When fashion success is a shirt thing
WHEN fashion designer and illustrator Lang Leav sold her first item of clothing on eBay for three times the amount she expected, she decided it was time to get serious about her art.
‘‘ A lot of shirts were going for $ 20 on eBay and I thought that’s an OK way to make some money,’’ she says. ‘‘ So I sewed one of my characters onto a singlet and it went for about $ 60.’’
This small success prompted Leav to put together a collection of T- shirts and enter Qantas’ Spirit of Youth Awards six months later. Her submission won the 2005 fashion design category.
‘‘ I thought the award was out of my league,’’ she recalls. ‘‘ It was a really, really big shock to me when I won it. SOYA has opened up so many doors and so many new opportunities that would never have been there. It raised everything to a whole new level for me.’’
Since winning the award, Leav has launched her own fashion label, Akina, which is distributed nationally through boutique clothing and gift stores and sold in Japan, and been awarded a $ 25,000 Churchill Fellowship to study the Harajuku sub culture in Japan.
Her work - a fusion between art, fashion and storytelling that features images of a character she designed called Akina - has an international online fan base, and she hopes to expand into the British and American markets next year.
She credits her SOYA mentorship with fashion designer Peter Morrissey for much of her recent success, and in particular for winning the Churchill Fellowship. ‘‘ Peter was instrumental in pushing that through for me,’’ she says. ‘‘ He wrote me a really good reference and coached me and we’ve just always been in contact.’’
Morrissey helped Leav build contacts in the industry and resolve questions about the direction of her business, such as ‘‘ where I wanted to head, what were good decisions to make, who my market was’’.
To meet demand for her work, the Sydney- based designer and illustrator employs someone parttime and she relies heavily on her family. Leav’s mother helps with the sewing, and her brother and sister- in- law help with the business, including accounting and administration. ‘‘ I do a lot by hand, everything is made in small quantities,’’ she says. ‘‘ I do the sewing and mum helps me. There’s a lot of work.
‘‘ I want to be an actual brand rather than a high fashion label. I want to go a little more commercial but at the same time still retain the niche aspect of my work. I don’t want it to be very commercial but to be somewhere in the middle.’’
SOYA, she says, presented an opportunity to be grasped and ‘‘ milked’’. She adds: ‘‘ You have to take it in your own hands. It’s not the be all and end all. It’s the beginning It’s not just going to come to you. You have to go out and get it.’’
Showing the way: Peter Morrissey and Lang Leav