Hey guys, tell me a little bit about yourself and what Layplan is all about?
Talia: my name is Talia Soloa. I live in Porirua, I've lived here all my life. I come from a really awesome family and have a wonderful husband, Lise. My Mum and my Dad are both super creative and so is my sister Jessanah. I'm the youngest of two, I grew up in Porirua and then went in to town for schooling. I went to Saint Mary's College. I then went to university and studied design there and that's where I met Nia. From there I've just been working in design and art after uni and then I work part-time as a barista in a little local coffee shop and then most of my time is spent on Layplan.
Lavinia: hello, my name is Lavinia Ilolahia. I originally grew up in Auckland, Southside Auckland, and then I moved down to Wellington around 12 or 13 years ago because my Dad was commuting back and forth. I spent most of my teenage years in Wellington and then I also spent half of my tertiary years in Wellington, which is where I met Talia. I am now back in Auckland and I am married. I've been working as a freelance designer for the last 2-3 years, and a part of that is through Layplan. My parents are both full Tongan and I've got a nice big family which I love, and that's probably the most important things about me!
Talia: she does have such a great family!
Awesome, are your family all near you?
Lavinia: they're all still in Wellington which is great because it's a double whammy when I go down. I go down to see my family and go to see Talia too, it's perfect.
And do you guys operate remotely? Obviously, you live in different places, are you usually together or are you always in different cities?
Lavinia: for the really important things, like designing and strategy thinking and all that stuff, we usually come together because we find it's quite important and we rub off from each other. So for all the important things we come together but for most things we're quite independent. Like our making and stuff, as long as we know what to do, we can do it independently.
That's so cool that you can still communicate so easily even when you're not together!
Lavinia: yeah definitely, but the goal will be to come together, we're just unsure about a time frame at the moment, because, you know, life…
Yes, all the uncertainty in the world!
Cool, so tell me a little about Layplan and what it's all about, how did it come about?
Talia: It came about I'd say 4 years ago. We studied together, we met in our fashion courses and found that we really just wanted to make things for ourselves that we wanted to wear. We loved the briefs but we didn't feel that we could really express how we wanted to make things within those briefs. So, we sat outside one of our classes and just came up with these ideas of what Layplan could be. At first it was called 'The Layplan' and we didn't really know the direction of it, but we just knew that we wanted to do something together. So we started just making clothes for ourselves and our friends and eventually it just grew into more people asking for things. Since then it's grown into this huge community, well it feels really big for us, mainly through Instagram which is quite personal which we like. We've just evolved and grown and kept to the same model of things we'd like to wear for ourselves, for people that we know and then people that they know.
Is it all made-to-order at the moment?
Talia: yeah, it's all made-to-order at the moment, all made by us two.
When you first started out did you see a big future with Layplan or was it more so just a hobby that has organically taken off?
Lavinia: I think it started more as like a hobby. We had a vision for it but it wasn't as big as what it turned out to be if that makes sense. We kind of just took photos of what we were wearing and what we made and it was quite cool to see people respond to it and be like "omg can you make me a dress exactly like it!". That's kind of how the ball got rolling. Then all of a sudden we were at Fashion Week and we were like "wait what?". It's insane how much it's grown, and it's all been organic growth too. There wasn't much marketing behind it or anything which is quite cool.
That's the best way! In terms of starting out on your own, had you always planned to, or did you have career plans beforehand that were overrun when Layplan was started?
Nia: speaking on my own behalf, I always knew I was going to do my own thing rather than coming under someone.
Nia: yeah, it kind of wasn't an option to not do what I'm doing.
Cool, so at the moment you're both in other part-time roles as well, ultimately do you hope to move into doing Layplan full time?
Talia: it feels like full time already haha!
You must be crazy busy! Do you have a quota on how many designs you make each week?
Lavinia: yes, but it was quite hard in the beginning. With me, when I was first starting out, my maximum garments for one week was 3 and that was my cap. But it's been quite cool how much my capacity has grown. Now I can do up to 10 garments a week. I've been in it for years now so I've been like okay, maybe I can squeeze out four now, and eventually I can now just pop out so many. It's cool that we have the capacity that we do now, but it would be nice to get some help so we can focus on other things too!
