Why Talia Soloa and Lavinia Ilolahia of Layplan are taking a slower approach to designing and making clothing.
What led you to studying fashion and your work in a creative industry?
Lavinia: My parents are both creative, so I definitely got it from them. My whole childhood was surrounded by house renovations (my dad was and still is constantly changing up the house), my mum always had her hand in creative things, gardening/landscaping making traditional Tongan wear, so I always felt quite free to nurture my creative abilities. I initially wanted to pursue architecture, and fashion didn't really come into mind as a serious career path, until the very last minute when enrolling into universities. I found that I enjoyed the A-Z process of designing clothes. I loved that I could have complete control in seeing out the design, fabric choice, pattern making and then making process. It was at university that my love for fashion grew.
Talia: Art and design were always the spaces I felt most ‘comfortable’ in. My first love was art, I love to draw and create but fashion was the combination of art and outward expression through clothing which sounded pretty cool to me. I am very fortunate to have a creative family and so I’ve always felt pulled toward design and art!
You’ve mentioned you’re both inspired by women in your life, could you tell us about some of those wāhine?
Lavinia: Yes! Women like my mum. She’s confident, speaks her mind and she also had verrrrry cool style back in the day. My nan is a great one too. She migrated to NZ to help pay for my mum's studies. She sacrificed so much to enable her children to thrive, and in turn, I do what I do now because of it. She's one of the most hard working women I know. They both inspire me, I love when women just operate out of their confidence. It hits differently.
Talia: I am so blessed to have many incredibly bold women in my life but to name just a few I would say my mama and my late nana— I learned from my nana a lot of things but mainly her fearlessness, and from my mama she teaches me the importance of strength and grace from inside.
Your brand name ‘Layplan’ references the construction process laying out pattern pieces on the fabric to maximise fabric usage and minimise waste.
Can you share why you apply this principle to your work?
Lavinia & Talia: For us it’s always been about intentionality. We find that approaching each opportunity with this mentality means that we’re always thinking about what is best for Layplan and what reflects the character of our label. This looks like being thoughtful with our design process, how much we bring out in a year, conscious thought into the environmental impact of what we bring out. We’ve always been really big on bringing out less, and making sure that piece lasts the seasons.
What do you think a lot of people don’t realise about fast fashion, and how can we be more mindful consumers of clothing?
Lavinia: I think there’s been a lack of education surrounding how the fashion industry works as a whole. Social media has been great in bringing the conversation forth as well as making it more accessible to those outside of the industry. I’ve found that people tend to look over the fact that “real” hands make our clothes. The “who made your clothes” movement is really good because once you put a face to the garments, it brings humanity back into the eyes of the consumer. I think of my aunties, and my nana (who used to be garment workers) not being treated fairly and that's enough for me.
I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know I have an appreciation towards ethical clothes because I know the process just ONE garment goes through to get the finished product. I make clothes, so I know how much work and how many hours go into it. Because of this, I’m intentional in brands I invest into. I want my spending habits to reflect what I value. Of course, being able to operate this way is a privilege. There are people and families who genuinely can't afford to move towards ethical/sustainable clothing, it’s unrealistic. So a helpful tip would be to buy what you need, and maximise wear out of clothes you purchase/already have.
You both feel it’s important to stress the significance of self worth among young women. Why does Layplan hold this value?
Lavinia & Talia: Yes! Fashion has been such a love/hate relationship. Love, because it taps into our creativity the way no other creative outlet lets us, but then it has this “fantasy” feel to it, as any artform does, and so the “hate” part was the unintended consequence of that. Fashion always felt exclusive and unattainable. Looking through fashion magazines as a young girl was so unhealthy. It communicated that if you weren't pretty, skinny, European, you’re not good enough.
People are always on the forefront of what we do. We design with people in mind taking into consideration different bodies. We’re intentional with photographing using people in our community that aren't heavily photoshopped, heavily made up and we try to portray women of different sizes. Women who are like us. By doing this we hope that it sends the message of: “Come as you are, you’ll find something here.”
What does the design process look like at Layplan? What defines ‘good design’?
Lavinia & Talia: It’s messy and it’s great! We design between two cities so we have digital mood boards and go off what we’re feeling at the time. Our design styles and methods are quite different so we’re always having to find the middle ground to make what works for us both. We started Layplan by making clothes that we wanted to wear but couldn’t find anywhere. We hold everything to this – would we wear it? Does it make us feel great? Would we still wear it in the next five years? Can we easily incorporate it into our wardrobe? Would it work in green.. (hehe) That’s what we’d say defines ‘good’ design.
What is the most rewarding part of designing clothing?
Lavinia & Talia: The most rewarding part for us is seeing how our pieces make people feel. We both gush over emails that tell us how our dress made them feel or how confident they were at their party because of it. It really is when they’re worn and how they translate with every personality.
What’s unique about clothing designed in Aotearoa?
Lavinia: We’re lucky in Aotearoa to be surrounded by many cultures and the people that come with this. Our beautiful communities allow us to know and see so many variations of art and design. I think this translates in how designers work. We pull from many sources close to us and I think that’s what makes it unique.
Find the full story, Made With Heart, in Womenclan Journal available here.