“Last month saw our first delivery to Anthropologie, which was a really amazing feat for an Aussie small design brand,” says Phoebe Langdon, the talented co-founder of Langdon Ltd who spent a year living in India before launching her homewares brand...
Together with her sister Delia, Langdon creates stylish homewares which are hand woven by artisans in Rajasthan using traditional techniques. They’ve also recently expanded into accessories (the gingham tote is on our wish list). We caught up with the clever duo to talk interior decorating tips, their new collection and building a business. Go to www.langdonltd.com.au
Sister, sister: Delia and Phoebe Langdon
What’s a typical morning like for you?
Phoebe: I’m normally woken by my toy poodle Gretel. I get up and often get into designing. I’m more creative in the morning, once I get going. Delia: I check my emails in bed, get up, get ready and head into our studio. Lately I have been trying to walk to work, I’ve got all the gear (backpack included), I just need the motivation.
Tea or coffee?
Phoebe: Both, any form of coffee, instant included. Delia: A coffee in the morning, and many many teas throughout the day. I love the stuff.
Do you clear your inbox before breakfast?
Phoebe: Nothing gets done before breakfast. I’m one of those people that can’t function before I’ve had my breakfast and coffee. Delia: Definitely.
What time do you log off for the day?
Phoebe: Late! Working internationally with our team in India sees me up until the early hours of the morning every week. Delia: Depends, but now that we have a swag of retailers and customers internationally and therefore on a different time zones means I’m sometimes up late.
When did you first go to India and what did you love about it?
Phoebe: In 2010 I moved to Rajasthan in India for 12 months, where I completed my honours degree in design. India is certainly an assault to the senses. I fell in love with the colour, the creativity everywhere and of course the textiles. I learnt so much about design there and to this day I still do. It’s ingrained in their culture. Visually it takes you to another place. Delia: I first went to India in 2012 just as we were starting the business. I found it a huge culture shock at first, the chaos was overwhelming, but I’ve learnt to love it and embrace it.
How often do you travel to India?
Phoebe: I’m there a couple of months of the year. I sample, design and oversee production. I’ve got a really amazing network of people there who are now family.
Can you tell us about the artisans you work with?
Phoebe: Where do we start? They are such talented, humble, hardworking people with huge smiles and hearts. It’s lovely going there and catching up with the weavers and their families. They work in communities and are there to support each other. Even in the short time we’ve been working with them (three years) we’ve seen development and more infrastructure go into their communities. A lot of the older weavers are able to put their children now through university, which is wonderful.
What was been your most memorable experience in India?
Phoebe: Too many to list, there’s one every visit. The Indian sunset brings me to my knees. Delia: There’s always a hairy driving experience, which sticks in my mind but my most memorable experience would probably be on our last trip. We went to meet the beautiful ladies who spin the cotton that’s eventually made into our wares. Their little girls had arrived home from school and were just so sweet. They waved and smiled the biggest smiles out the window as we left until our car was way out of sight.
Can you talk us through your career path?
Phoebe: I devastated my mum and grandma when I declined my university offer at 18 and studied fashion and textile design at East Sydney Tech (Fashion Design Studio Ultimo). I was completely in my element there and had an amazing amount of opportunities working in the fashion industry. The GFC hit and it wasn’t so fun anymore when I graduated in 2009. I excelled at the textile side of fashion and was sent by the TAFE director to Jaipur at 23 to get that degree that my mum and grandma wanted. I spent 12 months devouring every aspect of the manufacturing industry there and was given amazing opportunities to work with export houses where I saw the other, very unglamorous and unpleasant side of the industry. In contrast I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time visiting and working with weavers in far out rural villages and this is where the initial thought and dream of Langdon ltd transpired. Delia: After a failed attempt at becoming an accountant, I had a career in a finance business. I wasn’t loving it and was looking for a change. I’d always dreamed of working in an exciting small business. The rest is history.
What inspired you to launch your business?
Delia: When Phoebe moved back from India to Australia, she had so many contacts that it would have been silly not to utilise them immediately. Over the family dinner table we made the decision to start the business. We thought we could combine our very different skill sets. We had no proper written business plan. We knew what we were doing as well as knowing that we would make mistakes over and over. Instead of spending weeks drafting a meticulous plan, we just utilised that time to actually do rather than plan. It’s funny looking back, we virtually got our first set of samples, had them shot straight away and did our first trade show the same week. We really jumped straight in feet first, but we haven’t looked back. We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. One thing we’ve learnt is that you cannot predict or control a new business. You have to go with the flow and be prepared for curved balls and lots of them.
Tell us about the new collection…
Phoebe: The new collection features a leopard print design that I’ve been wanting to create for a while. I worked with the weavers on it and encouraged them to do a bit of ‘freestyling’ to create a more random pattern. We’ve also got some more brights and some more of our signature peach and gold look. Rug wise, we’ve developed some more jute designs and a couple of fab shag rugs.
What are your top three interior tips for decorating a room?
Phoebe: Determine a colour scheme and general mood for the room. Add your key pieces, including a fabulous rug (of course!!) to bring it together. Add some artwork, greenery and throws and most importantly cushions to bring comfort and tie it all together. We both tend to go to town here, more is more.
Can you tell us about your childhood?
Delia: We grew up in Brisbane and spent most holidays and weekends on the Gold Coast at Main Beach. We spent a lot of time riding our bikes and in the pool. We were definitely encouraged to spend time outside and making our own fun.
Did you steal each other’s clothes?
Phoebe: No. She found my style non conformist – I would wear tutus, scarves wrapped around my head and sequin ballet flats with a cowgirl holster belt attached. The more the better. As adults she has a tendency to pinch my shoes when I’m overseas or not looking.
What did your mother teach you about your career?
Phoebe: Our Mum has always worked. She’s a special needs teacher and so passionate about what she does. She has always told us to find what we really love and turn that into a career.
What are your top tips for setting up your own business?
Phoebe: Really educate yourself on every component of the business you are entering. We were naïve when we started but together we had the experience and education behind us to be able to last those first few difficult years of business. Also, authenticity always reigns supreme! Don’t try to emulate existing businesses. Run your own race.
What’s the most challenging part of running your own business?
Phoebe: The expansion aspect is both challenging and daunting. We launched in the USA last year and have had a really amazing response. Last month saw our first delivery to Anthropologie, which was a really amazing feat for an Aussie small design brand. With that in mind logistically it has been a steep learning curve and we’ve had to set up a new financial and shipping system solely for the USA.
How would you describe your home?
Phoebe: Chaotic! I travel a lot with the business and I still haven’t mastered the art of unpacking my suitcase. I also have a hoarding problem. I really can’t throw out that tragic artwork I painted in 2003. Delia: Whilst things can get out of hand at busy times, it’s generally pretty organised. I love colour, comfort, fresh flowers and nice linen.
What makes you feel stressed?
Phoebe: The lack of hours in a day! I also have the creative dialogue in my head and really stress out about whether the latest collection will be well received –not only for our brand but to provide constant work for our weavers. Delia: Probably when logistically things don’t work out, e.g. packages get held up. Timing is crucial in this business. The other thing is I have a tendency to expect Rome to be built in a day and sometimes load too much on the to-do list.
What’s your favourite colour combination?
Phoebe: Peach and gold, orange and pale indigo. Delia: I love blue and white, I find it quite restful so keep to those tones in my bedroom but splash out with the colour elsewhere.
Who’s house would you want to move into?
Phoebe: This is easy: Heidi Carter’s (Paddo to Palmy) home in Palm Beach. We have shot our last two campaigns there and it is heavenly dreamy. Heidi has impeccable style!