20th December 2017
Jiyun Lapthorn established her womenswear company Fronté in 2016 after graduating her M.A. with distinction from London College of Fashion. Her first collection was shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum to an all-star crowd including Grayson Perry, Zandra Rhodes and Harold Tillman. She has since worked with Vivienne Westwood, Ossie Clark London and Caroline Seikaly in Paris.
Through Fronté, Jiyun aims to create clothes that are well-designed and useful tools for life. Beyond the comfort and functionality, Jiyun makes truly transformable pieces that are effortlessly elegant and adapt throughout the day.
Jiyun previously worked as a freelance designer before establishing her own label. She sold designs to various clients including Valentino, DKNY at exhibitions such as Premiere Vision, Como and Direction.
What was the main motivation behind your application to the LCN programme?
I started Fronté a year and a half ago when I had a three year old boy and I made clothes whenever I had time. I found that I didn’t have any practical clothes suitable for my new life as a mum and designer. Life was busy. I wanted to simplify my wardrobe with just a few pieces of elegant and utilitarian clothing that I felt comfortable wearing, but also quietly stood out from the crowd with a kind of timeless beauty.
My initial designs sold out very quickly and my business grew from these early stages nicely. However I was working alone and with no advice or input from experts I was struggling to take my business to the next level.
Cockpit Arts are well known for helping makers grow their businesses. I took a chance to apply for the LCN programme which offers a mix of workshops and one-to-one support for makers to gain confidence and skills. The support from the Business Incubation team as well as the networking opportunities with the community of makers taking part in LCN has been brilliant.
What is the most useful advice or tips you’ve been given on the programme so far?
Planning! Writing down my goals and plans on paper with a clear time schedule has really helping me plan the way I work. David Crump, my mentor, showed me how satisfying it is to be organised. Planning in this way has really helped me to prioritise and make time for the things that matter for my business to grow.
After attending the LCN workshops I feel less overwhelmed about speaking out for Fronté and developing marketing material that really describes my brand and values. I feel confident explaining my work to clients face to face but struggle to translate this through my website and through social media. The workshops are really helping me to finding my own voice for Fronté as well as developing a strategy for my social media and web communications.
What new product, service, business system or projects are you introducing to your practice and why?
At the moment, I am designing a reversible winter coat which will be shown for the first time at the Design Museum Market in December 2017. As a small business and slow fashion advocate I am not following the traditional six-month fashion cycle and have been introducing new designs slowly so I’m excited to launch my first winter piece.
I am also exploring the possibility of developing a menswear range. My designs and aesthetic appeal to men and I am often approached my male customers enquiring about my designs. I may consider Crowdfunding for Fronté menswear in the near future as my business grows.
In the meantime I am also hoping to improve the way I show my products on my website, I will be adding instruction videos demonstrating the transformation and flexibility of my garments and starting a photo journal about real customers wearing Fronté in their own work spaces.
What plans do you have after participating with LCN?
In January 2018 I am looking forward to taking up a studio at Cockpit Arts in Deptford. Being part of LCN really showed me the benefits of being part of the community at Cockpit and the benefits of working with the Business Incubation team onsite. Being part of this community will be great for me and my business. I am looking to collaborate with other makers and explore how working with them can develop my own designs. I am already working with a jeweller to include a jewellery range for Fronté. I would like to explore making a range of complementary products in a matching aesthetic through collaborations.