Welcome to EW‘s weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with the founders and designers of chic Dubai-based label, ACOLÉ, Linda Bruun Lacin (LBL) and Maria Gold (MG). With the literal meaning of the brand being “a collection of luxury essentials”, designers Bruun Lacin and Gold, who both hail from Denmark, focus on the Scandinavian fashion aesthetic.
EW sat down with the duo to find out more about the brand and what inspired them to go into the fashion industry.
What was your favourite subject at school?
LBL: Art. I’ve always been a very visual person and much better at focusing on something creative rather than books and assignments.
MG: English. As a child, I always dreamt of travelling the world and settling down somewhere far away. And with my native language being a language only 5 million people in the world speak, I always knew that English was necessary in order to get out there in the world.
What was your first job?
LBL: As a teenager, I started working at a warehouse for a fashion retailer where I was folding clothes and organising shelves. After that, I dabbled in a few different areas until I made my way back to fashion and started working as a store manager for a fashion boutique in Copenhagen.
MG: My first job was as a shop assistant in a local clothing store in my hometown from when I was 14 years old. I always knew I wanted to work in fashion and a shop-girl was a dream come true to me at the time and I loved hanging out with all the new arrivals and making outfits for customers.
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What inspired you to go into the fashion industry?
LBL: As a teenager, I was working as a babysitter for a family that owned a fashion retailer and I travelled around the world with them to fashion weeks and fairs and that is when I realised how interesting and multi-faceted the fashion industry is and I knew this was a career I wanted to pursue.
MG: I knew from a very early age I wanted to work in fashion. As a child, I used to set up clothing shops and design rooms in my parents living room, so there was never really any doubt about what route I wanted to go. I started working as a stylist as soon as I finished school and then, later on, worked in both publishing and retail and never looked back.
What’s the story behind launching your own brand ACOLÉ?
LBL: ACOLÉ stands for A Collection of Luxury Essentials – something that is core in any Scandinavian’s wardrobe and we felt that there was a gap in the market for this at a decent quality and price, which still had a few details and wasn’t just simple basics.
What are the key elements of your role?
LBL: Research and design and creating a visual identity is probably what I spend most of my time doing, but also production such as finding the right suppliers, fabrics, fits etc. is something that is integral to my role and Maria and I spent a lot of time travelling to manage the production process and source fabrics.
MG: In addition to what Linda is mentioning, we also spend a lot of time on creating the overall brand identity – both via the designs, but also via look books and campaign as this is what we use to present the brand to both buyers and customers. Then we of course spend a lot of time meeting with buyers to sell the collection, and in general trying to market our collections via social media, influencers, press and so forth.
Talk us through your daily routine.
LBL: After sending my kids off to school I will go through emails and get an overview of the day – which could exist of anything from a design meeting, production trip, replying to customer service emails or a photoshoot.
MG: As Linda says – no day is ever the same in a business like ours, which for us is also the beauty of it. Some days are spent mainly in the office working on everything from design, creative to admin. But we could also be visiting fabrics in Turkey where we produce all of our pieces, it could be on location shooting our look book or it could be attending sales meeting with our agents and buyers.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
LBL: Follow what you believe in, I believe this gets you very far rather than being too concerned about what everyone else is thinking or doing. If it is was easy starting a business, everyone would do it, so be prepared to put in some extra time and hard work.
MG: Do your due diligence and figure out where your product belongs in the market, but at the same time trust your gut feeling – it is sometimes worth running a risk and not everything can be done up in numbers and facts. And don’t give up – setting up a new business is so much fun, but also can be hard at times and sometimes the reward is not there immediately.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
LBL: If you feel that you’ve got the best/most fair treatment from someone, then be happy with that, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I use this a lot both in business and personally. I think it is important to spend energy on the right things, and not the wrong things that will get you nowhere.
MG: Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. I know it is a bit cliche, however, I find that in business this is so relevant as you never know who you meet again on your way, and having a good network is key when building your own business.
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And what is the worst?
LBL: History always repeats itself. I think in business it is important to be open-minded and always learn from your mistakes.
MG: Make a 5-year business plan. In my experience the way that business and the world is moving in now you need to be extremely agile and move with what’s happening and trending, and I think that is very necessary to survive in today’s climate, in particular for small businesses.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
LBL: Selling your own products and designs and putting yourself ‘out there’. I’ve spent many years selling other people’s products, but as soon as it is your own creations there is a lot more attached to it and that has definitely been something I’ve had to overcome.
MG: Business-wise it would be taking the leap from a full-time secure job and starting my own business, that took me quite a while to make that decision.
What are your goals for 2021?
LBL: Having a healthy business in the aftermath of the global pandemic and being able to ensure that all of our suppliers and business partners can continue to run a healthy business as well.
MG: Taking ACOLÉ to the next stage now that the world hopefully is opening up this summer and we hopefully get a chance to go and meet press and buyers internationally. And then hopefully enjoying the first family holiday in 18 months with my entire family.
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