MEET LOLA STUDIO W/ SUSANNE
"I always dreamt of a brand for everyone by everyone."
What two words best describe lola studio?
What inspired you to start lola studio?
lola studio was born in 2012, the idea behind the brand was bringing mindfulness and sustainability to everyone. At that time responsibility, yoga and wellness were still in the beginning and I wanted to make it easy accessible. Our store in Zurich is a store and also our yoga studio. Three times a day we pull the clothing racks up to the 7m high ceiling and students, corporate people, doctors and managers can use the facilities. The police of Zurich even have two private lessons for their staff per week. Our team also practise yoga and meditation for 60 minutes. These mindful breaks help them to keep their minds and bodies healthy. When I was working in a coporate environment myself, I always dreamt of a place like this.
You're based in Switzerland surrounded by nature, how does that influence what you do?
I grew up hiking with my family. Our relatives had an alpine hut somewhere high up in the mountains with only meadows and cows around. It had no electricity and only a well outside with cold water for cooking and to wash our face. With my siblings and cousins we spent all day outside having nothing but our fantasy. This experience is one of my favourite childhood memories, because the family was really close and the life very basic.
In winter I ski every week, because we share an apartment in the alps with friends and in summer I swim every day in the rivers and lakes in Zurich. The water is very clean and we often jump into the river, just for a lunch break. I also do high alpine tours in summer and early autumn and hiking from hut to hut is just part of a late summer here. The mountains always really humble and ground me. So yes, the nature is so close everywhere in Switzerland and it really made me want to protect it.
Tell us about the team behind the brand.
I am the founder of the brand but we work with an international creative team, with 12 independent yoga teachers and our team in the store are mothers, students, yoga teachers and fashion students. I love the diversity of the team, it often feels like in a shared apartment. I encourage my team to be multi-hyphenate, not only outside of our team but also in their roles within the team. It is complex to organise, but brings a lot of energy and new ideas into the brand.
What's playing on the studio stereo?
We play brasilian bossa nova, French Chanson and Pop and some of the team are DJ's and bring their own music.
GOOD DESIGN to us is all about making your impact on people and the planet a key design consideration. How do you approach this at lola studio?
We started to design gender neutral, so couples or families can share the styles. Everything we produce is sold, which requires intense planning to avoid waste. We also source deadstock fabric for our collections. Soon all of our collections will be made from deadstock, this means we do not produce any new materials, but use what's already here.
You've been designing and making sustainable clothing for over 8 years... long before it became a buzzword. Was it harder to source the kind of natural and recycled fabrics, or compostable packaging that you now use, when you first started out?
It started with sustainable fabrics first. Lenzing was doing great fabrics at a very early stage. The biodegradable packaging came much later. At that time people slowly started to get into organic food and they would not see the problem with clothing. So why would someone buy organic clothing if there wasn't a problem with all other clothing. So we had to do a lot of educating without being judgemental.
Designing I found a big challenge at that time, because active wear was a lot about polyester, wind breakers, tight leggings and staying dry and a natural fabric had other properties. But people started to love the natural fibers on their skin and they learned how it made them feel better.
To champion transparency, we always ask designers: what would you like to do better, or are you working on improving?
There will always be ways to improve. Of course I am looking forward to future materials that are completely biodegradable, eg. made of mushroom or dye from bacteria. But also diversity in our team is always on my mind. We are already working with people who are refugees, recovering from an addiction or suffering mental illness. Right now we are working on a project with an institution of people with special needs. The love and joy they bring into the collection is heartwarming and we are planning to include one or more of them even into our team. I always dreamt of a brand for everyone by everyone.
As we all know, the fashion industry as a whole is responsible for huge environmental and social issues. How would you like to see the industry change and progress?
I see many small brands doing extremely well, but the greenwashing of large brands is making it very hard to brands who do really well. I wish more of them would communicate: We are trying our best, but it takes time. Passion and love to create something beautiful needs to be the driving force and not asset.
What advice would you give to people who want to be more responsible when they’re shopping?
Buy less, buy secondhand, support local brands.