Co-Founder and Designer of Lilly Sarti.
THE INSPIRATION TALK
HEY LILLY, TUDO BOM? SO TELL ME... DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A FASHION DESIGNER?
No I didn't, that’s for sure. But from a very young age I would accompany my mother on shopping sprees and get educated about the nicest fabrics; back then I already knew how to recognize a very good quality of wool or silk. When I was about 16 years old I wanted to do something related to art, maybe via marketing or design, but I still wasn’t thinking about becoming a fashion designer at that point.
SO HOW DID THAT EVOLVE?
I wanted to discover more about fashion but my mother said “no”, so I went to study international relations. In the meantime, I started stitching some clothes for myself and soon my friends ordered me some. It was the beginning of a little business. And within just one year I had a little corner at Daslu (editors note: used to be a multi brand shop considered the temple of luxury in Brazil) with a brand baring my own name. It really started like that, very organically. This was 11 years ago.
ISN'T IT A BIT SCHIZOPHRENIC TO SAY YOU ARE DRESSED IN “LILLY SARTI”? DO YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE REAL "LILLY SARTI" AND THE BRAND?
To me there is no difference. You and I have been hanging a few times together at the office, at restaurants, at home and you could see for yourself… It is always the same "Lilly" everywhere. When I am designing or when I am having drinks with friends. There is only one "Lilly".
HOW IS IT TO BE WORKING WITH YOUR SISTER WITH WHOM YOU FOUNDED THE BRAND? DO YOU THINK IT HELPS TO KEEP YOU DOWN TO EARTH?
You know I think it is a very 90s mood to act like a diva, but of course working with my sister is helpful. Renata has changed a lot though; five years ago she was wild and used to go out every night and I was here trying to handle it the best I could (laughs). Since then she has been amazing; she is the one who tells me about numbers and how I could improve them. She takes care of all the administrative and financial part and she is so good at it! We have been working together since the first year of existence of Lilly Sarti. It is our first job for both of us, so what is great is that we are learning together. Everyday we learn something different about how to be leaders and we have been doing that for 11 years, together.
BEING THE BOSS OF YOUR COMPANY ALSO MEANS HAVING TO HANDLE MANAGEMENT AND OTHER BUSINESS ORIENTED TASKS. DO YOU SOMETIMES FEEL IT TAKES YOUR FOCUS AWAY FROM THE DESIGNING/CREATIVE PART OF YOUR JOB, WHICH IS THE ESSENCE OF YOUR BRAND?
To be creative is not a 24/7 thing. You are a creative person too, you know what I am talking about. Sometimes you feel more creative than at other moments. Actually because I have some moments where I have to take care of non-creative tasks, whenever I do come back to creative ones I feel I can really enjoy them fully. It’s quite similar to being on a diet and finally being able to enjoy a big ice cream; when you are allowed to do it, you give your best for it and really focus (laughs). Also I think in Brazil there are quite a few people, and I won't give names, who created eponymous brands in the 90s but didn't care so much about what was going on in their company. They ended up losing everything: the money, the brand, the clients. Everything! To me it is a pleasure to be able to also think strategically and handle non-creative tasks in my company.
CAN YOU TELL US WHAT A DAY IN YOUR LIFE LOOKS LIKE?
I wake up at 6.30am and I drink an american coffee. Twice a week I go to the gym. Then I come back, take a shower, get dressed and go straight to the office. I can't remember the day I arrived at the office after 9am. My everyday is filled with meetings, designing moments (depending on the day I focus on that part for 3 or 4 hours), I go out for lunch and come back to work again until 8.30 / 9pm. Sometimes I head straight to Gero, around the corner, to have dinner but I usually don't go out during the week.
AND THEN ON THE WEEKENDS YOU UNLEASH THE DOGS?
HOW MANY PEOPLE WORK FOR YOU?
DO YOU THINK SHOWING YOUR TEAM HOW COMMITTED AND HARD-WORKING OF A BOSS YOUR ARE, COMING IN THE OFFICE EARLY AND LEAVING LATE, IS IMPORTANT TO GET A SUCCESSFUL COMPANY AND MOTIVATING YOUR TEAM OR IS IT SOMETHING YOU DO BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE A CHOICE?
Of course I have a choice, I could leave the office at 3pm if I wanted to. Three years ago I started to think “how does it feel to be in someone else's shoes?”; like if I was this girl who works with me, what would I think if my boss arrived at the office at noon and left after lunch? Is this “Lilly” really with us or is it just her image? Can I really count on her as a person? I think that is the point. It is like a mother forbidding her children to do drugs when she is doing it herself. How can you ask for people to be different if you are not applying the same rules to yourself? It doesn't make sense. And also I would say that it is important to know what is going on inside of your company. I know everything in my company (laughs). Well I don't know if I know everything but I would say I know 90% of what is going on there because I want to know about it. I want to know the people I am working with, I want to know what their difficulties are in order to help solving them.
