Lexi Panayi (pictured below left), co-founder of new womenswear label Style Cheat, talks Drapers through her fashion life.
Style Cheat was founded in May this year by sisters Lexi Panayi and Natalie Reynolds with the goal of creating a brand with an “Australian beach vibe and London city attitude”. Born into a family fashion business that supplies some of the high street’s biggest names, the duo have worked in fashion for all their lives.
Style Cheat currently sells via its own website as well as on SilkFred, and is launching on Asos in early October. The brand focuses on feminine, elegant and playful styles with a sophisticated spin thanks to silky fabrications and subtle prints. Prices for the collection as a whole range from £18 for a jersey body to £108 for a sequinned dress. Key products include print midi- and maxi-dresses, which are priced between £30 and £60.
In its first three months of trading, the brand had turnover of £340,000 and is on track to hit £1.2m for its first year.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I’m an early riser. I get up at 5am and go to the gym. I make a tea, check emails and get into the office in Hertfordshire for 7.30am.
What was your first job?
I graduated from the University of Hertfordshire and came to work for the family business, a large fashion supplier to the high street. Throughout university I interned at Ted Baker, Karen Millen and New Look. My father always wanted me to get an insight into the retail side of the industry.
How would you describe the brand in one sentence?
Style Cheat was founded by strong women for strong women. We are an inclusive brand that ensures our range has something to offer women of all ages and walks of life, while keeping our relaxed fresh feel of Australian and LA street style mixed with an edge of London city attitude.
What’s your coffee (or tea) order?
I’m a PG Tips girl. Milk no sugar.
Where are your favourite place to shop?
For fashion, obviously Style Cheat. I’m a bag and shoes girl, so I always find myself popping into Selfridges.
Last fashion purchase?
A classic black Saint Laurent clutch. It will never date.
Emails or phone calls?
Phone calls. I’m a strong believer in this and have always had the mentality of “just pick up the phone”.
Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?
My dad has always taught me that whatever the problem, there is always a solution.
What would be your ideal office/meeting space?
I wouldn’t say no to an open-plan glass office in Los Angeles.
What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
I love working on initial concepts. I’m extremely lucky and get to travel a lot, so I find inspiration from different cities and cultures. I love bringing together prints, colours and silhouettes.
What has been your proudest moment since you launched?
Seeing our digital billboards: that was definitely a “pinch me” moment. We have 25 digital billboards across London, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool.
What’s the last book you read?
Unshakeable: Your Guide to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins. I am also a big podcast listener and listen to a lot of motivational speakers on my way into work.
Lake Como, Italy
Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?
Olivier Rousteing. I think what he has done [as creative director] for Balmain and at such a young age is extraordinary. He has brought the brand into the 21st century by using celebrities and social media.
What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?
I personally think people’s mindset. You hear a lot of criticism about the fashion industry, but I think the industry is changing so much that we need to adapt and not keep referring to the industry it was 10 years ago.
One piece of advice would you give your younger self?
I am only 28, so am still learning a lot. But one lesson I tell myself, even now is to not worry about the things you can’t control and to control the controllable.
Who do you turn to when you need advice?
My father. He has so much experience in the industry, and every day I’m learning from him. He has the best work ethic and has instilled this in me.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
I have a very sociable personal life and love being outdoors, eating out with my fiancé, having coffee with friends or playing outside with my nieces and nephews.
What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?
Bringing on new stockists in different markets, and developing our range into different product categories, such as jewellery and activewear.