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A Fresh Look from The Linen Works

With a wealth of talented small businesses amongst the Le Bureau hot desks, there is always something to celebrate. The latest is the launch of the AW16 collection from The Linen Works, a luxury interiors brand who have rented desk space at Le Bureau for just over a year. Here, owner Larissa Cairns shares her design inspiration, rules for a happy workplace and her hatred of changing rooms…

Why linen?
Linen has seen something of a revolution in the UK and abroad. Our homeware and clothing range are produced using only pure European linen in soft, muted tones with a simple and understated look. After gaining more retail experience I found my passion for the flax industry. Linen not only has a distinctive luxurious feel, it is extremely environmentally friendly; it grows in rainwater only and requires no fertiliser. Also the entire plant is utilised, which means zero waste.

Anna Pumer Photography
Anna Pumer Photography

Have you always been interested in interior design?
I have always had a life-long passion for decorating and designing. I come from a family of painters, musicians and writers and it was a great blessing to have had so much creative encouragement, as it gave me the freedom to be artistic from an early age.

You’re a prolific traveller with over 50 countries under your belt. Have your travels influenced your design process?
Creativity can be found in all pursuits and escaping from the ordinary helps me to see things from a different angle and remain inspired. It is a great feeling to spin episodes of my life into a new linen collection. I love finding places that are unknown; places to swim, picnic and wonder. Travelling gives us a chance to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and nothing encapsulates the beliefs behind The Linen Works more than that.

What’s the ethos behind your new clothing line?
The idea is really simple: timeless designs made from the highest quality fabrics. Our customers are very traditional and designing a collection that is ageless and suited to different body shapes was key. The linen is from a premium Belgian mill and the clothing has been made right here in London.

It is a great feeling to spin episodes of my life into a new linen collection

The Linen Works launched its inaugural childrenswear range earlier this year. How did it come about?
I thought back to my memories of my childhood, waiting impatiently as my grandmother finished the stitches of my new summer dresses. I wanted to capture that natural childlike simplicity and candidness. I really hope we can continue expanding this range as it is such a pleasure to design.

rose dove grey moulin plum cushions windowsillYou studied nutrition before going into the interiors industry. Is living  a healthy lifestyle at odds with running a business?
It’s a big challenge for any business owner to find the time to focus on their health; I’ve found the knowledge I gained from studying Nutrition has been really helpful. Running my own business means having a very fast paced life, at least during the week, so the biggest challenge is to occasionally stop and look around and celebrate our achievements before looking towards the next steps. I feel we all work much happier when we savour each little good moment.

Describe a typical working day.
I wake up just before 6am and enjoy a couple of hours at home when I am not yet online. I listen to music, make coffee, look after my plants and after a walk across Clapham Common, I reach the office ready to start the day.

No day is ever the same but I tend to focus on my recurring responsibilities in the morning, which is when my brain is more analytical. Afternoons are quickly absorbed by meetings with our team, PR and buyers. By dusk my artistic side has kicked in so I focus on creating new collections and curating looks for our marketing campaigns.

The biggest challenge is to occasionally stop, look around and celebrate our achievements

What has been your greatest single challenge to date?
Performing a Management Buy Out (MBO) less than 18 months ago. It meant undergoing several operational changes, including changing our warehouse location and most of our staff all whilst we continued to grow. At the moment, finishing at 11pm seems the norm.

As a small team , it is hard to know when to make significant changes and when to just hold fast. Sometimes it feels that the business may temporarily suffer in order to scale up as there are not enough hours in the day to focus on core jobs as well as new projects.

Larissa Cairns, owner of The Linen Works

And your career highlight?
Launching into the largest luxury department stores in the UK (Harrods, Selfridges, The Conran Shop, Liberty’s) all in one year has been an enormous realisation. The lovely comments we receive from our customers also make my heart melt.

What are your plans for the business?
The main focus this year is to continue on refining our customer-centric approach and making the shopping experience as easy as possible. I am grateful for the rate of return custom we have and focusing on customer retention sees a much higher ROI compared to new customer’s acquisition campaigns.

Who is your e-commerce hero, and why?
Natalie Massenet from Net-a-Porter is undoubtedly an inspiration. Her instincts have proved to be frighteningly good and she has an incredible vision. We also share the same hatred for changing rooms.

Working with linen  makes us feel good, regardless of financial rewards

How much do you invest in making your website more visible?
We have invested a lot in SEO and have partnered with a senior SEO director to ensure it gets done properly. We’ve seen some great results on both organic traffic and conversions. Our PR agency makes sure we are continually working in collaboration with like-minded people and businesses, which makes our brand voice on social media channels more genuine and natural.

How do you foresee the relationship between online and high street retail developing?
Ten years ago we would only buy products for the home that we could see and touch. Now we feel more confident distinguishing what is good when shopping online. As an e-tailer I think the high street stores with the most potential are the ones that can offer a seamless customer experience across the web and in store, otherwise from a consumer point of view, it is an increasingly frustrating concept.

To what do you attribute your success?
Working with linen and the skilled craftsmen who transform this wonderful fabric into the products we see today makes us feel good regardless of financial rewards. This network of trade and customers who share the beliefs and ethos of our brand goes a long way when quantifying what success means to me.

I also like to think I see new opportunities and the possibility for improvement where others may not, and that I have the ability to turn that potential into reality.

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