I THINK THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT SOME COMPANIES LACK: A GOOD MANAGER. HIS ROLE IS TO UNDERSTAND THE WORK HE IS ASKING FOR, THE PEOPLE HE IS ASKING TO DO IT FROM, AND ALSO CARE ABOUT THEM. AND I GUESS IT IS A VIRTUOUS CIRCLE: WHEN EMPLOYEES FEEL YOU CARE FOR THEM, THEY WILL GIVE THEIR BEST TO YOU. I THINK IT IS QUITE AMAZING THAT YOU HAVE BECOME THIS KIND OF MANAGER WHEN YOU NEVER HAD THE EXAMPLE SINCE IT IS YOUR FIRST JOB.
I read a lot about that actually and again that exercise of putting yourself in another person's shoes is really helping to understanding it a lot. And this actually works for everything in life: work or personal relationships. But as I was telling you, it is only recently that I started thinking like that. Nine years ago I was the kind of person who would tell you that it was your job to solve the problem and I was not really concerned about it. I think the beauty of a human being is to be able to learn everyday and be transformed about this knowledge.
WHAT WILL STILL MAKE YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO IN 10 YEARS?
To be grateful as a person or as a leader of this company for everything I have: my family, my life, people who work with me… When you are grateful you have more love, not the tacky love but the love you feel deep inside which acts as a recharge, you know? When you wake up and go to work (and I know everyday will be another problem to solve), if you have the love inside that makes you feel grateful about your life, you will live the best day of your life. And then you repeat it every single day. So when you live your life that way and give your best, it comes back to you. What goes around comes around. It is energy, pure energy.
WHAT IS THE MOST SATISFYING THING ABOUT BEING A GIRL BOSS? ESPECIALLY IN BRAZIL WHERE I FEEL IT IS STILL A VERY SEXIST SOCIETY.
You know what’s funny is that in the past I used to think that screaming, shouting and being loud was a way to be better than men, until I discovered a few years ago that talking with a delicate voice and most importantly knowing what you're talking about is more powerful. And men, usually don't know how to handle it (laughs). As women we have a sixth sense, we live with that feeling everyday. Men, not all of them because I know some sensitive guys but maybe 80% of them, don't know how to listen to this sensitive side at all. Me, in my position at the office, I use it a lot. The men I work with are bankers or directors of big fabric companies, you have to feel respected with them. But I actually never really had a lot of time to think about it since I started so young. It just grew with me.
WHAT IS THE LEAST GLAMOROUS SIDE OF YOUR JOB?
When you own your company everybody wants to be in your chair but no one wants the responsibilities that come along. People often think that organizing a fashion show is about getting the recognition and the applause. They have no idea how much we work before the show, and I'm not talking only about designing and producing the clothes part. I know you can understand but most of people don't. I remember last season, my PR called me on the Saturday following my two fashion shows to tell me that a magazine wanted to do a piece on me and my home on the Monday morning. I told her that I didn't want to do it because I was exhausted and this meant working on the preparation over the week-end and taking away quality time with my friends and family after such hectic last few weeks. Of course for the brand it would have been good but what is the price to pay for that?
WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE DO YOU WISH TO PASS THROUGH YOUR BRAND?
I want for women to be feeling good and comfortable about themselves. When you come to our store, you can see pantacourts, mini skirts, midi skirts, lots of different things because during your day or your week you may want to dress differently according to your priorities. It is not because last Saturday I went to a party dressed with a miniskirt and black blouse that this style defines me for every day. I want for women to feel our brand can accompany them in different occasions. The message is “be comfortable with yourself and love yourself”. If you don't want to wear the midi skirt, don't wear it. A lot of brands just tell you “this is what I believe in and if you don't like the midi skirt it is your problem because that is what I am going to sell in my shop”. Why aren't these brands more respectful of the public? I don't want to impose. And you know I think it is also because my sister Renata has such a different style that I am thinking this way and offering more options. If I didn't have her by my side, I wouldn't understand that the public has different wishes when it comes to Lilly Sarti. Renata sometimes suggests adding different pieces to the collection, pieces that look more like her style, and I make them. And also when it comes to creating advertising campaigns I always try to show more than one silhouette. Same thing during my fashion shows: I keep the same general mood but I show multiple kinds of girls. They are not the same, and this speaks to more of my customers.