Fashion

How the designer of Loclaire started her sustainably-minded fashion label

Frances Lowe shares what it takes to start a sustainable and ethical fashion brand from scratch.

On the racks of Loclaire’s debut collection, you will find garments of strong and modern tailoring, with feminine details mixed with a streetwear edge. But first and foremost, Frances Lowe’s fashion line is determined to leave the world in a better place than when it launched.

Moving back to her hometown of Auckland after a stint in China, the designer makes considered clothing for strong and curious women. “She’s the one who’s curious and asks questions and cares about people. I want my clothes to enhance that version of her.”

Recently launched instore at Lineage, in Britomart, and Ena, in Wellington, the Loclaire label is furthering France’s message of a holistic approach to sustainability.

We sat down with the designer to ask her about the creative, and innovative, process so far.


What did you set out to achieve with creating your new brand Loclaire?

I wanted to challenge and change how we perceive clothes. It’s the whole fashion clothing cycle from where it first started, where the fabric comes from, what it is, who made it, where it’s made. Once it gets to the customer, it’s how they even buy the clothing, how they wear it, how they care for it, and then ultimately how they pass it on at the end of its life.

What does being a ‘sustainable’ brand mean to you?

Everyone has their own understanding of the word ‘sustainable’. I see being a sustainable brand as having no impact on the planet and the people who are involved. And that is really, really hard. So I want to be careful about how I get that word out there in terms of my brand.

My vision is to be a sustainable brand and I still feel like we’re quite far from that, but I think as long as we’re asking questions, challenging and educating ourselves, then I think we’re heading them the right direction. I’m learning so many things every day. I listen to podcasts, I do online courses, I’m discovering new fabrics and every time I learn something I feel like it’s up to me to put it out there. It’s about starting the conversation, to help people think more about it.

 

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Tell us about your background in fashion.

I worked at Ruby for almost six years, doing a mix of design and production. At one point, I was managing production. At another point, I was heading up the accessories design. I then moved to Shanghai and I worked at H&M for one-and-a-half years as a product developer for one of their departments.

Who makes your clothes?

I design and make my samples and take this to pattern makers and sewers in Auckland. They’re all half an hour in different directions and I see most of them three times a week.

Where do you get your fabric from?

The suppliers in New Zealand are great, but there is a really limited range of organic or premium natural fibres or low impact dyes. I just got a package the other day from a new overseas supplier and she sent me swatches of fabrics made out of milk, orange and rose!

 

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Why did you decide to go out on your own?

I had been wanting to have my own clothing brand for quite a while, but I never felt quite ready and looking back on it now, I really do think that living in China pushed me to do it.

Living in Shanghai was just like such a new experience for me. I was living in this really big city with 26 million people and I went through this sustainability awakening period. Before I went to Shanghai, I admit that I was like quite uneducated in this space.

It started from a more like a holistic and lifestyle point of view because I was living [in polution]. Naturally, this started to influence my fashion choices. I started to think more about the clothes I was wearing, what they were made of and how it affected the environment. That was what made me really want to start my own label.

 

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Where do you get your inspiration from?

I don’t really have one set inspiration but in a lot of my pieces I want the fabrics to be the hero, so I like to let them be the main part of the clothes.

I’m inspired by art, photography and travelling and sometimes I even dream up designs. The other night, I dreamed about this new skirt detail and I woke up and it was so clear in my mind I had to draw it out. I do a lot of thinking in bed, which is a good and bad thing!

Who do you admire?

I really look up to advocates of more sustainable fashion. I love Vogue’s sustainability editor Clare Press, she’s very cool and her the conversations that she has are so interesting, and Livia Firth, the founder of Eco Age. What they’re doing is really quite difficult and it’s against the norm of everything that people know and it’s really important to raise as many people’s awareness as possible.

Style-wise, I’m really into Zoe Kravitz lately. She just has this really cool attitude and aura about her. I also really like Princess Diana’s nineties style.

I’m also a really big fan of the younger generation. I think they’re just so in the know and it really reflects on the dressing. People like Elle Fanning and Millie Bobby Brown.

What are you working on at the moment?

We’re still a baby brand so our biggest focus is just getting our name out there. Finding new materials is a big focus for me – looking into new innovations and fibres.

The bigger picture is really about nailing our long term strategy. I would love to be able to figure out and break down our carbon footprint and get some hard facts around where we’re spending the most of our resources and energy so that we can know how to do better.

 

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What’s the most challenging part of building your own brand?

You have to learn a lot, in every single area of the business. I’ve learnt that it’s really hard to keep a work-life balance. At the end of most days, I’m so exhausted I just want to go to bed, but I have learned that it’s really important to value your friends and family.

It can be quite a lonely thing just starting out by yourself – not having colleagues or people to talk to. Even just remembering to go outside and get some fresh air – that’s really important.

What are you thankful for?

This is my business but there are so many people who are helping me – it takes a village, honestly. My family and friends have been so helpful and so supportive – whether it’s a physical gesture, helping me out with something, or even just a text to say that they think that I’m doing a great job.

What does success mean to you?

Firstly, success means having a really good balance of everything in my life – family, friends, career and health. It’s so important and I think if I can get a good balance of all of those things then, what more could you ask for?

I also think about this idea of like leaving a legacy. It would be amazing if I left the world knowing that I’d done everything I could to preserve it for future generations. The big goal for all of us is to sustain our earth and then I’m choosing to do it through clothing.

It can apply to all other parts of my life, and other people would choose to do it in different ways, but clothing was the way that I’ve chosen to express myself and to try to do better.

 

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Interview: Jessica-Belle Greer
Photo: Patrick Loo

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