Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Svetlana (Lana) Lavrova has master level of economics with marketing specialisation. She has 12+ years of experience in marketing departments in different multinational companies. Since 2017 she is founder of Lavlan - fashion tech brand in Russia. She also has a family and is mum to a little boy. Besides doing business, she loves triathlon with one Olympic distance and half Ironman distance finished so far.
Svetlana, how did you get into fashion tech?
My primary occupation is marketing and I have more than 10-year experience in marketing departments of multinational corporations. After my thirties I decided to invest into my own brand. And since the fashion is my true passion - I've launched the fashion brand called LAVLAN into Russian market. It took almost two years to analyse the market, current and future trends, make some consumer research and finally finish with fashion tech brand concept that we are currently implementing.
What is the idea behind LAVLAN and how did you come up with it? When did you start with that business, how did you start and do you have other members in your team?
The idea behind LAVLAN is simple. Life is moving so fast, time is changing, lifestyle becomes more rapid. Woman in the big city today is like special agent - she is multitasking all the time. She lives at high speed and has to do several tasks at the same time: career, love, children, beauty and fitness, etc. And her clothing should correspond to her lifestyle and make her life easier. This is possible only with technology behind. Clothing becomes less wrinkle, stainless, waterproof, UV protective and even serves as a wellness product. So LAVLAN provides such fashionable clothing with additional functional features to make life easier.
We started last year by launching fashion tech line of women’s white shirts which wrinkle less and are stainless due to innovative fabric finishing technology. Now we are a team of three people + we outsource some work depending on a project.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It took almost two year to create and finalise the brand concept. We had three local acceleration processes with different fashion and business experts and spent lots of time spending with consumers. In parallel we worked for potential sales channels development signing contracts with biggest on-line retailers in Russia.
What was the biggest obstacle?
For me the biggest obstacle was the journey from being the part of big corporation to entrepreneurship. It is my paradigm shifting.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
The most difficult challenge here is still competition. Still consumers consider fashion products from the style and only after they accept the style they are ready to consider the tech, the functional features of the product. So despite being in niche you still compete with whole fashion segment. It takes so much time and resources to educate consumers about new products. I think entrepreneurship is not something that depends on gender, it is something in your blood, depends on the person. For sure, men and women have different decision making and management style but it’s much easier now when women have at least equal chances of being entrepreneurs as men.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Today we have three sales channels: we sell direct to consumers via our online shop, consumers can also but out products on the biggest Russian marketplaces (Lamoda and Wildberries) and also we have wholesale distribution across the Russia and CIS. This is amazing having in mind we have achieved this in one and a half year. Also we have clear strategy and innovations pipeline understanding for the next 3 years and it is also great to run this type of business in such emerging market as Russia and CIS.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Now we are almost ready to release summer collection in which we use the nano-aluminium fabric finishing. It allows to put off the sun light and warmth. Such clothing will help women not being hot in the office, car and the street during the whole day.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
For sure, I'm excited that it exists. We have lots of news about huge hi-tech and IT startups from worldwide media, but I'm sure that everyday lost of women create very innovative and interesting projects which are done with passion, especially in fashion and beauty industries and I definitely want to know about it and want to celebrate them.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech and smart textiles industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Sustainability, digitalization/automatization and wellness. Sustainability is already widely discussed worldwide, but in fact it is only at the start stage of implementing. Companies just started thinking about it and include it in their strategies. Digitalization/automatization penetrates more deeply in all segments of fashion starting from digital wearables to production stages. I personally dream about small machine in the factory which will create, cut and sew without stitching (with hotmelt, for example). Sounds like a miracle, but I’m sure it will enter the market soon.
And wellness - each day I see more and more fashion and beauty projects which are targeted to help the body, care about it. We are also working on this kind of clothing and I’m sure it will be popular within next 5-10 years.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Is considered that the most important thing in a woman's life is work and life balance. But my experience says that we are all very different, so i would say please have fun whatever you do, even if it means very blurry lines between life and work. Listen to yourself. I think women can do it better than men.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and / or smart textiles?
-Iris van Herpen
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.