Meet the formidable Lilian Muhammed, Founder & Creative Director of LONDRÉ TAN a boutique dedicated to luxury fashion accessories proudly made with love in South Africa. Passionate about her products, Lilian designs all her goods personally, and ensures that the leather and exotic skins used for every product are selected from the best tanneries in South Africa, whilst LONDRÉ TAN’s gemstones are all specially selected from the best lapidarists across the world. A true patriot, Lilian names all of LONDRÉ TAN’s products after major cities in South Africa as a way of paying homage to the diversity, rich culture and undeniable beauty of South Africa. Continue reading below as we kick off the year with this talented visionary…
Full name: Lilian Muhammed
Current title/company: Founder & Creative Director LONDRÉ TAN
Educational background: B.sc. Mass Communication University of Lagos Nigeria;
La Mode College of Fashion Australia (online studies).
Current city: Johannesburg, South Africa
Lilian, you are the owner and creative director of LONDRE TAN, a fashion accessory brand based in Johannesburg. You are no stranger to fashion, having started your career in the industry 10 years ago as a fashion stylist while studying towards a BSc in Mass Communication. At what point did you decide to take the leap of faith and start your very own fashion line?
I have always loved fashion beyond it being a hobby- it has been a career that I have followed religiously from day 1. After I resigned from a fashion magazine in 2012, I knew I wanted to start fashion designing but didn’t take the idea very seriously until 2014, when I started putting my ideas and vision to life.
You previously worked for Cosmopolitan Magazine in 2009, starting off as a fashion assistant styling and managing fashion shoots, and later becoming the junior fashion editor of the Magazine. How does styling fashion editorials using other brands & label’s merchandise differ from creating your very own? How do the skills and talents required for styling versus design differ?
I learnt a million and one things as a fashion stylist that I have put to good use as a fashion designer. Sourcing merchandize involves getting tons of affordable and high-end products, thus exposing me to different qualities, textures, materials, designs and finishing. With that knowledge, it was easier for me to have a clearer direction to where I wanted to take my brand to and the type of experiences I wanted people to have with my products. In terms of the different skills from both jobs, each is unique and special in its own way. Being a fashion stylist exposed me to seeing finished products and appreciating them, but being a fashion designer has taken me deeper to the behind the scenes of production. I am exposed to the material sourcing, the techniques, the art and the entire production process until it becomes a finished product.
You have stated that you are a passionate believer in providing job opportunities & you possess a desire to improve the African fashion industry. As a business owner and employer, how do you ensure that the producers of your items are up skilled and in what way do you believe you have improved their lives?
Providing jobs is quite easy and straightforward, but providing jobs for people with developed artisan skills or the genuine desire to learn the art and skill is a completely different story. Luckily, I have managed to put together a team that has a good understanding of what I want. When we are not making bags, we are learning skills to better our products. It is a constant learning process and I ensure that I take out time to expose my team to the latest technologies and fashion trends locally and internationally. I want them to be able to learn so much and beyond working at Londré Tan, I try to groom them to be also strong enough to create and manage their own brands in the future.
What, do you feel is important for African fashion designers to do in order to grow the reach of their designs and become a success globally?
In today’s world we live in, I believe in taking advantage of social media. One-on-one networking is great, but to reach the bigger clients globally without having to travel to each country, social media and online marketing is the solution to help achieve this. Using hashtags is one of the quickest ways to tap into an association of people with similar interests. In the beginning, you might not get all the support and responses you expected or hoped for, but the ability to carry on continually without staggering is what makes fashion designers and any other entrepreneur excel and reach maximum heights.
The biggest lesson you have learned as a businesswoman?
It is to know my purpose, stick to it and always put my foot down irrespective of the distractions that may come my way. Distractions can come in different ways such as diverse ideas, financial constraints, lack of resources, personal stress, etc. Irrespective of all these – forging ahead and staying strong has helped me deal with challenges.
Take us through what a typical workday looks like for you?
After my personal errands such as going to the gym, dropping my kids off at school and grabbing my early morning coffee, I get to my office, have a quick meditation and get onto my laptop. Once I am settled in, I give a brief to my team of what we have to do and I join them in the studio to ensure things are being implemented smoothly. On days I am not overly busy with administrative roles and meetings, I put on my studio apron and gets my hands busy in the studio. My schedule constantly changes- sometimes I spend longer times at the tannery (where our leathers are produced- I love to be a part of this process too!) or I am either in the boardroom with my creative team designing and planning; with clients and prospective fashion buyers; or I am at the malls networking and planning on growing the brand.
Advice for aspiring business owners and fashion designers?
I am Christian and I believe in putting God 1st in everything I do. Every positive approach to growing a business works. Just stay focused and it’s ok to ask an experienced person or mentor for guidance when you are not sure. Most importantly, do not get discouraged when things don’t go as planned… and every now and then – stop, eat, breathe and play.
Morning or night? Night
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Tory Burch. I admire how she transformed her small business into a billion dollar empire in less than a decade. I will order an Italian seafood salad and a bottle of sparkling water.
I wish I knew how to… fly a plane. I would love to purchase one and fly to a new country every week!
African women are… intelligent, beautiful and talented.
South Africa is… blessed. I love every single city, the landscapes, sceneries, food and good people.
Worst money mistake… spending without planning. No matter how good you think you are with money or no matter how big or small it is, always get a financial adviser to help assist you in managing your funds.
Best investment… my brand- LONDRÉ TAN.
Motivation in 3 words… pray, strategize and focus.
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