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The Reality Of Starting A Business As A Teen: In Conversation With LEMIM And Core Collectives

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Words By Ella Sangster

Since the rise of the digital age, the fast-paced world of the contemporary fashion industry has been characterised by rapid trend cycles and a constant desire for new. With the world's top scientists shining a light on the humanitarian violations and impacts on the environment commonplace within the industry, there has recently been a pushback against businesses that have dominated the fashion landscape for decades. Consumer habits are changing, with shoppers seeking brands that feel authentic and reflect values that transcend trend cycles. This has opened a new window for young designers to establish their place in the market, drawing on personal experience to create small, independent labels reflective of their personal experiences.

With this in mind, I spoke to Mia Sanasi and Emerson White, the owners and designers of slow-fashion brand LÉMIM, and Nick Martin, the entrepreneur behind Core Collectives. While these designers and their independent brands are distinct in their different styles and approaches to design and production, they share the common backing of a tight-knit community and inherently reflect the laid-back culture associated with the New South Wales Central Coast. I chatted to Mia, Emerson, and Nick to break down their motivations, inspirations, and how to stay true to your roots when starting a business as a young entrepreneur.

What initially motivated you to start your brand?

Mia and Emerson: We were inspired by the slow fashion movement initially, and our greatest motivators have been the growing prevalence of fast-fashion trend cycles and the lack of size-inclusivity within the fashion industry. We felt there was a shortage on the Central Coast when it came to ethically made and sourced clothing, and for this reason, we started making some of our own clothes by hand. We realised other people were looking for the same thing and decided to start a brand that could offer an ethical and inclusive option to people anywhere. LÉMIM aims to create high-quality clothing that lasts, both physically and ethically.

Nick: The initial inspiration for starting Core Collectives would have to be my interest in fashion and the whole culture. Business has also been a passion of mine for the past few years which led me to study it at University. The knowledge I’ve gained from business has dramatically aided the start-up process and the continuation of Core Collectives. It’s been a dream for me to express my thoughts and concepts into clothing pieces, and now with Core, I am able to do this.

What were your biggest inspirations when designing your first drop?

Mia and Emerson: Our biggest inspiration for the first season of LÉMIM was creating versatile pieces, items that will always feel special, making you want to wear them forever. We wanted to design pieces that transcended trends and could be styled both up and down, which is where our choice of the colour white came in. We also wanted our first made-to-order line to have diversity in shapes so more people would find something they'd feel comfortable and confident in.

Nick: Our first drop was based on the premise of keeping it simple and unique to try and grab people’s attention and let them know what our brand is about. We didn’t want to go too over the top, so we started with the theme of an apple core. The colourways we chose were an invitation to the aesthetic our brand was aiming to achieve.

The Central Coast is a unique community. Do you feel like growing up surrounded by surf and beach culture inspired your design process?

Mia and Emerson: Growing up so close to the ocean definitely instilled in us the importance of taking care of the world we live in. Not everyone on the Central Coast grows up that way, but the people around us have always cared and done their best to minimise their impact on the environment. In saying that, the Coast as a whole inspired us by not having many slow fashion options. We wanted to create an opportunity for people to buy a new outfit or item without feeling guilty. Being surrounded by nature has been a constant reminder as to why we are doing what we are, and has motivated us daily in that sense.

Nick: I wouldn’t say being surrounded by surf and beach culture primarily inspired our design process, but it was definitely evident. The Central Coast community has been extremely supportive of our brand and has allowed us to grow to where we are today. In the future we could definitely create pieces which are more inspired by coastal culture.

What was it like starting a business as a teenager?

Mia and Emerson: Starting LÉMIM in our late-teens meant we were at uni and still living with our parents, so we didn't have the same consequences were we to fail as others would who start later in life. It can be extremely hard to start a business in your late-teens and early-twenties as you have little-to-no business experience, but in saying that, people do seem more forgiving when things go awry. Starting a business with your best friend has for us, contrary to belief, made all the tough parts easier to get through. I think the pros and cons of starting earlier versus later almost balance out in terms of difficulty, so if you want to do it, you just have to start!

Nick: Starting a business as a teenager was definitely challenging as you’re essentially thrown in the deep end. I found it beneficial in a way as it made me grow as a person through learning how to start and create a business from scratch. The biggest challenge I’d say would have to be finances. As you have minimal funds as a teenager, every bit of money put into the business is a risk.

What advice would you give to other young people who want to dive in and start their own fashion business?

Mia and Emerson: Make sure you’ve found something you’re passionate about. New businesses take up a lot of time and energy so if you don't love it you will burn out! Do lots of research and save as much as you can, reach out to anyone you know in the industry for tips, help, and connections, and just do it!

Nick: Some words of advice I would give is definitely be patient as things may take time and your brand may not gain attention as quickly as you expected. I would also say feel free to take inspiration from other brands and businesses, but be sure to create your own unique style that you enjoy and love. Finally, believe in yourself!

Shop LÉMIM here:

Shops Core Collectives here:

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