A Glimpse into the Life of Leilani Chandler

Name:

Leilani Chandler

Occupation:

Self Employed

Describe yourself in three words.

Persistent, Intuitive, Open Minded

When did you first become interested in fashion?

I have always been interested in fashion, since I was a little girl. My mum used to sew me up some pretty crazy colourful little numbers when I was in primary school, as I always liked to be able to wear something a bit different to everybody else, and there wasn’t as much choice as there is nowadays. You couldn’t just jump online and get the latest trends.

Who introduced you to fashion?

I suppose my mum was my first influence with fashion. She was one of the cool mums, she always looked fashionable and trendy. She also used to have her own bikini shop long before I was born, and my  grandfather was also a bit of a fashionista in his day, and he also used to own a mens clothing business in Sydney back in the 60’s/70’s.

How did you get to where you are now in your career?

A lot of hard work and long hours and never giving up. I’ve been in business for almost 14 years, so experience definitely plays a big part too. But ultimately, I suppose a lot of it comes down to a few important traits that I think anyone that wants to be successful in business needs to have. Persistence and the determination to never give up, no matter how many challenges you may face. Being intuitive and perceptive enough to notice trends and opportunities and to be able navigate so many uncharted waters every single day – problem solving and thinking fast on your feet. And also being open minded, which includes being open to criticism and being aware that there is always something new to consider. It doesn’t matter how long you have been in business or how smart you are, there is always going to be new things you can learn, every single day.

What brands or people have you worked with?

We haven’t really worked with many other brands, ‘but we have been affiliated with a lot of fitness/bodybuilding federations and events, such as the INBA, the ICN, the ANB and the Miss Fit Bikini Model Extravaganza and also the all female fitness competition, the Miss Athletica Show. As far as people go, we have focused more on aligning ourselves with smaller, more local influencers and fitness enthusiasts, bloggers etc as opposed to bigger name celebrities, however in the coming 12 months we will be looking at reaching out to more mainstream public figures to help us push our message of body positivity and to also become ambassadors for our brand.

What is your dream job?

Being my own boss and being able to build a brand that is truly aligned with my own personal philosophies on life, fitness etc. Essentially, the job I have right now… Although I would like to be in a position where I didn’t have to work quite so many hours, but this will come in time. Experience has taught me, that if I put in the work now, in the short term, then eventually I will be able to work less hours and still get paid. This is a process that just takes time and isn’t really something you can avoid or speed up when you in the start up phase of a business.

If you could work with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Oprah is definitely someone I would find inspiring to work with…. Some Australian entrepreneurs that would be interesting to meet would be Janine Allis the founder of Boost Juice, Naomi Simson of Red Balloon Days and Jane Lu the founder of ShowPo.

What is Exoticathletica’s message to its audience?

The number one key message that we promote to our audience, is to WALK THE WILD SIDE…. and what we mean by this is that we want to inspire as many women as possible to push through their comfort zones, face their fears and challenge themselves every single day, so they can become the true and exotic women that they were destined to be. This philosophy extends to everything in life, health, fitness, business, etc… because we believe that by questioning everything and testing our existing beliefs, that we are able to get closer to the core of who we are.

What is the proudest moment of your career to date?

Actually my most proudest moments are usually the smaller ones, like when customers send us emails saying how our clothing makes them feel more confident again, that they now feel like they can get back to the gym, and get back into fitness. Or when people do my 10 Day Self Love Challenge and say how it really helped them see themselves differently and they feel more confident about themselves and their bodies etc.

What is the most fun part of your job?

Everything is fun. The challenges of learning new things everyday, not knowing whether or not my crazy ideas are going to work. Having to always think outside of the box and coming up with new ways to build my brand.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The same as the above really. The challenges are fun, but they can also be challenging. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why do you personally think it is so important to provide a product that is not only built for curvier women, but that is also customisable to any body shape?

Because women should not be made to feel like they’re body is wrong, or feel excluded because they can’t find clothing that fits. They should be able to find clothing that fits them properly and makes them feel confident and comfortable with the bodies they have right now. We should not be made to feel like we need to conform to a set standard, or be forced to fit inside a box. Our Made-To-Measure activewear fits all unique body shapes exactly and in turn encourages women to embrace their uniqueness rather than expecting to conform to an outdated idea of size, beauty and health.The fitness industry nor the fashion industry for that matter, should not be a secret society where you must look a certain way or be a certain size in order to join or to feel a part of it. It should be open to all of us, without exclusion and without judgment.

What is your opinion on local vs. global fashion culture? Is one better than the other?

No I don’t think one is necessary  better than the other, but I think today’s fashion culture is becoming much more global. Trends spread quicker nowadays, so you can’t really be successful in this industry without seriously considering both when you are putting together a new collection or product release.

As you are in an industry that is currently facing stores closures, liquidations and financial stress, globally. How do you plan to avert their financial misfortunes and keep positive, mentally and financially?

