In 2019, fashion went hard and fast towards a foreseeable future. Versace dropped a gender-bending men’s collection, Ricardo Tisci debuted his first collection with Burberry as its new Chief Creative Officer, and remember those tiny designer handbags?
Covid-19 turned into a global pandemic a year later, and at home we waited. We hung up our power suits in place for loungewear while brands delivered the goods: satin lounge sets, delicate bathrobes, resort-inspired day wear.
A satin slip dress from a Malaysian brand named Lulla was a hot item off-the-virtual-racks. The loungewear brand began making more regular appearances on social media showcasing luxurious fabrics and classic silhouettes with a modern, contemporary twist.
But as we learnt from the brand’s founders Sasha Yusof and Aina Elias, Lulla was an idea conceived and worked on even before the pandemic hit. Thankfully, Lounge in Lulla is a success story of businesses that made it through the pandemic, and as we speak to its founders, we begin to understand why.
It began when Sasha gave birth to her newborn son, she realised how hard it was to find clothes comfortable and stylish enough to feel confident in when visitors dropped in announced. She reached out to her friend and fellow mama, Aina, and they discussed the idea of creating a new clothing label designed for confidence as much as it would be for comfort.
Despite the challenging economy in 2020, Lulla was able to launch and both founders worked extra hard for their new baby to succeed in the fashion e-commerce space. Where there were hurdles, there was also a silver lining: that more people working from home meant they just happened to be looking for comfortable, versatile clothes. That want, or need, just so happened to be exactly what Lulla set out to offer.
Sasha and Aina are driven, self-starters who ventured into entrepreneurship with Lulla. While Sasha was a writer and then a buyer at a multi-label online store, Aina worked in the health sector. What they shared, was a long-time fascination with fashion, designing, and entrepreneurship.
“We knew that we would have massive challenges launching mid-pandemic, and in an industry in which we had no background in,” shares Aina. “However, we received a lot of positive support from our family, friends and also made a lot of new friends within the industry, who were more than willing to help by providing guidance, contacts and advice.”
In this feature from Prestige‘s ‘Made in Malaysia’ series, we speak to Sasha and Aina over an email chat, dressed in their comfiest loungewear for the workday and beyond.
We are two friends and mothers who reconnected after many years, and found that we both shared a common peeve: we didn’t like dolling up on the daily.
There was too much that had to get done, and too many things that needed our attention. We both thought, there weren’t enough accessible options when it came to clothes that met our daily needs; clothes we can put on at the start of the day and not have to change out of as we go about our days, whether at home, running out for school or errands, to casual work meetings.
We wanted clothes that were comfortable, versatile and effortlessly stylish.
We wanted something sleep-related, short, gender-neutral and easy to say. So we played around with the word ‘Lullaby’. Some people pronounce the brand like “loo-lah”, and some say “lull-a” (as in lullaby), and both ways are fine. Although we pronounce it “loo-lah”.
It was early 2019 we had that first chat about creating our brand. We took our time to research and really honed in on the kind of clothes we wanted to make, as well as the kind of brand we wanted to be.
We went through rounds of sketching and sampling before we were finally happy, then we both said “OK, let’s do this.”
By the time we were ready to go into production, there was talk about a mysterious virus that was spreading. Then everything came to a halt when the world went into lockdown.
When the stocks arrived, we looked at each other and asked ourselves “What are we doing?”. So many brands and shops shutting down, and here we are about to launch in the middle of a global pandemic.
But we were too far in, there was no turning back.
Thank you! It’s a rather lengthy process as we are by no means a “fast fashion” brand. We take our time to research the designs, fabrics and colours. We work with a small team of designers in a production house that helps bring our ideas to life.
Once we have it all sketched out we make the samples, and tweak it, and sample and refine it again and only decide to go into production once we’re happy with the cut, fabric and all the details of the design.
We produce in small batches to make sure we minimise wastage and maintain exclusivity.
We’re very lucky to have so many supportive friends already in the field to kind of help shine the light. We started really small and didn’t have much stock to send out to every influencer we wanted to, so we just started with a few personalities who really resonated with our brand.
The best thing about Malaysia and Malaysians is that we are super supportive of local brands, now more so than ever. Many are willing to spread the word and support in the spirit of #kitajagakita.
So far the feedback from our customers has been very positive. Most have said that our products are super comfortable yet stylish. However, we are constantly learning and improving wherever we can along the way to produce quality garments that are made to last. As a team, we regularly discuss ways we can improve in order to make the very best decisions for our own conscience and for our buyers when they buy our pieces.
Sustainability is definitely a work in progress and we plan to continue making changes and decisions that help better our environment and business. Being ethical and sustainable is just as important to us as creating pieces that our customers love. We also hope to create more complementary products and establish ourselves as a lifestyle brand.
(All images: Lulla)
Made in Malaysia is a series by Prestige Malaysia that showcases homegrown talents across various sectors. Through interviews, we strive to highlight the work put in by these individuals while supporting their craft.