In honour of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($22), we’re kicking off an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honour of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the fashion industry. So far, we’ve tapped Rebecca Minkoff, Sally Singer, Rachel Zoe, and more. Up next? The women behind new Australian label Aris—Jemima Law and Lawren Lee.
There's nothing we love much more than a designer success story, and for new Australian label Aris, we're predicting big things. This year, childhood friends Jemima Law and Lawren Lee quit their safe corporate jobs to pursue their collective creative dream, explaining: "while we were in high school we were already making plans to start a fashion label, but somehow we ended up in the rat-race instead. More than a decade later, we’ve finally accomplished it."
While working in their respective corporate roles, both Law and Lee discovered a lack of affordable, classic work wear, that still felt fashion forward. So what did they do? Set out to bridge the gap. The co-founders have created a line that's resonating with young professionals all over the country. Think sleek blazers, white shirting (with a subtle flare sleeve detail), cross-over dresses, and structured culottes.
We sat down with the duo, to discover their best career tips. Keep scrolling then shop Aris if you're on the hunt for stylish new workwear.
Jemima Law: I’m a Jill-of-all-trades. The scope of my job changes every single day, one day I might be covered in pencil shavings sketching new designs, or wading through piles of swatches selecting fabrics for a new piece, the next I’ll be drowning in receipts doing our accounts, and then I’ll be wordsmithing a press release, or designing graphics for signage or the website. Every day is unpredictable, it’s just the nature of being your own boss.
Lawren Lee: A both physical and mental infinitely-looping rollercoaster. Every day is not certain, but definitely interesting and rewarding!
JL: People often think I quit my corporate career to take a more relaxing path by starting my own label. How wrong they are! I used to work 12 hour days on the regular, now I probably work 16—from the moment my eyes open to the moment they close, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as days off or annual leave anymore. But I love it!
LL: Owning your own business means you never really ‘clock off’. Many have the misconception that freedom means more free time. It’s probably the complete opposite!
JL: I wore a suit which looked two sizes too big, I felt like a child in old women’s clothes. It was impossible to find anything that fit my (then youthful and petite) frame. I went from expressing my own style throughout university to dressing like everyone else in what almost seemed like a uniform. The options were so limited. I remember when I first started my graduate program, four of us had the exact same work dress! That’s one of the main reasons why we started ARIS, to cater for women who love fashion and want to express their individual style.
LL: A full blown suit with a button-up collar shirt. Fess up, I’m sure most girls cautiously tried to look ‘professional’ and sacrificed comfort, confidence and their individuality in the process! That’s what Aris is here to change. Enabling women to feel empowered with their outfit choices and take the stress out of work, after-work and weekend dressing!
JL: Elon Musk—he’s an absolute visionary, I’d love to hear about his theories about the future.
LL: Hussein Chalayan—#goals.
JL: Vogue Magazine, Business of Fashion and Who What Wear Australia.
LL: Who What Wear of course, Business of Fashion, Ragtrader and Vogue Magazine.
Instagram, Pinterest and some fashion blogs are also a good place to keep up with all the latest style trends.
JL: My passion for the creative fields became stifled for a while due to the demands of my corporate career, it was nearly impossible to make time to design on the side. I regret not switching fields earlier!
LL: Not doing something I loved sooner! Believing that I had to work in the field which I had studied during university.
- Talent—I don’t hire to delegate out work, I look for someone who can bring something to the table that I can’t.
- Work ethic—there’s no use having talent if you’re not willing to do the hard yards, I look for someone who takes pride in their work and doesn’t settle for anything sub-par.
- Sense of humour—I believe the people you work with make the biggest difference in how much you enjoy being at work, so why not have a laugh!
- Accountability—one of my pet peeves is when people aren’t able to take ownership of tasks and acknowledge their mistakes.
- Love of food—our world revolves around food. We celebrate our milestones and accomplishments with delicious feasts, and get ourselves through the grind with sweet treats, so a love of food is essential for cultural fit.
- Quick thinker
- Easy going
JL: I love wearing our Blazer Cape ($190) with contrast satin lapel. It’s powerful yet feminine and I can wear it just about anywhere and with anything.
LL: An LBD with a minimal, high-impact twist. Our Crossover Dress ($160) with structured panels, back slit and cinched waist paired with heels is my current favourite for formidable dressing. We’ve recently covertly released a white version of the dress for maximum impact!
JL: No assistants, so we'll describe each other. Lawren is a dreamer with big ideas. She’s strong headed, passionate and will stop at nothing to achieve what she sets out to.
LL: In a few words—intelligent, reliable and a problem-solver. She’s very meticulous in her work and likes to absorb and learn as much information as possible. Her easy-going attitude and patience makes every day easy and fun!
We definitely complement each other as business partners as we focus on working to our strengths, not working on our weaknesses. Luckily for me, she definitely picks up the slack where I have weaknesses!
JL: I switch on some fresh tunes, brew some chai tea and take some time out to sketch something. I find it relaxes me and clears my mind.
LL: Take a small trip out of town and clear your head. Once you reset yourself, you can tackle a problem with a different set of eyes.
JL: Early on in my career, I actually quit my job via email from a barely functioning computer in the foyer of a Bolivian hostel. While I would not recommend this to anyone who doesn’t want to torch all bridges beyond ash, it’s pretty funny in hindsight and was exceptionally time efficient as the rest of my annual leave was my four weeks’ notice, and I rolled straight into my next job.
LL: Being honest with your manager and giving notice as early as you can. People always guess how their managers will react but you never really know until it happens and this will guarantee a good relationship for the future!
JL: My lunch is always majority vegetables with a side of protein. A typical winter lunch would be oven roasted vegetables with lamb and in summer a leafy green salad with salmon.
LL: A salad with a protein (plenty of dressing), vegan cake for dessert and a green juice. Slot in the occasional Mary’s shroom burger here and there.
JL: Not voicing their opinions. Everyone is entitled to their point of view and often saying nothing is worse than speaking up.
LL: Spreading yourself too thin and trying to please in all departments—it can be very tiring. Especially sacrificing your personal style and copying what others wear in order to fit in.
Be yourself! You don’t want to blend in—stand out and leave your mark!
JL: My fashion favourites are Elin Kling @elinkling, Lauren Santo Domingo @thelsd and @maisonmargiela. My Instagram feed is pretty diverse, I also love accounts like @theartofplating, artist @cj_hendry and photographer @palomaparrot.
LL: Pernille Teisbaek @pernilleteisbaek, Yoyo Cao @yoyokulala and Olivia Palermo @oliviapalermo—the queen of high and low dressing! You get a mix of laid-back, tailored and statement style between these three amazing style icons.
JL: As soon as I open my eyes I reach for my phone, catch up on emails and social media, then squeeze in a quick pre-breakfast workout before starting the day. In the evening I make a mental checklist of everything I plan to accomplish the next day to make sure I’m ready to go as soon as I wake up.
LL: Apple cider vinegar first and foremost! I’d like to say I shoot out of bed and mix myself a cup of warm ACV water. I don’t drink coffee so I think having ACV before you eat is a healthy way to give yourself a bit of a jolt in the morning—plus it’s great for digestion!
Masking every night. The jury is out on whether or not to mask daily, but I tell myself it’s fine if I mix up the masks from detoxing to moisturising every night. It’s a great way to unwind and de-stress!
JL: Don’t be too quick to pass judgement, because every single person out there knows something that you don’t.
LL: Stop caring what others think and you will be free to focus on yourself.
JL: Everything we have planned for 2017!
LL: New style drops which will expand on our current offering and include more casual styles. The aim is all women from corporates to creatives will have something to choose from!