“There is No Force Equal to That of a Determined Woman” – Lorna Jane Clarkson on 35 Years in Business & How She Coined the Term ‘Activewear’ (Seriously!)

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It’s no real wonder why we all have a favourite activewear brand. We pull on our clothing to work out like armour – it’s there to support us when we’re at our most vulnerable (well, it was true for me when I recently had to do yoga for the first time in a group situation with influencers that had impossibly round and toned ‘lil rigs). It’s also our go-to for days where all we want is comfort – but that’s not to say we don’t want to look chic and confident too (you never know who you’ll bump into at the supermarket… yes you do. It’s always an ex.).

Lorna Jane Clarkson – the Aussie founder of, you guessed it, Lorna Jane, actually COINED the term activewear (all of Ponsonby Road thanks her, I’m sure). This year marks their 35th birthday which is extraordinary – Lorna actually started making activewear for her aerobics clients from her living room and is an author and highly regarded wellness guru, the most awarded activewear designer on the planet, and remains in the business as Creative Director helping Lorna Jane become an international brand with a cult following.

Capsule was lucky enough to chat to Lorna about business, inspiration, her best piece of advice and the WORST trend she’s seen in her 35 years, and what she’s wearing right now.

Kia ora, Lorna! 35 years in business is a phenomenal achievement, congratulations – I saw you described as an “accidental entrepreneur” in an interview, do you think that’s accurate? 

It’s accurate in that it was never my intention to build a brand and create a new category in Women’s Fashion – I was just designing things that I wanted to wear. I was a fitness instructor at the time, and it was only when the women in my classes asked me (or should I say ‘begged me’) to make the same pieces for them that Lorna Jane began. 

You’ve been credited with coming up with the term ‘activewear’ – a term that dictates many Kiwi women’s wardrobes! Why do you think your philosophy has endured and become as inherent and defining as it has? 

Because I think it’s what women want to wear! We want clothing that ‘fits’ with our modern lifestyle, pieces that allow us to move more effortlessly across all the many things we have to do in our day. I honestly believe that wearing activewear changes how we live our lives and women wanted that change, so we embraced it.

For a lot of us, activewear isn’t just about pulling on gym clothes, it’s clothing we wear in our everyday lives that help us encourage movement, whatever we’re doing. What kind of women are you thinking about when you’re designing activewear?

Our design philosophy at Lorna Jane is simple – we design for women that want to be active. We want our clothing to be those favourite pieces you want to wear every day. Fashionable pieces that are comfortable enough to wear all day, but also supportive enough for your workouts.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your 35 years of business?

That there is no limit to what you can achieve when you set your mind to it.

What does a typical day look like for you? 

As you can imagine there is no such thing as a typical day when it comes to running a business but here is a rough guideline:
5am Morning workout
6am Walk
7am Breakfast and get ready for work
8am Head into the office
8.30am-5pm Every day is different at work (which I love) but it can be anything from Designing with my team, Fittings, Marketing Meetings, Photo shoots, Strategy Meetings, Production Meetings …..
5.30 Walk
6.30 Dinner 
7.30-9pm Watch a movie, do some yoga or stretches, plan for the day ahead
9pm In bed

What trend have you loved the most over the last 35 years – and which one do you think can firmly stay in the archive? 

Best Trend: Black Leggings … they are a wardrobe staple and definitely here to stay!
Worst Trend: Fluro Anything!!!

What pieces are you pulling on right now for an average, busy day of work and play?

It’s just starting to get cold here in Australia so I’m loving our Tracksuits and of course our Thermal Leggings which are always my go-to’s when the weather starts to cool down. For work I’m loving the new Monogram collection (I’m actually wearing the Monogram Cargo’s and Monogram vest right now!!). This season we’ve also done a really cute Sherpa Vest and Teddy Pullover that are fast becoming my weekend staple worn with any of our flares or leggings.

If you could give the average Kiwi woman one piece of advice, what would it be?

My advice to women would be to not put a limit on what you can achieve. I could never have imagined the life I have created for myself 35 years ago. But I got here by stepping out of my comfort zone time and time again, making the best decisions I could at the time, working really hard and never, never giving up on myself or my dream.

Did I get it right all of the time? Absolutely not! But every time I made a mistake (and I’ve made a few) I took a lesson from it and kept moving forward. I wholeheartedly believe that there is no force equal to that of a determined women – and I’m living proof of it!

And if you could give those running (or dreaming of running!) businesses a piece of advice, what would it be?

If you’re thinking of starting a business, my advice would be to start now! Even if you start small there is no better time to start than NOW – Get out there and get a feel for the market so you can learn, grow and adjust along the way. If you’re already running a business my advice would be to ‘keep the faith’. It’s tough out there in business right now so it’s the time to know your business well, adjust to the market and stay relevant to what your customers want from you.

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