Would you look at expanding your team in the near future, or are you just taking it day by day?
Lavinia: yes, we definitely do want to expand our team. I guess our only thing would be is that we love the model that we currently have, which is pre-made to order, so we need to find a team that fits that model.
What would you say is your ultimate dream or goal from all of this?
Talia: I would say to have a team. I can just see in the future us having a really cool studio place with a little team sewing, our design team, and our styling teams. Having a multifaceted business with a really awesome family feel team somewhere would be awesome, like a little hub of creatives!
Short term, what's your next move?
Talia: We've always had loose collections but we've never really honed in on one. So we're doing that at the moment and trying to work with our pre-order system. It's really interesting to figure out how that would work online because obviously we can't be doing email together. So that will be really interesting!
Lavinia: just kind of trying to tie up the loose ends with our pre-order system. People aren't really used to having to pre-order, so when we ask them to wait the time frame we have, they're kind of like "what, we can't have it tomorrow?" haha!
That's our generation right, we just want things instantly. A sense of patience has gone out the door!
Lavinia: Yeah, so it's just having to ask them to wait. They're just so shook that it takes so long.
Talia:- and we’re making it! We're literally making it ourselves haha!
You don't see what goes on behind the scenes right!
And is Instagram your main platform?
Nia: yeah, so Instagram has been our main platform that we're on and it's only been like a couple of weeks that we've been uploading our designs onto the website. It's helped out a lot! It's been so great and Talia and I have been questioning why have didn’t do this sooner!
Yeah, I've heard when you have a solely Instagram-based model, getting through all of your DMs and requests can be quite challenging!
Talia: yeah, the replies to stories take up a bunch, and then you're like "wait, where's that girl gone!?"
Sounds pretty overwhelming!
I guess you've already touched on this a bit, but what do you think has been your biggest challenge so far?
Lavinia: I think, this is probably not the biggest, but what we've touched on with the whole pre-order thing. I think that's a challenge, just because the fashion industry doesn't really work towards that model in the first place so it's kind of trying to find our place within the fashion industry. It's just quite hard to work with manufacturing companies when they require big bulk orders instead of us going "hey, we’ve got one dress order today, can we get it done?". It's kind of seeped into everything else, which is why we've stuck with the machine, because it's quite flexible. It's not the industry's fault or anything, I'm not blaming them, we're just trying not to compromise our business model and beliefs.
Is that model something you will hold on to or will you look at adapting that going forward?
Lavinia: I think we will adapt it, because we kind of need to, but it'll be more like a really small run of things.
Talia: like, really small.
Nia: like not hundreds of one item, but just limited. That just goes along with what we believe in, less waste and stuff.
Cool, and what would you say has been your biggest success, or a notable moment you've really enjoyed?
Talia: ooh, fun! I've got a few. One of my biggest successes is just still being in business with my friend. Because everyone says don't go into business with your friends, but we've just kept it organic, and grown together and learned how each other work. It's actually been quite a beautiful process. We look back at the few years we've had behind us, and also just trying to get through COVID together, which was pretty big.
Yeah, I feel like we've all underscored how big this event is! Something we'll look back on for the rest of our lives - it's easy to take it for granted.
Talia: yeah, wow! Even just through lockdown, we were in constant communication, making a new business plan and planning our business and all that kind of thing. It was really awesome to have someone else there to do it with. Another big thing has been fashion week, which we did our own show at. We were under an umbrella of Miromoda, and they asked us to come as their guest designer which was pretty awesome, very surreal anyway! Then at the end, we saw one of our old tutors with some of our classmates and they were so shocked and like "we didn't know that you were here!". It was a very surreal and special moment for us.
How about you Lavinia?
Lavinia: Also just us being in business. Especially doing long distance at the same time, it's definitely a big success in itself.
Yeah, definitely! How long have you guys been living apart?
Lavinia: has it been 5 years, or has it been 4?
