Sasha Yusof could not find loungewear that didn’t look like pyjamas. “It started when I became a mom, and people kept coming over unannounced to see the baby. Because I was always focused on my new baby, I was never dressed for the occasion … And I couldn’t find clothes that were breastfeeding-friendly, comfortable and didn’t look like pyjamas. I would go to places like Muji and Uniqlo but the clothes still looked like pyjamas,” she says. After she shared her woes with her husband, he suggested that it might be something she could look into.
Sasha had had a diverse career — from writing and working in the corporate world to a stint as a buyer at FashionValet — and she was ready to start something new. Deciding that she wanted a partner, she approached her friend, Aina Elias, a speech therapist at Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
“At that time, I had sold my practice to take care of my kids and I was working more as a locum in different centres, so I wasn’t working full-time. I was always on the go, going to the gym, picking up my kids from school, going to appointments — and I was always dressed horribly. So when Sasha came to me with the idea, I thought it was great,” Aina says.
And so, the loungewear brand Lulla — a play on the word lullaby — was born. The partners did not want to rush into things, spending almost a year to formulate their brand identity and really focus on the details. “We spent a lot of time researching and we really honed in on what we wanted to achieve in terms of materials and finishes. We didn’t want to skimp on details and fabrics. We had to do a lot of sample rounds to get it just right,” explains Sasha.
Other than being particular about materials, they also had specific guidelines for their designs. “We wanted something flattering for all body types — that was our first criteria. That was a challenge on its own because obviously, everyone has a different body type, so that was why we did a round of samples. We tested the samples out on friends — some were bigger, some tinier. It was definitely a challenge to get the sizing right,” says Aina.
The friends hope that as their business grows, they will be able to include more sizes.
The style aesthetic for Lulla’s loungewear is not about being trendy, but rather, timeless and chic. For both founders, Lulla’s clothing must maintain three key qualities: comfort, so you can go about your day feeling good; versatility, in that the pieces can be mixed and matched with your current wardrobe; and functionality, so your outfit can take you from being out and about to relaxing at home.
The loungewear is effortless, making it easier for women with busy lifestyles. “I found that how you dress really affects how you feel. Because if you’re in this zone of feeling down about yourself, you feel like crap and you look like crap, it’s just a vicious cycle that you can’t get out of,” says Sasha.
The ladies registered their company in September last year, aiming to launch at the beginning of 2020. However, Covid-19 changed their plans quite drastically, especially since their stock was produced in China. “We initially wanted to make it fully homegrown, so we did try manufacturers in Malaysia but it was too expensive … I suppose we knew we were dealing with a niche market, so it was never in our plan to mass produce, anyway. We wanted something that was a bit more exclusive and not fast fashion,” says Aina.
They began selling their wares to friends and friends of friends in July and were surprised by the volume of positive feedback.
Lulla currently has seven stylish designs that are comfortable, versatile and functional. “We wanted something that would cater for every side of your personality. For example, the slip dress Havana is sexier, and if you want to go out in it, you can throw on a jacket. As for Petra, we have friends who wear it to the office because it’s a bit more tapered. And we even have pieces that you could wear to the beach, so we really thought about designs that would fit a lot of scenarios and places that you would go,” says Aina.
Construction of their website, which was launched in August, was perhaps the most challenging part of starting their business as neither Aina nor Sasha had a technical background, but they learnt as they went along.
Sales have been very promising. “Our biggest regret is not producing more initially. Right now, we are in the process of restocking, as we’ve actually sold quite a bit. With restocking, you have to put in a new order and wait four to six weeks. We were too cautious,” Sasha explains, adding that it was because they were self-funding and wanted to ensure that customers actually liked their designs before they made more clothes.
“We wanted to create something with a positive impact. We wanted to create something that had good causes attached to it, rather than creating just a fashion brand,” says Aina. Therefore, Lulla runs campaigns that champion causes such as mental health awareness, where they did an Instagram Live to discuss depression, and breast cancer awareness, where they held a competition with prizes that included a free mammogram. “I think for any platform with a following, you have to try and make as much of a good impact as you can,” adds Sasha.
Lulla plans to add more designs as well as continue offering its current favourites in new colourways. The partners want to establish their business as a lifestyle brand and while they have already ventured into men’s loungewear, they also intend to include more lifestyle products such as scrunchies. “We’re not focused on trends. We’re focused on comfort, versatility and functionality. At the same time, we’re not saying that we’re not trendy. We’re timeless. No fuss,” says Sasha.
This article first appeared on Dec 7, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.