Lara Mead, the woman behind activewear brand Varley, talks to Drapers about performance design, LA inspirations and her love of Korean barbecue.
Lara mead co founder of varley activewear
Inspired by California cool and London chic, Lara Mead co-founded the activewear brand Varley with her husband Ben in 2015. Just over a year later and the brand is stocked in more than 300 retailers internationally, including Asos and Selfridges, and has reported combined revenues in excess of £5m. She talks to Drapers about balancing her new life in Los Angeles (after moving from London) with her young family and passion for being active.
What made you decide to launch your own brand?
My husband Ben and I started Varley together. We wanted to create a contemporary performance brand for the active modern women, and Varley was born on one of our many trips to California.
What was your background before you launched Varley?
I was working as a talent manager, representing some of the UK’s best TV presenters.
How do you describe the brand?
Varley is an active brand that takes a performance-first approach to fashion-forward designs. We make good-looking and functional options for the modern woman.
What’s your favourite way to exercise?
I have several favourites, and mix and match them throughout the week. I love running along Santa Monica Boardwalk first thing in the morning – I love to switch off and watch the world go by as I’m running along. I also love boxing, as it gets all my stress and aggression out before going home. When I’m in London, I work out at the Bulgari Hotel. The gym is set within the most luxurious spa I have ever been to, with the largest indoor swimming pool in London (so I have been told).
What’s your favourite item in the collection?
I wear the Walnut tights all the time. They’re the best tights I have ever worn for high intensity workouts, and seriously flattering. I’m also loving our Surf collection, which is about to launch.
What inspires your design process?
I am inspired by so many different things, but mostly the Los Angeles lifestyle. The more immersed I become in the culture here the more I am able to fully understand it all and translate it into our designs.
Why do you think activewear is so popular at the moment?
I think being active and healthy in general is just more important than ever. Consumers are becoming smarter and more conscious of their purchases. They want to own quality pieces that have a dual purpose.
What do you love most about your job?
Working with my husband. Creating something with your best friend and sharing the same journey is very special.
Who do you admire most in the fashion industry?
One call out would be our sales agent Nicole Oldenwald, founder of the showroom Nicasa. I have never met such a hard-working person, and her sheer determination is frightening. I wish I had a fraction of her dogged spirit.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
Since moving to LA I’m learning to surf. So Saturday morning is a two-hour surf lesson, followed by lunch in Venice Beach. My husband and I love the Kogi Korean barbecue truck. Saturday nights are either date nights or a time to have friends over. I love to cook big healthy meals for all our friends – washed down with a couple of tequilas. Sunday mornings are for family workouts. We head out to the Santa Monica steps and Ben and I take it in turns to watch my son, while the other tackles the stairs. Sunday is generally a time to relax and re-gather before the week begins again on Monday.
What’s the best business advice you were ever given?
My father in law, Peter Mead [founder of advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers], wrote a book called When In Doubt Be Nice. This is basically a handbook I live by. I’m constantly reminding myself of it.
Tell us something about you not many people know
I find being a working mum the hardest thing I have ever done, and although to many I might make it look easy, it’s a constant juggling act.
Favourite clothing brand?
Zoe Jordan – I have every single one of her sweaters.
Favourite places to shop?
Selfridges Body Studio. It has everything a women could ever want/need on one floor. Online, I love Avenue 32 as it has a fabulous edit.
Last fashion purchase?
A Gucci belt from Vestiaire Collective. I can’t wait for it to arrive.
Couple of nights in Deia, Mallorca, baby-free.
Last book you read?
The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington.
Last film you watched?
Bridget Jones’s Baby.
Assistant Talent Manager, James Grant Group.
Being a mum – which is also my other job!