Most fashion labels aren’t born out of a garage, and if they are, they probably don’t make it out of the garage door; but when Jane Lu has a vision, she stops at nothing to reach it. The CEO of Showpo, an affordable fashion brand that carries everything from trendy shoes to off-the-runway style clothing, Lu is determined, spirited, and passionate. Bored of her life as an analyst, the fashion guru took a trip to Europe and came back inspired. Here, she chats with us about where it all started, gives us some insight into the Winter 2017 collection, and shares some style tips.
Cliché: When did you first discover your love for clothes and fashion?
Jane Lu: I’ve actually never cared about fashion! I just like cute clothes that don’t cost the earth, which is how Showpo started.
Showpo started off as a small business in your garage. What inspired you to take the leap from corporate America into the world of fashion, and how did you go from a garage to where you are now?
My first real career job was working as an accountant. I then moved on to be an analyst. Both these experiences were very valuable to me at the time, but after a nine-month trip to Europe, I started questioning if the cubicle, 9-5 life was for me.
After the failure of my first business, I knew that starting my own fashion company was something I wanted to keep pursuing. When I started Showpo, we literally worked out of my parents’ garage. We slowly began to work out of a larger office, moved into a warehouse, switched to using a third-party warehouse, hired staff, hired more experienced and senior staff, launched new ranges, and launched extended sizes.
The first office we got was 140 square meters and cost $30,000 a year. I couldn’t even believe that I was moving out of my parents’ garage and into an actual office. It was unreal! We took out a 2-year lease and I got the biggest desk I could find from Officeworks to fill up space.
Soon, the office started filling up with stock and staff and we ran out of space after a year. I literally had stock placed under my desk, in the kitchenette, every service area of the office had merchandise in it, and that just became the official location of that SKU.
Since then, we expanded our office space several times, launched into the US, Manila, and the Philippines as well as hiring over 40+ staff members. If you told me that this would all happen in a few years’ time, I would have never believed it, but I’m very proud of what my team and I have accomplished.
Did you ever see yourself as the CEO of a major fashion label?
I never even had an interest in starting a business at all. I was working as an analyst and thought this was my life. It just seemed way too risky and out of my league and I was pretty happy with where life was already taking me. It wasn’t until I spent 9 months in Europe and came back to my job that I knew I couldn’t readjust to cubicle life.
I came back with travel withdrawals and one of my university friends reached out and wanted to start a fashion business with me and another friend. I thought this would be an awesome, fun project so I guess this is where my entrepreneurial journey started. Sadly, that business was a complete and utter failure and I was devastated. I had literally hit rock bottom. All of a sudden, I was unemployed, my business had failed, and I had lost quite a bit of money on it.
This was probably one of the toughest, most FML, times of my life. I never saw myself as a CEO of a fashion label until this moment. Any sane person would’ve given up and gone back to the safe corporate life, but I decided to start another fashion business straight away.
How would you describe your personal style, and does your personal style influence the items you carry?
My style depends on what I’m doing throughout day, but generally I’m a fan of color and prints. If I go to the gym in the morning, I’ll usually wear something sporty with runners and a big duffle bag. If I want to buckle down and get a lot of work done, I’ll wear a comfy shirt with some ripped jeans, sneakers, and a shoulder handbag. If I’m catching up with a friend for lunch, I’ll usually wear a summery dress paired with some cute heels and a small clutch.
What is your must-have clothing item?
Jeans! They go with so many tops and are so comfy.
Showpo has obviously expanded immensely from Show Pony. Has its growth aligned with your vision for the brand, or did you find it taking a new direction as it grew?
It was my dream for Show Pony to grow into something big but I didn’t expect it to come so quickly. It wasn’t until 8 months into Showpo that we had our first big win. Through a Facebook campaign I came up with, we were making up to $22k a month online. The idea came to me one night whilst watching America’s Next Top Model, on the couch with a glass of wine. I thought to myself: why don’t we make a Facebook version of this and get our Facebook followers to enter for a chance to model for us?
Girls would enter the competition, ask their friends to vote for them, some of them even created events and groups, then some of their friends in turn would enter and do the same, and there was a massive ripple effect. We went from 3,000 followers to 20,000 within the space of a month, and it cost nothing. And this was back in 2011, when 20,000 followers was seriously a lot! It gave us so much credibility.
Showpo continues to grow each day and since the very beginning, I’ve had the same vision for the brand which was to provide girls with fun, on-trend fashion at affordable prices. We want to continue to be ‘her go-to place to shop.’
Tell us about the Winter collection. Who designed it, and what is the inspiration for it?
Our production team was behind it (talented bunch they are) and their vision was to create cozy and comfy clothes to keep our gals warm during the chilly months without losing their style.
What is your favorite piece from the Winter collection?
ALL of the cozy knits! I can’t get enough and they’re so comfy you’ll fall asleep in one!
What’s next for Showpo?
We just moved into our massive new office in the heart of Sydney’s business district, so we are very excited of what’s next to come for Showpo. Our vision is to be her go-to place to shop and to have a lot of fun on our way there. Our main focus is building out the right team and focusing on expanding our product range and our geographic footprint.
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Showpo’s CEO Opens Up About the Winter 2017 Collection: Photographs courtesy of Showpo