Designer quicky: Lei Lou by Aleksandra Dojčinović

After a couple of designer quickies I did with amazing UK and US designers. I have decided to do one with a friend I trully admire and who's amazing growth I continue to follow. Alex provided me with some exclusive photos for this inteview. 
So thank you Alex. :)

How did you come up with the name for your brand - Lei Lou?

What is your plan for your brand's growth? 

It all happened spontaneously. I was talking to my graphic designer about the invitations we were preparing for my show at the Drake hotel  in Chicago, we urgently needed to have the name for the brand of clothes I am making cause I was about the travel to Chicago in 2-3 days. During our phone call after a short brainstorming session we just came up with the Lei Lou.

My plan is to continue to work hard, to anticipate the future trends and think about staying true to my vision for the brand. It is rather hard to plan to much ahead in such volatile economy as we have it today.

You have opened the showroom recently in the very center of the city in Zagreb, when do you plan to have official opening and how big of a risk is it to invest in your own space these days?

I actually find this time of economic downturn to be the best time to build strong milestones for my brand. I always invest the capital I already earned, I have no debt, no loans - this helps me stay careless, have more freedom and to be more creative.

Although, all the people who visited me so far loved the showroom space, the venue itself was not my first priority. I dedicate most of my time and energy to having a strong production, I am following and using services of many small local production companies and I am fairly certain that there is no other Croatian designer who can compete with me in this regard.

How long did it take you and how did you build your customer base?

Two things: good quality product and social intelligence. You have to have both to be able to sell.

Did education you got in Croatian fashion designer school prepare you to build and maintain a successful business on your own?

No, nothing can prepare you for this. I was always focused on working hand in hand with my tailors, my customers and my suppliers, consulting and creating with them together. Most important thing for conducting a good business is to have a good entrepreneurial intuition and to work extremely hard - there is no room for theory.

I remember when I made my first dress shirt when I was 15. It became a huge hit among my girlfriends. When I brought it to school I got an F. Teacher said it is awful and that I should take it back home because she can't even look at it. I said I will most definitely take it home, sell it and buy myself a Gucci perfume. :)

In comparison to some other Croatian designers - you sell a fairly large quantity of pieces a year. How much time do you have to be creative versus what you spend on administrative work of your business?

Creativity is not something that comes in waves, you got it or you don't. I think I have this intuition of what my customer wants in the conditions and within a price point I am creating in. I am very hyper person; I get bored with a single task fast so I am happy when I have a lot on my plate.

Your style is very shabby chic meets French romantic chic, it is at the same time gentle and elegant but also very realistic, economical, strong and wearable in multiple ways and styles. You said you don't care about doing mass production and you prefer personal approach and making custom pieces for each of your customers. Do you think this approach is sustainable long-term as your brand grows?

You are right. Custom clothes making slows down the production 5 to 50 times even. I know these numbers are mind blowing and limiting - but they are true. My current approach is tailored based on local (Croatian) market needs; of course I will adjust and change it when demand increases. I will be ready. I think that the worst that can happen it to create opportunities for such demand and not be ready for it with production possibilities.

What part of your total annual sales comes from within the country and what from the rest of the world? What are the differences in demand? What to US boutiques order more off and by which prices?

Currently, most of my annual sales come from within Croatia. However, by the end of this year I will be ready to produce quantities requested by small regional showrooms as well. I have my agent, strong brand visual identity and well organized production. I have a very well developed plan and know what I need to do in upcoming period to make my brand a success.

Have you negotiated selling your collections to any international showrooms?

Of course, I know I have a good quality product, I am still thinking over my pricing strategy and how to further improve my brand. I am already doing a collections for small stores and boutiques, I love doing this! I love the whole ordeal - collection ordering, brainstorming together about how it should look like, price negotiations, production organization and at the end - that final AHA moment when everything is done just the way we envisioned it to be! I can't wait!

Your sincere passion and dedication to each individual customer is obvious, do you ever get tired? How do you relax and what inspires you from one collection to the next?

I get tired. Last year I sold hundreds of pieces of clothing and accessories. Imagine - I know each of my customers name, measurements, their style, favorite colors, some became my close friends. I am amazed how many fabulous people there are in Zagreb.

When I get to tired I simply turn of my phones and disappear for a day - I go somewhere and recharge.

Inspiration? I look for the essence of the pieces I am making. Sometimes I catch myself thinking like some geek physic, numbers are swirling in my head, I am looking for purpose, each piece for me is a small intellectual solution, and there is more in it than merely a need to impress.

What is the message behind your new visual?

The message this visual is trying to portray is that I approach all my customers with the same respect and importance. I don't cater to celebrities. Each of my customers is equally celebrity to me.


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