Lara Cole is a designer, runs a modelling outfit and is CEO ElanRed. In this interview with The NATION, she talks about her inspiration, working with celebrities like Yemi Alade as well as the things that make her tick.
WHO or what inspired you to go into fashion?
It’s a long story and I would say that I was inspired by the things around me. My sister actually inspired me to go into fashion. She had a very great taste when it comes to creative things. So, I just wanted to imitate her dress sense. In addition, my sister started giving me designer’s bags and they were very beautiful and creative. Interestingly, I had no idea if they were original ones at that point. Now, I know better.
What were you doing before going into the sector?
That was another very creative part of my life. Then, I had a modelling agency and worked with a number of models. It was a wonderful experience and I learnt a lot of things in the process. I did some jobs with media brands and they are quite memorable.
What was your specialisation? What are your designs noted for?
My specialisation is creating timeless and wearable pieces for trendy women. They are noted for the versatility.
Tell us about life working with celebrities. Who are your clients?
Our celebrities are very creative people; they like to be seen in things that are unique and unusual. I must say that my experience working with celebrities helped me improve and think outside the box.
There was no room for excuses or complaints. I have worked with celebrities like Alex Unusual, Yemi Alade, good girl LA, King Perry and lots more. Talking about my clients, my clients are people who feel the need to look good about themselves with the trendy woman style. Alex Unusual rocked a number of our pieces. It’s been a very creative and adventurous journey.
What were some of the runway/ fashion shows that you participated in?
It’s been a very memorable experience for me. I have participated in some shows and some of the memorable ones included the Glitz Fashion Week Ghana and Styled by Zenith.
Let’s talk about some memorable moments in your life and career
Making other people look good has been very memorable and fulfilling for me. I recall that one of such memorable moments was when I opened my Elan Red store and each time I look back and recollect the things we did I also have great memories. One other exciting period for me was styling Yemi Alade for her Johnny video. It was a very exciting period and such moments inspire us to do more.
What are some of the challenges encountered?
My challenges include spending more than your capital, over budgeting and so much expenses. Here you can think of expansion, something like trying to expand horizons but sometimes it ends up being futile if you do not plan very well. Uncalculated risks; not calculating before breaking into the market with full force also comes with a number of challenges. All these are the challenges I have been trying to battle with.
How do you cope with them?
Coping with them for me is strategy and I work around it. All I do is have a positive disposition, optimism, read good books, go for conferences and seminars, reach out to people or listen to podcasts on how to get better. In fact, I pounce on every opportunity I see to improve my abilities.
No setback is worth me stopping or slowing down the zeal I have to improve. Each time there is a challenge as a result of uncalculated risks, we learn new lessons that brings new opportunities. I will calculate another one hopefully better and be more accurate with the process.
Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life and career?
I consider travelling as a great influence in my life. I visited Egypt two years ago and I learnt a lot from their culture and their fashion sense. It was indeed an experience to remember and it actually helped influence my brand positively. I also consider meeting top class designers as a great influence.
Let’s compare when you started and now. What has changed?
Right now, I have learnt a lot from my experience and it has helped me to improve on the job. I must also say that understanding my target audience has been amazing; this makes it easy to churn out amazing pieces for my clients. It helps you to know what they want and how well I can give it to them. So a lot has changed. My style has improved. Every day we learn, so I keep evolving with the trends.
What are you looking forward to in the next few years?
I am going into other businesses; they are also fashion and life style-inclined. I am starting up with my blog RedEdit Fashion blog. Then we have the Red Summer, this is a summer beach pop up party affair and lifestyle is not left out as well. There are some other things in the pipeline and we are going to unfold the other plans as we go on.
What are some of the changes that you would like to see in the sector?
I would like to see more governmental involvements, granting of loans to fashion designers, more textile companies, more fashion-inclined personalities, serious fashion buyers and also a more stable economy.
What are some of the lessons that you have learnt?
A lot of lessons have been learnt over the years. I have learnt to take more calculated risks. It is also important to avoid so much work so as not to fall ill. The crux of the matter is that once you are ill, you can’t work and meet your deadlines. To be a good designer, making impact in your sector, you must interact and meet people. In addition, don’t waste any knowledge, don’t take much time pondering on something you should act on immediately. I also learnt overtime that you must take action when action needs to be taken.
What is your definition of style?
Style is basically expressing yourself through what you wear. But on another note, style is beyond what you wear. Style can be seen as a particular way of doing or saying something. Like the YK (Yellow Kaftan) community, we are known for our style, Summer style and elegant lifestyle.
How would you assess our female designers today?
They have come a long way; they think outside the box. It is really a source of empowerment because some of them have even gone global. Thumbs up, I must say.
What are some of the things that you treasure most in life?
I treasure God first, then family, my friends and the free things money can’t buy. I don’t underrate them at all.
How do you relax?
I love travelling, basically. It gives me tranquility and I get to learn a lot and assimilate too. I love shopping as well; this gives me so much joy.
What are some of the things that you won’t do in the name of fashion?
I don’t like indecent exposure. It’s not really my thing. So, basically, I can’t do it in the name of fashion.
Let’s talk about the people you admire and role models
Megan Markle is someone that I admire. I admire her a lot, her tenacity, strength, feminine composure but still strong. I like her ideas; I like the fact that she knows when to step away from situations.
How would you describe your experience in the sector?
I am just a usual mum, wife, designer and business owner. I started ElanRed in 2015 and it was borne out of the need to sell luxury clothing at an affordable price point. Also at that point, we started the Elanred Holiday campaign and we launched it at the end of 2015 to end the year and herald the New Year.
That was a big turning point for us. It featured bright and bold colours and latest designs from designers all around the world. The campaign was modelled by top male model Toyin Oyeneye, TV presenter Elma Godwin and singer Toni Tones. Just while we were having the success stories, we also had some low moments. At that point, we lost some goods to thieves. That was a low point for me as we also just restocked.
What does it mean to be a young entrepreneur?
A young entrepreneur should be hardworking, focused on what they want and be diligent at it every step of the way. My advice to them is to remain innovative and work towards achieving their goals through hard work and consistency. They should also put their trust in God.
Can you tell us about your background?
I was born in the city of Lagos to a family of five. My primary and secondary education were all in Lagos and I went on to study Biology Education at the University of Lagos. I then went to study Fashion Designing and Merchandising at the European School of Economics in New York, USA. I am married with two boys.
Source: The NATION