Lolita Zurita Hannud is a businesswoman and designer from São Paulo. She is only 28 years old and is in charge of a company named after her, Lolitta (with double T, following numerology vibrations). Her brand gained prominence among the new generation of Brazilian fashion. If her image is delicate and womanly just like Vladimir Nabokov’s muse in the homonymous romance published in 1955, inside Lolita is a hurricane. Fearless, ambitious, focused and charismatic, she surprises those who do not know her when she starts talking. She knows what she wants and she can talk for hours about her business and her vision of fashion. In a long chat, we talked about her creative process and the secrets for running a business successfully and knowing how to grow in the right time.
When did you start working with fashion?
I started early. My mother had a knit company that supplied for large fashion brands in Brazil and that was my universe. I used to follow the daily routine of the business and when I was 12, I began creating small cases with the leftover scraps to sell at my school to my friends. It was also at that time that I began traveling with my mother to do research and I ended up giving my opinion, without knowing much about what you could and could not do with knit. It did not take long until I started developing my own collections, which I earned a 1% commission on the sales back then. The brand was focused on the teen market. We used to have a Lolitta Tricot Teen catalogue, photographed with my friends as the models. It really worked out. I followed accumulating my buck. I had my rebel moment and I ended up running away from fashion to business school.
Even with all that experience, didn’t you feel like jumping right into fashion?
I wanted to be an entrepreneur, to work at a big and important company. My father was against it and he made me go to fashion school along with business school, so I had to stop working during that time in college. I mean, not really. I used to take the pieces in my mother’s factory when they were ready, transformed them and gave a little personal touch. I created a whole closet filled with knit and super exclusive pieces that I used to do only to myself. Soon, I began receiving orders. So many orders that my pieces ended up catching the eyes of the founder of Daslu, Eliana Tranchesi. Eliana, who already was my mother’s client, called me. She wanted to see the clothes that I designed so I sent her everything that I had produced. Afterwards, she called me and ordered a full collection! And I had to deliver everything in only four months! At that time, Daslu was opening the Villa Daslu, where there was a whole floor dedicated only to national brands. Very visionary. Something like that did not exist in São Paulo back then. It was a reunion of nice brands. Bo.Bô, for example started there before it was sold to a larger group. Also Paula Raia, Cris Barros and other designers, who did not have a store back then. I did not have a logo or anything, but I created a collection. Within a year, my new brand was selling for 100 multi brand shops in Brazil and we started exporting with ABEST. At the first international tradeshow that we participated, we sold for ten countries. I had never worked elsewhere before.
Maybe the business school helped…
I started my company. I was accumulating working capital and soon I opened my first temporary store at rua Augusta. It definitely worked out. With my own money, I opened my first store at Jardins at rua Peixoto Gomide. I renovated the store with a friend and no architect. The store was doing well and, in a year, JK Iguatemi invited me to open a store there. At that moment, I realized that in order to grow, I would need more people. I was using my mother’s factory with all its capacity and that was an important moment for my brand. I became my mother’s partner and we invested in the store at the JK mall. The last step was to open a store at Iguatemi in São Paulo, only two years later.
How would you describe your creative process?
It is crazy because until not so long ago it was only me and an assistant. With the growth and definition of the company, I hired an HR consulting firm to help me creating procedures. Today, we have a pilotage area with three pattern makers and the assistant became a style assistant. I have a flat fabrics designer, with one assistant and so on. It is a complete fashion team. We do experiences as if we were in a lab. When I joined SPFW I started to think about collection themes. Before that, I used to create based on what I wanted to wear. Today, I begin from a concept that originates a commercial collection. I usually begin the research at a trip. At my first SPFW, Mexico was the theme. We used all Mexican colors and the inspiration came from the local crafts, which we passed the techniques to knit. I also did a collection inspired by Egypt, which involved a deep research of those times and Cleopatra’s sensuality. I even talked with a historian to find out more, but the inspiration does not necessarily have to be a country or a culture. For the winter 2015 collection, what inspired me was an armour museum that I visited in Praga in a trip with my family. The surreal transformation of a fully hard metal piece into something with style and movement. The knit does not flow like fabric, as well as metal. The details need a study. For the 2016 summer collection I did not use a theme. I worked with colors. The idea was to bring spots of light through colors but without looking like a carnival.
