Leina Broughton and Fleur Richardson, Directors of LBFR Creative are warm, straight talking, no-nonsense, ambitious, creative, stylish and talented women. Both hail from the gorgeous country of New Zealand and the story of their partnership is intriguing. There have been many serendipitous moments that have pushed them into the same spaces, at slightly different times. It’s clear their partnership was destiny.
The formidable duo are the team behind the beautifully designed and well fitting Leina Broughton label of 100% Australian made jersey garments. Leina started the label in 2010 after working for some of Australia’s biggest fashion brands. Fleur moved to the Gold Coast in 2013, when the pair met. They determined quickly that Fleur’s business operations experience with well known Australian fashion houses was a perfect complement to Leina’s creative design and marketing expertise. The rest as they say, is history.
LBFR have also build their own cloud based business platform, called Apparel Suite, which they use to streamline their operations. They are a self-funded business, and continue to grow exponentially. In 2016, the business was recognised as a Telstra Business Award Finalist. Recently we met up with LBFR at their Burleigh offices, where they shared their exciting plans for 2018.
You’ve described how you eventually met and became Co-Founders as a series of ‘sliding door’ moments. Tell us the story.
We were introduced through a mutual contact and when we met we realised we had studied the same course at the same TAFE in Wellington, NZ, only one year apart. We drove the same car, even had the same Doctor! Fleur had also swum in my Aunty’s pool as a child in rural New Zealand. It was almost like the universe kept trying to push our paths together.
We had both been working in the Industry ever since then, but in quite different roles, so it was very quickly visible that it was to become quite a symbiotic partnership.
Recently you’ve started featuring your actual customers as models for your clothing. What inspired this change, and how have customers responded?
We kept discussing the concept of aspiration being shown in a different way. How could we showcase women as the women they are, one degree removed from the dress. How could we create this in a different light? We were also being tagged by our customers on social, being sent photos and stories and it just hit us, this is who we need to showcase, our incredible customer “Role-Models”!
The response has been amazing from our customers and the experience for us as a business has been life changing. Connecting with our customers on this level and seeing how they transform on the day is indescribable. Everyone is invested in and celebrates the positive outcome.
You’ve both worked for some of the most well known Australian fashion brands. How have you used this experience to take a different approach with LBFR Creative?
On so many levels it has set the foundation for us as we are so aware of the restrictions and opportunities in both big and small business. Our approach is always to look at ways that we can do things the “LBFR way” having that knowledge base is priceless to be able to make considered decisions along the way.
FR: Funnily enough after taking a two year hiatus from my last role before going into partnership with LB we discovered rather quickly that the traditional way of fashion operations i.e. wholesale and bricks and mortar were not the typical way for us to operate. Once we aligned ourselves with bespoke business partners (Birdsnest) and improved our online store we truly experienced growth for our business.
What exciting changes do you have planned for LBFR Creative over the next 12 months?
We have a few key areas of focus for the year ahead. Research, education, source and automation.
FR: Leina and I are excited to invest and re-educate ourselves on the technical side of our jersey fabric. We pride ourselves on our quality fabrics, but need to change it up a notch so we’re on the lookout for new and exciting fabrics that can become unique to LB. We’re in a hiring frenzy at present in order to further enhance the sources that make the A Team we already have. We also plan on investing on a big-ticket item to automate a key supply chain process. Whilst this will eventually replace an existing human resource, it will still require a person to re-skill to operate. This particular area is not being replenished with training and is in high demand.
What has been your greatest challenge?
I think when we started out, it was about being taken seriously. There was a perception of a craft-style business and the response was almost like, “Oh, that’s nice…”. Little did they know we were building an empire!
What are you most proud of?
What we have built. We are self-funded and we work as a team in every part of our approach. We have an incredible customer base that are so engaged and invested with what we are doing and we have such a great team, it makes us quite emotional to think about it.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
LB: Believe in yourself and surround yourself with a network of people who believe in you and support you. It is not only your friends and family that get you there but it is your customers, your staff and your suppliers that build a legacy.
FR: You’re never to old to learn… don’t close your brain off to new and interesting ideas just because you think you have no further space to absorb!
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