Seeing small businesses and their owners suffering due to COVID-19 has been downright dismal. But despite everything, one of the brightest personalities on my Instagram feed has been Louise O’Mahony, owner of L.O.M. Fashion. She has that enviable ability to face a negative situation head-on with grace and aplomb. Louise has been open with how COVID-19 has affected her business, and yet she continues to challenge her followers to #dressupanyway to help us feel as fabulous on the inside as we do on the outside. I know she’s made me laugh several times over the last month with her funny and uplifting videos. It was a privilege to interview Louise for our Focus on Fashion series as she’s the ridiculously talented designer of some of the brightest prints and funkiest festival attire I’ve ever seen. She rarely dresses in black and is as brilliant as her palette. Her clothes can’t help but make you smile!
Hi Louise! It’s so cool to chat with the designer of the gorgeous catsuits I positively drool over! When was your first inkling you wanted to be in fashion?
I remember being a kid and my Mum would draw body shapes for me to draw clothes on and I used to LOVE doing that. I always loved art lessons, and one day when I was about 16 my art teacher gave me a machine to sew paper together with to make an outfit and after that, I was hooked on fashion as an art form.
What kind of support system did you have diving into this endeavor?
My teachers were super supportive, especially my art teacher, Ms Van der Zwan. But also my parents, they encouraged me to follow what I was good at, and go to art college after my A Levels, and then onto University to do Costume design. I really wouldn’t have been able to do it without their support, and I know I’m very lucky to have parents that encouraged creativity as I know a career in the arts is risky and they could have pushed me in another direction.
What kind of schooling for design and business played a role in your current path to success?
I have had a variety of experience, I did a diploma in Fashion design before doing a degree in Costume Design and Textiles, and then short courses in Millinery and Print Design. But I would honestly say that some of the most important skills I learned where whilst doing work experience. I think it is possible to go into fashion design if you have creativity and drive and you are an eager and fast learner, it’s not like medicine, you don’t need a degree, but it does help give you a head start.
Businesswise, I didn’t have any academic training for this. I spent hours and hours a day researching, learning, and teaching myself how to set up and run a fashion label. Countless blogs, networking, online tutorials. For the first 2-3 years of being self-employed, I worked 60-90 hours a week to get myself a steady functioning business. It was a lot of hard work, but it is worth it for where we are now.
What and when was your first festival? And how did you realize you wanted to combine your love of fashion with festivals?
Leeds Fest 2004. But oh my god did that put me off haha. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun, but I didn’t go to another festival for about 4 years after that! For those that don’t know, Leeds and Reading Festival’s were like the cookie-cutter of “Rock Festivals.” They have that year’s biggest rock headliners, are sponsored by a huge basic beer company, and had almost zero creativity and colourfulness to them. I was so happy to see the bands I did there, but Festivals have come a long way since then!
I rediscovered festivals by going to a small one in the South of the UK in 2009 called Blissfields, it was cute, friendly, colourful and I was hooked, from then I was regularly attending Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, and traveling further afield to Bulgaria, Germany, and America to go to festivals! Going to these festivals I felt very quickly they were a place that you could really play with your wardrobe, and wear the most outrageous outfits and feel so free doing it. It was a playground for self-expression and I wanted to help and encourage people to dress up and feel that way too.
I understand you create your own prints. What is that process like? Where do you find your inspiration for your collections and what are you dreaming up next?
I started to design my own prints because I was bored of seeing the same fabrics being used everywhere, small designers have access to the same fabrics and I knew to stand out I had to create my own. I had never designed a print before, so it was a bit of a risk, but I just kept playing around and teaching myself techniques until I came up with something I like. For each print I do a new technique, like photographing my embroidery, doing a new painting technique or using just digital shapes. A couple of years ago I did a print course at Central St Martins and it was great because it showed me lots of shortcuts to ways that I had self-taught myself and the process became a LOT quicker! My new print design is finished and ready to go to print, and I’m very excited about it! The next collection is inspired by mushrooms and the textures and patterns you can find in them. *Due to COVID-19, Louise is postponing the launch of the new mushroom inspired collection, and instead will release L.O.M Loungewear in June – comfy pants and tops, sweatpants and hoodies, house robes, scrunchies, and eyemasks!*
I saw that you launched your L.O.M. Curve Collection in February for plus size fashionistas. What was the impetus behind it?
When we first started five years ago, we did sizes S – XL, but sales were so low on XL, yet we were getting weekly messages to introduce size XS, so we switched up our sizing to XS – L. As a small independent business, it didn’t make sense for us to have a bigger size range available to shop online if nobody was buying them – however, a few years down the line things have changed, bigger sizes are feeling more confident to wear tight-fitting and wild patterned clothing – where they had previously been told to steer clear of these things by magazines, makeover shows, etc.