By doing things differently to everybody else. Thinking outside the box. By offering women a product that makes them feel good about themselves instead of making them feel excluded. And offering a high quality product of course. At the end of the day, if you can solve a real problem in the marketplace, and position yourself as a brand that women are proud to wear, then all of these external factors are much less likely to have an effect.

How do you feel about the growth of online stores compared to brick-and-mortar stores, in relation to your line of work within the fashion industry?
I think the growth of online stores is awesome, obviously, we wouldn’t be where we are today without it. Online gives women so many more options, and custom clothing online gives them even more. I guess the biggest downside to online shopping for most women is that they are never really sure  how a garment is going to fit until it arrives in the mail. That’s why we have tried to eliminate this problem as much as possible, by offering made-to-measure garments, so women can shop with confidence online, without feeling like they need to go into a traditional brick and mortar store to try things on first.

What is your opinion on the merging of fashion and technology?

I think for the activewear market especially this is such an awesome time because the advancements in fabric technology over the past few years has been huge. There are so many options out there to create high performance garments that provide added value to the customer, such as sweat resistance technology, moisture wicking properties, more stretch, more compression, more aeration etc etc… the list is virtually endless. Its great because it allows us to develop products with added features that women are really wanting and needing, which at the end of the day is what we are all about.

If you could change one thing within the fashion industry, what would it be?

The way the industry portrays the ultimate perfect women/body type. We want more body diversity in the fashion industry, more images of real women, real healthy women, so younger girls especially can find more imagery that they can identify with so they feel less excluded.

Who is your style icon?
I don’t really have one style icon. My style is very eclectic and changes just as much as my moods are. Everyone one from Rita Ora and Rihanna, to the Kardashians, JLO and Beyonce.

What is your favourite style/ trend?
I don’t really have one favorite. Although on a daily basis I tend to usually go for the smart/casual/active look of course. I like wearing activewear EVERYDAY and depending on what I am doing or where I am going, I might dress it up a bit with heels or a leather jacket or something. Comfort is also important to me. Comfortable, Classy and Casual…. I think that is probably my go to style on most days.

Favourite item of clothing?

Leggings in winter of course…. and booty shorts and bikinis in summer.

Describe your style in three words.

Ecletic, Bold, Sexy

Do you have a fashion regret?

NEVER!…

What skills or qualities do you think are most important in this line of work?

When you are in the early stages of a start up, it is essential to have skills and qualities in almost every area of business… you basically have to be good at everything, or at least know a lot about everything. Obviously creative skills are a must have, and this mostly includes digital based/graphic design skills,  because these days basically everything is digital. Marketing skills are also essential and overall business management/strategy skills are a must have as well.

What is your creative process like?

Depending on what I am working on my creative process can be very time consuming or super fast. But either way it still seems to go through the same stages… Firstly there is the brainstorming phase, or the inspiration phase, where I will come up with a million different ideas or scenarios in my head of how I want something to look or feel. And then the second phase would mostly involve sifting through all of these to try and work out which ones really stand out and which one I want to make a start on… And then I guess I get started. In essence this third phase is the proactive creative stage, where I am actually creating something, editing something, revising something, so I can visually see how it is all going to piece together… this stage involves a lot of evaluating, reflection and self criticism, to make sure what I am creating ticks all of the boxes that I need it to tick. And then voila, hopefully by that time I have been able to come up with something that does the job….

How do you overcome creative blanks?

Getting out and doing something new and different, just anything outside of my usual routine… or talk to people, get their feedback or ideas on different concepts etc. Or research and look around at what other people have done and how they got their inspiration. Sometimes you can get inspiration from things that may have absolutely nothing to do with what you are creating, but if you are looking at things in a more creative way sometimes you can find inspiration in some really unexpected places.

How do you stay organised and productive?

Productive has never really been a problem for me, Organised is sometimes a little more challenging. Coffee is definitely a major contributor to my success 🙂 …. also prioritising plays an important role. Knowing when to move onto something else, knowing what things I want and making sure my day focusses on the things I need to do to get those things done.   

Best piece of advice that you can give to aspiring fashion creators?

Learn about business. Do a course if you have too. Because creativity and amazing talent design will only get you so far. I think a lot of designers underestimate the importance that these skills will have on their success.  

What is up next for you?
We always have something new and exciting going on in the world of Exoticathletica. But probably one of the most exciting things I have going at the moment is my 10 day self love challenge. This is a campaign I have been working on for a long time and I am really looking forward to rolling out this campaign on a national scale over the coming months. Body Positivity and Female Empowerment and confidence is something I am really passionate about and offering this free challenge is my way of sharing the things I’ve learnt along the way that will help other women find love, peace and happiness with their bodies. Anyone and everyone is open to join this Body Positive Movement and take part in the challenge, it is completely FREE – www.bopobabes.com.au for more info!

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