Talia: I think it's been like 3 or 4 years.
Nia: yeah, I think it's been like 3 or 4 years now.
I meant to ask, how old are you guys?
Nia: I'm 27! You really stop counting after you finish 21 haha!
Talia: I always think I'm 20 and then I'm like no I'm not, I'm 25!
So have you guys had any regrets so far?
Talia: I wish we got online a bit sooner!
Lavinia: Yes, that's a good one!
Talia: This year we did a whole rebrand, which I guess was actually perfect timing. So no, I don't really regret doing that sooner because I feel like that happened at the right time. But I guess just to take over things that we aren't the best at, or can't do ourselves. Like in terms of graphics in our brand package, we always knew what we wanted but we just didn’t know how to put it all together. So, we worked with Hannah at Style Shrimp and she was amazing! Like, so great and kind of took all of our ideas and went boom! And we love that, but other than that not really!
Lavinia: Honestly, I regret not taking a business paper at uni! I think it's so important, especially if you're going out on your own. I guess now, it's probably 80% business and 20% fashion and I wish I knew that starting out, I would have braced myself a little bit more instead of thinking I'm just going to make clothes all day and the rest will do itself. The reality is that it doesn't, you actually have to have a strategy behind it!
You would have learned a lot at least!
Lavinia: Yes! We learn as we go, and we're still learning as we go. But it would've been nice!
Have you learned to love that part of it or would you eventually like to outsource the business side of it?
Lavinia: I've actually learned to really enjoy it. I like to work on things by themselves. Like if I'm doing both the creative bit and the business side I get a little bit overwhelmed. But, if I'm doing just the creative side for a week and then just the business side for a week I feel like I work a lot better. Either or, if we source out, I think that will be fine.
Yeah, awesome. When you do the week on/week off thing, are you rotating roles in that?
Lavinia: Yeah, I'd say it’s more like one day rather than a week but yeah, we’ve been quite good at alternating without having to be like "ok today's your day".
Talia: Yeah sometimes I'm in an admin mood and I'm like "what can I do! What can I do?".
It must be nice as friends to delegate tasks a bit more casually rather than having a formal structure!
Nia: Yeah, I think that's one of our strengths too. Especially having a friendship background, we know each other quite well and we know our strengths and stuff so we both tend to lean towards what we are both good at individually.
Very cool. And do you have any advice for anyone ready to do the same and try their hand at their own thing?
Nia: Yeah, I think just doing it! That was probably a big step within itself. I know a lot of people are quite fearful of going off on their own because income is important. But I think the biggest step is actually to just do it. You'll find that once you do it, although it's really, really hard, it's really satisfying at the end of the day. You know that all of your efforts are going into something that you're passionate about.
Talia: I would just say start now as Nia said.
Well said. Now more of a personal question, what are your favourite NZ brands at the moment?
Oh yes, I actually just popped into her store the other day.
Lavinia: It's amazing aye!
So amazing, the coolest space!
Lavinia: Curating things together as well, it's just so beautiful. What about you Talia, what are your favourite NZ designers?
Talia: I was gonna say Mina for her. The gal [Natalie] that started that brand was in our class at uni so it's really cool to see her stuff come out. She just does things really well. She has a label and it's very sustainable, very beautiful and well-designed and she's based in Auckland at the moment. She's doing really well.
There are so many emerging brands at the moment. This whole #shoplocal thing seems to be encouraging small designers to come out and give it a go which is amazing to see!
What's your favourite place to travel to in NZ?
Talia: I haven't travelled around NZ very much. My parents told me we did when I was little but I don't really remember that much. But, I really love the Hawkes Bay area at the moment, it's so beautiful. Their summers are so amazing!
Lavinia: Napier too! It's such a beautiful city because they still have all the old buildings and stuff.
Talia: and your favourite place to travel to is?
Some of my best friends live up in the Far North, so I love road tripping there. One is in Keri Keri, and another is on a big beautiful farm in a little place called Tangiteroria which is halfway between Whangarei and Dargaville. All the northern beaches are so beautiful! I also love the Coromandel and Piha!
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