The impression that I have is that the Lolitta woman is very sexy, am I right?
Yes (laughs), but today she is much more mature. I do not do tight and short anymore. If a dress is tight, its length is midi and closed on the top. If it is évasé/flared, it is more closed/tight in the knees. It is more elegant and less sexy. It is a woman that, undoubtedly, values any part of her body. My clients were just like me: young, joyful and wanting something fun to wear. As time passed by, I started to work with different materials such as crepe and leather and matured the product offer. Recently, we did a research that really impressed me. I found out that, among bloggers and celebrities, I am the image who sells my brand the most. I had no idea! Another fact that impressed me was to find out that my client today is between 35 and 45. She is an independent woman, who works and has her own money. She is tuned and values a lot her feminine side. My brand’s femininity is very strong.
It seems like your clothes have something kind of anatomic. That holds and lifts everything…
They do! It is a group of factors. Since the yarns, the pattern, the finish. Everything is thought. Up to two collections behind, I was the test model and wore every piece until we reached the perfect pattern. Today, I have a test model because I don’t have time to do everything anymore. But I am still pretty annoying about the details and I never manage to fulfill my level of demand.
But the path is the process is, isn’t it?
I have always walked one step at a time. I would not open my stores at shopping centers without knowing how I would pay my bills. The Jardins store was like a test and everything happened in a rhythm that today it looks like it was automatic. Everything in the right time.
About SPFW, why did it begin and how did it change your work?
I am already in the sixth season. Daniela Falcão, editor-in-chief of Brazilian Vogue, called me in a moment when she was restructuring SPFW together with Paulo Borges. My product was very commercial. Since knit is very expensive and my threads are imported, I used to limit my production so I could really save in the price. At SPFW, I allowed myself to do whatever I wanted, to work on a dream. We created dressed with porcelain buttons, jacquards that we redid 700 times for it to be flawless. The pieces have to be gorgeous inside out. Fashion Week provoked me to go beyond the store. It was a great change to the brand. We attracted new clients and called the attention of important people like the Italian jet setter Bianca Brandolini that looked for me, became a client after the show and until today is loyal to the brand.
Do you have fixed collections, besides the season’s collections?
Yes. It is not every day that you want to go out wearing something structured and elaborated. I expanded the collection in three lines. The first one I call
Special Edition. It is made out of pieces that take a long time to do and I can not put on sale in five months. They are never out of the line and they are never on sale. It is haute couture in knit. The second line is Lolitta, with the season’s pieces that we show in the SPFW and its variations. The third, NUD, is more casual and basic, with loose knitwear to wear on the weekends.
And how did you realize you would have enough public to expand and vary?
I knew my clients, so I felt that there were women than if only they had a Lolitta white t-shirt to wear in the morning they would buy it! My clothing was more evening wear, but I expanded with the same DNA, I developed pieces that are more casual.
What is your biggest dream? To win the world?
As I have already gone international, I know that it is not that simple. The margin of profit is very limited and, if you are not at the right spot, it is not worth it. There is a very high requirement standard to export and it does not pay very well. It is very complicated to go international. I used to sell well at the Middle East but not anymore due to the crisis they went through a few years ago. So I decided to focus on our national market. After the runway shows at SPFW, the international buyers are coming to the brand and this is much better. They come in our timing. Moda Operandi looked for my brand and we did a trunk show together. It was a selection of runway pieces that they chose. They do the pre-sale for a limited time, afterwards I produce and deliver it in to six months, only what they sold. Another example is the Revolve e-commerce, that sells well my brand. Both looked for us in Brazil. Now, I am thinking of going international again with a different strategy. But my real dream? A corner at Barney’s NY or a store in New York. To have a store anywhere that inspires me. That would be awesome.