Sunday sit-down with… Karen of Luna Lark
If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that luxury loungewear is worth the investment
In Partnership with Luna Lark
With a degree in textiles, a career in fashion buying, time spent as a professional seamstress and a passion for design, it’s safe to say that Karen knows a thing or two about clothes. We just didn’t realise that would also transcend into being able to predict the future…
Almost in anticipation for what was to come, Karen centred her business venture, Luna Lark (which she launched in 2018), exclusively on luxury loungewear – with a particular focus on thoughtful and stylish gifting options – that seemed perfectly timed for our retreat into lockdown.
But now we seem to be coming out the other side of the pandemic, we caught up with the North East local to discover what the future holds. After all, she should know!
What is Luna Lark all about?
Quality, honest, thoughtfully designed pyjamas and loungewear, made in the North East with a lot of pride, care and attention to detail.
Tell us a little about your background.
I studied textiles originally, so I love fabric, print and surface design, that was always my passion. But then I got into fashion buying in Manchester. I loved it, but the North East pulled me back!
I was really missing that creativity, so I decided to get more hands-on again and started teaching myself how to sew and draft patterns. I worked for Fenwick doing clothing alterations, which was a great way to learn the craft, and then I moved into wedding alterations. My goodness, I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for there!
I think all of those varied experiences have come together in Luna Lark. I really care about the fit and functionality of my pieces, as well as what they look like. And I love being involved in every single step of the process of creating them.
Luna Lark’s tagline is ‘a different kind of loungewear’. In what way are your pieces different?
One of the assets of Luna Lark is the gifting side. I wanted the business to be very much about gifting. I have friends from University who live all over the country, and even if it isn’t their birthday, I’ve always found gifting such a lovely way of saying, ‘hey, I’m missing you!’ I think more people than ever can relate with that now, so everything I send out is beautifully hand-packaged.
The other side to that tagline is the mix-and-match element to Luna Lark. Traditionally, pyjamas and loungewear have always been about matching sets, but that’s never how I wore them. I’d put a sweatshirt or a t-shirt on with a pair of pyjama bottoms. Everything at Luna Lark is sold separately, so you’ve got that ability to put a bespoke set together however you want.
Lockdown seems a good time to have a business in loungewear! What has the pandemic been like for Luna Lark?
Unfortunately, my main way of meeting customers was by having stalls at local shopping fairs, and that all stopped. So it’s been quite a scary time, actually. Thankfully, I have such loyal and lovely customers who kept coming back throughout lockdown.
A lot of them contact me and ask: ‘is there any chance you could make something like this for me?’ or ‘can you create this style in petite, or extra-long’. And I can. I’m always happy to create commissions. That’s the great thing about Luna Lark – I can sew, so I’m happy to create whatever is going to make my customers happy. I can’t stand waste either! I’m all about sustainability. Any scraps I can’t use to make something, I’ll take to be recycled and I work hard to ensure as much of my material as possible is eco-friendly, and that the packaging is either already recycled or recyclable.
Some may argue that you only wear loungewear in the house – what would you say to encourage them to invest in luxury loungewear?
I was definitely one of those people! I just thought any old pyjamas were fine, until I realised how much of a difference a quality, good-fitting pair of pyjamas can make – and how much of a better night’s sleep you can get when you’re wearing them.
There are actually very few items in your wardrobe that you wear (and appreciate) more than your pyjamas. So I do think they should be about quality. If you think about cost-per-wear, you get a really good deal! And I know people’s money is hard-earned, especially at the moment, and I certainly don’t want them to waste it. So I do care about them being happy with the quality and fit of their products.
Let’s be honest – pyjamas are just like a warm hug, aren’t they?! There’s nothing that de-stresses you more after a long day than getting into a pair of pyjamas that you feel totally comfortable in. And, God forbid anyone does ring the doorbell, at least with luxury loungewear you know you can answer the door and still feel absolutely fine, which is a bonus!
When did your interest in clothes begin?
When I was a child – I’ve always loved clothes, fashion and all things creative. I remember doing textiles in school and just losing myself in it. I’d sew on the weekends and spend hours sifting through magazines like Vogue and Elle – I’ve probably still got all the tears that I used to take from them! So it’s always been a real passion.
What is it about clothes that you love so much?
I’m probably a little bit strange in that I love the technical side of constructing clothes. I’ve always been fascinated with the way you put clothes together and make them functional. And I really enjoy doing alterations. It’s hard work and there can be a lot of pressure on you, especially on the bridal side. But the satisfaction you get when you’ve created something that makes someone feel confident and happy is just lovely. And I’ve always been obsessed with fabrics and prints. So basically I love every aspect of clothing! I’m a nerd when it comes to clothes!
What first propelled you to start Luna Lark?
When I left university, I always had the idea of setting up my own business, but I never really had the confidence. It wasn’t until I was doing alterations and learning to sew again that I started making gifts for family and friends. I was loving it, and they seemed really happy with the products. That was when I thought, actually, this combines all of my passions into one focus. So I just went for it! It was scary, but I did it.
What’s the reality of starting out as a business owner here in the North East?
Being in the North East has definitely made it easier to be a business owner, I think, because the community is so friendly and welcoming. All of the networking groups are so lovely, they’ve really helped. And even though I’m quite a shy person, I love meeting other local business owners, as well as all my lovely customers.
We hear you have an exciting new partnership in the pipeline – can you tell us more?
When we properly come out of lockdown, I’m going to start working with a lovely sewing factory in Bishop Auckland. All of the cutting and sewing was getting a bit too much for me to do alone, on top of all the other jobs that come with running your own business. The run-up to last Christmas was particularly hard going! It really burned me out.
It’s hard for me to let go, but it’s also so exciting and this factory is perfect because they’re still working from my patterns and designs. Plus, they’re literally just down the road, so I can pop in and see them any time. And every piece we create together is still going to be a luxurious, artisan product made in Britain, so I think the partnership is going to be brilliant.
What have you been working on recently?
The success of Luna Lark is down to the friends I have and the support they’ve shown me. They’ve kept me going all the way and have really made the business possible.
One of those fabulous friends is Gareth Hayward. He’s an artist and print designer in Brighton who I met when I was a buyer. He designs exclusive prints for me, which is an absolute joy. We’ve been working on our newest design – the birdsong print – which is black and white with lovely birds all over it, inspired by the Luna Lark branding. I actually used to have almost the same design on gift wrap for local fairs, but so many people were coming to the stand and saying: ‘oh, that pattern’s lovely!’, thinking it was a garment! I had to put it onto fabric!
What are your ambitions for the future of Luna Lark?
To just to keep doing what I love. To keep growing the business and our product range by creating more prints and designs. People think that sleepwear is just a pyjama jacket and trousers, but it’s not – there are loads of garments you can come up with. It kills me that I can’t create them all at once. I’ve got so many ideas whizzing around my head that I’ve got to always pull myself back! So I can’t wait to be able to bring in all that new stuff.
I also really want to focus more on the bridal side of things. Gifting for bridesmaids, getting ready robes, honeymoon nightwear, I’d love to develop that range further.
And for commissions, just drop Karen an email: [email protected]