– NETFLIX – Enough said, best way to kill the time and so much choice for the kids
– Keep It Cleaner Fitness App – I use their workouts religiously, they are quick and easy and I love Laura Henshaw and Steph Claire Smith.
– Pinterest – Liam and I are addicted to home styling and interiors as we are using this time in isolation to do a small renovation on our home.
– MECCA Online – I am stocking up on my makeup and trying to practice.
– YouTube – in line with my Mecca obsession, I am trying to watch online tutorials to get better and doing my own hair and makeup and also watch clips from old TV shows that I used to be addicted too.