From sketch to swatch: the life of a fashion designer

Away from the piles of paperwork, sketches and fabric swatches, Lisa Cairns tells us how she built her fashion collection with nothing but entrepreneurial spirit

Lisa Cairns Instagram: @Lisaxcairns

Instagram: Lisaxcairns

When asked if she had any experience in the industry before her fashion brand Dear Madam Boutique, the 27-year-old’s answer was “Nope, none at all, I just went straight into it”. With nothing but a vision in mind and research done online, the North East fashion designer created her luxury evening-wear boutique in 2015. However, after becoming frustrated with the ways things were within Dear Madam Boutique, she knew it was time for change.

With a new target market in mind, the fashion designer began her new venture with her brand Aura Beige. “The brand is for women in their mid 20s to late 30s, very independent females who are strong and appreciate fashion, clothes and the work that goes into creating them”.

I wanted to know why she fell out of love with her first collection. Being creative from a young age made the sketching side of fashion easy for Lisa, “just seeing your creativity and hard work come to life is the best bit”. With Dear Madam Boutique buying and selling wholesale, Lisa told me how she was “getting really frustrated with the quality” and knew she wanted to design her own clothes.

Instagram: Lisaxcairns

Instagram: Lisaxcairns

I knew it couldn’t be easy, starting afresh with a new brand and having no qualifications in the field, but Lisa knew what she wanted to do and how she would do it. Of course she has struggles, “the main thing I struggle with is knowing whether or not I’m working with the right people”, but with the contacts she had built through Dear Madam Boutique and the use of her gut instinct, she hopes that it will all pay off.

We can all agree that putting your trust in someone and not knowing whether you’re right or wrong is something we all find hard. She told me that creating an identity and building contacts is one of the hardest aspects of being a fashion designer, “getting the contacts and the appointments with the right buyers is the most important part to attract the market that is right for your brand”, Lisa explained that once you’ve done that it’s then down to your creativity.

Sat with an effortless bun in her hair and fresh-faced skin she told me all about what inspired her work. Lisa knew what she wanted her designs to look like and I could tell how passionate she was about getting the 10-piece collection right. When I asked who her inspirations were she knew straight away, not a designer, not a person in general but just the world around her. She said: “I am massively obsessed with history and Victorian royalty is just my obsession” but then went into more detail “also architecture, I know a lot of designers say this but when I look at some of the buildings I love they genuinely inspire me to want to design a dress or a coat”.

Instagram: Lisaxcairns

Instagram: Lisaxcairns

I didn’t quite understand at first how a building can be inspiring until she continued, she spoke about how these buildings made her feel and how they made her react. Lisa explained: “how you’re feeling at the time when you see something, an idea can just pop into your head and I just want to sketch it down”.

I didn’t realise how much work went into fashion design until I spoke with Lisa. To be able to design and produce something from scratch that is purely down to you must be something to be proud of. When I asked Lisa if her collection is one of the things she’s most proud of she told me: “I don’t think I’ve worked this hard in my whole life, now I know I’ve found what I want to do and with everything I’ve learnt, I feel like my next collection will be something to be proud of”. The way she explained the whole process I could see that it was an extremely hard and tedious job but completely worth it in the end, she told me: “it is hard work but when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work”.

Considering Lisa had already set up one successful fashion brand and is on the way to setting up another, I expected her to have some sort of experience in the field. As much as she would have loved to have gone to uni, having a daughter at 19-years-old meant she is completely self-taught. Although, she sees this as a good thing: “I just went for it really, it’s been good not being taught how to do it, because I’ve learnt how to do it my own way”.

Through the power of online research Lisa has built her own fashion empire. She emphasised that the most important thing about being a designer is research. As much as she loves letting her creative side loose she said: “you need to get everything else right, the numbers side of things, just research anything and everything you can find”.

Lisa spoke about a fashion consultant, coming from the designer herself with no qualifications in the field, she explained that they are a massive help for those that may not know the business side of things. She told me: “if people have got the budget, then work with a good fashion consultant, they are on your side but make sure you pick the right consultant for you”.

The last tip that she gave me is that you can have all the experience in the world but you need to do what feels right. Lisa spoke about how it is all trial and error and you won’t know until you try different things, everybody is different and constantly adapting.

Lisa hopes that Aura Beige will allow her to express herself through her brand, attracting the strong and independent women that she is targeting. As she would like to tell people about all she has learnt as a fashion designer, Lisa will be starting her own YouTube channel soon. This channel and the new Aura Beige collection is due to launch this month and all links will be found here: Lisa Cairns


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