Instagram really took off as an influencer platform bringing more diverse voices to the table and changing the way we view fashion. No longer are people following the suggested trends, we can now follow real people who aren’t afraid to express themselves – and gone are the days when “Plus Size” fashion meant covering your whole body in a shapeless sack. We wanted to make sure we were able to dress anybody who is ready for our outrageous and flamboyant fashion!
I’d like to know more about your business strategy and the ways in which you support your small team. What is it like leading an intimate group?
My team is really great, the main people who work for me, Ash and Kitty have been with me for years and we are all very chilled. Hannah, Rosie, and Sophie have joined in the last 1/2 years and everyone has their different roles to play in keeping L.O.M rolling! There is no drama – that was something that was really important to me, fashion has a reputation of being a horrible, stressful business to work in, some of my team have experienced that in other places, and I never wanted them to come to work every day dreading it, being spoken down to or feeling like they were working for a tyrant. I mean, look at the stuff we make, you can’t have any bad vibes around these pieces! I actually now lead my team from a different country, I live in Berlin but my studio and team are still in Brighton, it has its complications for sure, but we have a system that works. I make sure my team has time to work on their other creative projects and I know that not everyone has access to industrial machines and space to create so I let everyone use my machines and studio space for their own projects too. Ash is an amazing designer himself and I encourage and support him in his new label Ash Holden Studio (even though I know it means he will leave me someday – he is already regularly featured in Tatler!) Kitty has shown real strengths in environmental awareness and a passion for keeping things eco, and regularly making suggestions for ways we can improve our carbon footprint so I have made her sustainability leader. I come back to work with them for at least a week every month, and I always make sure to take them out for some drinks and pizza – it’s really important for everyone to stay connected and feel like part of the brand even though we are not always working in the same room together.
Based on your L.O.M. Fashion Instagram, I know the COVID-19 cancellations and postponements of festivals has financially impacted your small business. What do those changes look like for you and your team?
It’s still unpredictable to know just how much damage this will do to us – but we are a festival and club clothing brand, and most festivals are cancelled and clubs won’t be open for a long time either, so people just won’t be buying the items of clothing that are more ‘out there.’ But this gives me an opportunity to encourage people to be bolder with their fashion choices! Yes, a fringed sleeve playsuit that perfectly frames your cute butt cheeks might not be suitable for your work Zoom meeting, but a colourful printed sleeveless top is!
How can we support L.O.M. Fashion during this tough time so when festival season reopens we can be wearing your dazzling styles?
We still have lots of pieces that are great to wear during lockdown, hoodies and joggers, leggings and jewelry, and sales of catsuits have actually gone up! I think lots of people are wearing them to do yoga in! And these are all pieces you can rock on the festival field too – multi-purpose! We have gift vouchers for sale if you wanted to support us but don’t know what to buy yet, and we have also started making masks from our high quality printed fabric that has been very popular.
I couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to be featured for Woman Crush Wednesday than you. Your participation in Endometriosis Awareness Month (March) was inspirational. Though I don’t suffer from it myself, I have friends who do, so your posts were touching and enlightening. Can you fill in our readers who haven’t seen them?
Thank you, I was a bit unsure about posting so much about it because it’s not related to fashion, and talking loudly about periods on social media can really make some ppl back off. For those who don’t know what it is – Endometriosis is a disease that affects 1 in 10 women. The symptoms can be different – but essentially endo is when parts of your uterus wall come off and stick to other parts of your body, and when you get your period, they still bleed, no matter where they are in your body. Causing painful internal bleeding every month and fusing your organs together. There is no real cure at the moment and I just think it is mad that so many women are affected by it, yet still, so many people haven’t heard about it. When I was younger I thought I just couldn’t ‘hack’ period pain because everyone else seemed to be coping so much better than me. If I knew that endometriosis was a thing and saw other people talking about it I would have felt so much better and understood it more. So, I have a big platform with a 91% female-identifying following, I thought I would use it to educate and also show other women they are not alone.
From the vivid colors of Louise’s life-inspired prints to her body-flattering and whimsical designs, L.O.M. Fashion pieces garner compliments with every wear. It’s impossible not to feel happiness seeping into your very soul when you’re wearing L.O.M. Fashion, so go start your collection today! And if you’re not following L.O.M. Fashion on Instagram, you’re missing out on Louise’s weekly highlighted (and 20% off) garment. Thank you, Louise, for using your platform to bring attention to body positivity and Endometriosis, real-life issues that women face every day. You and L.O.M. Fashion instill my life with confidence and pizzazz, things we all need more of during these bleak times.