WHEN Arabella Chesney started sketching some designs during a family visit to Guernsey two years ago, she had no idea that those drawings would form the basis of a new business.
Indeed, at the time, the Jersey resident was more focused on spending time with her parents after the outbreak of Covid that spring had made the usually simple journey between the two islands almost impossible.
‘With all the uncertainty surrounding Covid and travel, I wasn’t sure when I would next have the opportunity to see my family so it was important for me to spend some time with them that summer,’ she reflected. ‘But while I was there, I started designing some trousers based on the style of clothing that I like to wear.’
Describing her style as ‘slightly different and out there’, Arabella’s initial drawings were for loose boho trousers in colourful prints inspired by many of her pre-Covid travels.
‘Based on my own tastes, the trousers are designed to be comfortable and easy to wear, with high waists and cuffed legs to flatter and suit people of any height and shape,’ Arabella said.
With four designs – reflecting Africa, the Caribbean, Hawaii and India – drawn up, Arabella was encouraged to send her drawings to a business contact of her father’s whose wife manages a clothing factory in China.
‘And that,’ she said with a smile, ‘is when a lockdown hobby turned into Loose n’ Lazy, a full-time business, which now offers a range of men’s, women’s and unisex clothing and headwear.’
Having launched officially earlier this summer, Loose n’ Lazy started with the four pairs of trousers and developed after Arabella met Ricard Kalvis, a construction worker who had ‘always wanted to launch his own clothing line’.
‘We had our first date in Guernsey in the summer of 2020 and then got together properly that October, by which time we were both back in Jersey,’ said Arabella. ‘I showed him the designs for the boho trousers and it was Ricard who came up with the idea for our next range – the Loose n’ Lazy robe.’
‘This is our take on the dryrobe,’ explained the Latvian-born Ricard. ‘It is a unisex robe, which is ideal for the outdoorsy lifestyle enjoyed by many people in Jersey. While you can wear it as a winter coat, it is essentially a changing room, which is idea for people surfing, dog walking and spending time at the beach.
‘Having done a lot of market research before launching the product, the robes have been designed in a slimmed-down, user-friendly style and are really easy and comfortable to wear.’
As well as the easy nature of the couple’s clothing ranges, each item has been designed to appeal to a wide audience.
‘We wanted to develop the brand in a way that made it relevant to all age groups,’ said Arabella. ‘It is all about lifestyle and relaxed, easy vibes.’
There is also a strong sustainability ethic behind Loose n’ Lazy.
‘Everything in the collection is sustainably made, using either recycled materials or organic cotton,’ Ricard explained.
‘This is important, not just because people are now taking a greater interest in the provenance of the items they are buying but also because we are very aware that fast-fashion brands buying wholesale items, made from cheap materials, are also contributing to the world’s environmental problems,’ Arabella added.
‘We are not a fast-fashion brand and the quality of the material used in our items is important. These are not pieces that you will wear once or twice for an occasion and then throw away; they are lifestyle pieces which are designed to be sustainable.’
And it is this approach to sustainability and design which Arabella and Ricard believe make their brand unique.
‘Jersey has a lot of department stores and fashion retailers but everything is either quite expensive or cheap fast fashion,’ she reflected. ‘We are also bringing unisex fashion to the market, which I think is new for Jersey. And, unlike many other brands, we are not just setting up a business and buying product from other manufacturers. We either design our own pieces or work with manufacturers who we have selected to create the items for us. Accordingly, our focus is on steady, organic growth rather than launching new collections every few weeks.’
Critical to that organic growth, says Ricard, is ‘getting the Loose n’ Lazy name out there’.
‘The business is very new, so gaining that brand awareness is really important and is one of the reasons that we have developed our range of branded unisex and women’s T-shirts,’ he said.
These items, together with the headwear, are provided by a supplier in Cornwall, and the couple are keen to move the production of their other items closer to home.
‘Although the cost and quality of manufacturing in China is very high, we are conscious that the shipping takes a long time and has an impact on our carbon footprint,’ said Ricard. ‘As a result, we are currently in talks with a Portuguese manufacturer and are hoping to move all production to Europe before too long. This will also speed up the process of designing and launching new items, as we will receive samples much more quickly.’
While the business model does not revolve around multiple collections, the couple are finalising a winter range, which will include a selection of jumper dresses, sweatshirts and tracksuit bottoms.
‘We are keen to broaden the range, particularly accessories and swimwear, over time but it is important that we do this sustainably,’ said Arabella.
In line with the growing selection of merchandise, the couple are also planning to extend their customer base.
‘At the moment, we are offering delivery to the UK and Channel Islands but we are planning to broaden this out to Europe in the next month or so,’ added Ricard. ‘We are also hoping, as we increase our stock holding, to get Loose n’ Lazy into some local stores to boost its visibility.’
While expansion plans are very much in the pipeline, Ricard and Arabella are also trying to enjoy the moment and absorb the many elements involved in launching and running a small business.
‘The amount of work involved in setting up a brand is tremendous,’ said Ricard. ‘While Arabella was focusing on the product and website design, I was researching all the terms and conditioning, logistics and data protection requirement, while watching Youtube videos to learn how to do the coding required for Shopify, which is the platform we’re using for our website.
‘We’ve also been doing all our own photography – luckily I used to have a photography business – for our shoots, recruiting local models and making sure that the website is designed in a way that makes it as user-friendly as possible.’
‘While we have done everything ourselves so far, from placing the orders and working out product sizing to managing the accounts and VAT, we are hoping to bring more people on board and set up a local office in the future,’ Arabella added. ‘But the advantage of having done everything ourselves at the beginning is that we know every element of our business and that will stand us in great stead as we grow.’