OPEN DOOR POLICY
As the founder of an ICONIC ACTIVEWEAR label, Lorna Jane knows how to mix BUSINESS AND LEISURE. That’s why her new Los Angeles HOME is all about authentic CONNECTIONS.
lorna jane takes us behind-the-scenes of her new los angeles home which, thanks to an open door policy, perfectly mixes business and leisure
Ithink it’s a preconceived idea from the ’90s that you need a corporate office,” insists Lorna Jane Clarkson. “I know a lot of people start their businesses from home and one day dream of moving into an office, whereas I’m always telling women that if you can work from home well and have it all-encompassing, that’s perfect. I like to live my life a bit more fluidly.”
For most of us, a home office means a spare room converted into a study or a laptop propped on a dining table – not an entire ‘spare’ house dedicated to creativity. But this is the worklife arrangement of the founder of Australia’s most iconic activewear brand, whose success in the US has now motivated her to move stateside.
“Although launching the business in America has been exciting, staying in hotels with air conditioning and windows you can’t open is a nightmare for me,” says Lorna. “The idea was to create an environment that would make us want to spend more time in Los Angeles. I’m a real home bird and knew that if we invested in property it would make a difference.”
In early 2016, Lorna and her husband Bill Clarkson bought a patch of land in sought-after Santa Monica, which came with two palatial houses – one which they live in and one that has been converted into Lorna’s design studio.
“I wanted a space that meant I could spend more time at home rather than going to the office everyday, which is what I do when I’m in Brisbane,” says Lorna. “The dream was that I could have breakfast meetings with my team in this casual, creative space where they would feel relaxed and empowered.”
The story behind Lorna Jane has become a start-up fairytale – how a young aerobics instructor from Brisbane was so frustrated by the workout wear on offer that she began sewing her own, and in doing so created a cult product line. But success hasn’t always come easily; one of the reasons Lorna was so drawn to her new Los Angeles residence.
Bailey House, the building that is now Lorna’s studio, was designed in 1948 by architect Richard Neutra as part of an experimental project. His brief was to build minimal but stylish housing for a post-war economy. However for over 20 years, nobody wanted to live in them because the architecture seemed too unconventional.
“When I read that story I thought – that’s just like me!” exclaims Lorna. “For 25 years I’ve been telling people to wear activewear beyond their workouts, but for at least 12 years people told me I was crazy. I instantly had a real affinity with the building and the fact that great things do take time.” >
I wanted a SPACE that meant I could spend more time at HOME rather than going to the OFFICE everyday.
So, what does it take to create a healthy, happy home for a fitness mogul? When shopping for real estate, Lorna and Bill had three important requirements. It had to be less than a 10 minute drive to the brand’s Santa Monica head office (“I don’t want my husband to be stuck in traffic when we could be working out together”). It also needed to be bright and airy. On top of this, any renovation work had to feel “authentic”.
In conversation with Lorna, authenticity is a word you hear often, whether she is talking about branding, networking or paid-for social media endorsements (Lorna Jane refuses to pay any Instagram influencers to wear the brand’s product).
During the Bailey House renovations, interior design firm Twofold LA were given a simple brief – modern bohemian – and a tight deadline. They had just three weeks to turn the second house into a design studio before Lorna Jane held an event at the property, attended by LA’s most fit and famous women.
“It was Bill’s idea to host the event at home and I thought it was crazy at first,” says Lorna. “We only finished renovations on a Thursday evening and the event took place on the Friday.”
They settled on a compromise, opening up part of the house for the celebrations, including the garden where ‘elixr stations’ served health-boosting tonics and clean-eating canapés.
The guest list was a mixture of old friends, including one of the first models to shoot a Lorna Jane campaign, and local celebrities with a passion for healthy living. “I’ve never been good at networking because I prefer things to happen organically,” says Lorna, “but I kept thinking, this is how I want to build relationships. It felt so intimate, relaxed and genuine.”
There are now plans to host more at-home events at the property. “We can bring people to Bailey house, feed them recipes out of our cookbooks and show them the product range in an inspiring environment,” says Lorna.
The open-door policy also extends to employees, as the design studio is linked to a separate annex with a bedroom,
I prefer things to happen ORGANICALLY… This is HOW I want to build RELATIONSHIPS.
bathroom and study. “It means that, if one of my designers comes over from Australia, they can stay there and have their own privacy.”
With a global business that includes 235 stores in 53 countries, how does Lorna personally stay grounded? “I actually love change,” she says.
“In my home I’m always moving things. It’s why I’m a real leaner of pictures and not much gets hung on the walls here. As long as I have my favourite candle and my favourite person with me, then I’m happy.”
To combat homesickness, she only needs to visit the garden, where huge gum trees offer a reminder of Australia. Lorna now plans to divide her time between LA and Brisbane, with shorter trips to Europe and New York. “Asia is also a huge market for us,” she says. “In the next 12 months I think business will explode over there, so I can tell I’m going to do a lot more travel – but no more houses!” Did she have any concerns about moving to LA – a town with a reputation for superficiality – when authenticity is so important to her ethos? “I saw it as a challenge,” says Lorna. “I remember hearing on the radio that Selena Gomez asks for $500,000 for an Instagram post. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I want people to love our brand without having to pay them to endorse us.
“I love that people choose to wear our product because they love it.”
As long as I have my FAVOURITE candle and my favourite PERSON with me, then I’m HAPPY.
IDECORATE GOLD CACTUS approx. AU$59 idecorateshop.com
COCOLUX AUSTRALIA PALM LEAF & BAMBOO INFUSED IN COCONUT 150G COPPER CANDLE AU$45 cocoluxaustralia.com COAST
NEW ZEALAND EVERYDAY LINEN HAND TOWELS (X2) NZD$70 coastnewzealand.com
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LANE OASIS PALM CUSHION COVER AU$35 downthatlittlelane.com.au
NSW LEATHER CO SHEEPSKIN ANIMAL HIDE RUG AU$129.95 zanui.com.au FENTON & FENTON URCHIN OTTOMAN IN SMALL ICE AU$350 fentonandfenton.com.au
CARLA DINNAGE BOWLS AU$40 EACH carladinnage.com.au
MIA FLEUR PINK PALM LEAF PLATE £22.95 miafleur.com
BAREFOOT GYPSY MOROCCAN WOOL POM POM CUSHION AU$123 barefootgypsy.com.au
IDYLL HOME BRASS LANTERN £30 idyllhome.co.uk HOLGA FIBRE AND PALM LEAF BASKET AU$39.95 oxfamshop.org.au
WEST ELM EMMERSON RECLAIMED WOOD DINING TABLE AU$1499-1899 westelm.com.au
GRANITE LANE WICKER LAMP AU$699 granitelane.com.au