Founder of cult activewear label Lucas Hugh Anjhe Mules, talks to Drapers about blending performance and fashion, working on The Hunger Games, and building her business.
Anjhe mules lucas hugh high res
New Zealand-born designer Anjhe Mules has a passion for activewear. Her high-performance, high-fashion activewear brand, Lucas Hugh blends technical fabrics and construction with Mules’ background as a designer, which included stints with Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen. Now living in London, Mules spoke to Drapers from her west London studio about her drive to build the brand, her career highs and her exciting plans for the future of the brand.
What’s your background? How did you get involved in fashion?
I’m originally from New Zealand and I studied fashion design there. I set up a business designing swimwear when I graduated at age 23, and that was a huge success. But the market was so small that I realised this wasn’t going to be a lifetime career – so I moved to New York with the mission that I wanted to work for Marc Jacobs. I actually ran into him on the street and asked him for a job, which I got. It was hard to turn that into anything solid because I couldn’t secure a work visa, so I came to the UK, because my grandfather was British and my sister was living here. I knew that it was the centre of the fashion world, so I came with a heavy portfolio and really high ambitions of getting a lot of design work when I was here. I got an internship with Alexander McQueen not long after I arrived, which was amazing.
How did Lucas Hugh come about?
I was always on a mission to set up my own brand. Coming from New Zealand, I’m naturally very into fitness. I ended up working to save up and build the business. I was alternating working for two weeks on a private jet in Moscow and then I was doing two weeks interning for McQueen in London.
How would you describe the ethos of the brand?
The Lucas Hugh woman is ambitious. Wellness is part of life and so is fashion. We take fitness and performance very seriously.
Where does the name Lucas Hugh originate?
It’s my two grandfathers – my New Zealand grandfather and my British grandfather.
How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired?
I think exercise is a good help for that. We also set a lot of goals and stay looking ahead at future innovations and that’s really exciting for the whole team.
What are some of the day-to-day challenges you face in the business?
I feel like we’ve faced every challenge I could imagine. At the moment we’re growing quite rapidly, so the biggest challenge has been finding high-quality staff. We’ve managed to double our team in the last six months, and we now have a team of 15 working here.
You’ve lived in New Zealand and New York, and now you live in London – what drew you to London?
When I arrived here it was so challenging. It was so difficult getting paid work in the fashion industry. I think when you get a little breakthrough, it’s incredibly satisfying because you’ve worked so hard to get there. Then when you can enjoy London for what it is creatively. It’s an amazing city.
What’s been the highlight with the brand so far?
When we launched in 2010 we had a princess – I can’t say who – buy one of every piece in our collection. Net-a-Porter was our first stockist, and when that happened I felt like we’d made it. Dressing The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was also amazing.
How did that come about?
The head of wardrobe googled “futuristic sportswear” and found us! I went on to design all the training outfits for the men and women in the film. It was very different from how we work on a normal collection and working on menswear was really exciting. I loved the film because it also ties in with our futuristic theme – that’s a real thread through all of our collections.
We’re planning to open a store next year. We’re doing location research at the moment but our plan is to open in May 2018. We’ve developed capsule collections for the launch, and we just have to find the right place.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since you started the business?
Being true to the theme of your business and not being deterred by competition. Valuing your staff and your employees. And managing cashflow – that goes without saying.
Is there anyone in the industry you admire?
Tory Burch. I think it’s amazing what she’s done with her business.
Favourite clothing brand
Valentino and Givenchy when Riccardo Tisci was there. I have a big obsession with shoes and trainers
Favourite places to shop
Avenue 32, Net-a-Porter and Matchesfashion.com
Last fashion purchase
A dress from Avenue 32 by the Australian brand Macgraw
Last book you read
Syd Mead, he’s a futurist
Last film you watched
Wonder Woman – I loved the power and the strength of the women in the film
Picking fruit in my parents’ orchard in New Zealand
It’s always been fashion
How you unwind at the weekend
Chilling out with my family – I have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter so we go to the park a lot. We do a lot of exercise, so I do a lot of classes – that’s one way I forget about work