I'm Brooke, and this is Le Mon. My business dream turned into a reality that I've been thinking about almost every waking minute since Jan 2020. As we have gotten closer to launch, I've been thinking, 'how do I create the perfect about section to help people understand the brand.' I call myself a bit of a perfectionist, which means I always think there's something I can do to improve and can do better. I'm a bit of an over-thinker too, and I always seek guidance from others to ensure that whatever I'm doing is the absolute best it can be, which is a positive but also a negative part of my personality that has proven to test me daily. I thought of hiring copywriters or getting my production manager or marketing operations team to help explain my story; however, after seeking solutions from others, I realised the only person to explain this story adequately was me. Bear with me; it's a bit of a mouthful!
I started modelling when I was 16 years old, and then it went on to become my career years later after 'deferring' university, a short six weeks to be a receptionist and part-time model. Yep, my mum cried a lot. No one in my family had gone to university and received a degree. My family, who I love with my whole heart, is what I would say is your average Australian, lower to middle income, extremely hard-working family. I didn't go to a great school, and I didn't grow up in the nicest of areas. At times, my parents have struggled financially, like many others, but their solution was always 'hard work.' The minute I turned 14 and 9 months (the legal working age in Australia), I already had a job lined up at McDonald's. I was taught from a young age that my priorities in life should be, 'do good at school, get a degree, land a good job and work hard. My mum was sure I would be the one to study for a degree and become 'successful.'
After appearing on Australia's Next Top Model around 21 years old, I was modelling for small to medium Australian brands, spending a bit of time overseas, and working as a model 5-6 days a week. I did this for around five or so years. While doing this, I worked for some incredible brands, travelled the world and whilst doing so; I grew a social media following, which was a new thing at the time. Although my social media following was growing, my focus was trying to make my way in the modelling industry. I had some big dreams. I was happy and so appreciative of my life, but I was not mentally stimulated. At times, I was very unmotivated; I would stand on set with these incredible brands, and part of me would wish the day would go away and count down the minutes until it was over. I felt guilty that I was living such a great life, travelling the world while working a 'dream job,' yet I still wasn't content.
After modelling 5-6 days a week for so long, sometimes shooting up to 110 styles a day from fast fashion companies, I could look at a piece of clothing on a hanger and know how it would fit and look on the body. I almost lost appreciation for clothes because I knew they were manipulated to look their best, and I knew what we saw on websites was not a true reflection of how the garment looked in real life. The garment was clipped to no end, edited, and positioned on my body shape to sell the crap out of it. I would go into a shop and not even need to try the garments on because I could already tell if I would like it or not. Eventually, I lost appreciation for clothes in general because what I saw daily was mass-produced and, most often, terrible quality.
As the industry changed and the rise of social media began, I was modelling and endorsing products and brands. I have always known I wanted to start my own business and it being in fashion made complete sense. I knew creating swimwear and clothing was what I wanted to do, so I sat down and sketched my first bikini designs in 2016 (which were horrific, by the way). It was a mix of swimsuits and clothing, and I even wrote down the names of models I wanted to use in my photoshoots. I thought, okay, cool, DONE. Let's launch the business. How naive I was, haha! I had no idea about business, and I had no idea about business and knew nothing about starting a fashion brand. I had no idea where to start, and to be quite honest, it has taken me all these years to work up the courage to figure it out.
After many failed attempts in early 2020, I decided to go for it. Almost immediately, all those past feelings I had about not being satisfied with my work were gone. Instead of counting down the hours, my days started flying by. My passion for business and learning was so evident; the only hurdle I kept facing daily, and do keep facing daily, is the little person in my head who wants me to fail.' They would say, 'what if no one likes the brand,' 'what if you fail. It's something I've laid awake at night thinking about, and I can't tell you how many times I wanted to give up because I was scared. When those thoughts would come by, I would ask myself, 'Why?' Why are you doing this? Why is it so important to you? Why LE MON? Without sounding cliché, finding out my 'why' felt like I was finding my purpose, and I knew that's what the business needed to succeed.
I had no idea about production, fabrics, or anything about business in general, but I knew a lot about photoshoots. The first thing I did was write down the women I wanted to use for my campaign. I knew straight away that I wanted diversity to be part of the brand's personality. My whole career, with all those big dreams, I was told over and over again, "no,", "you're not skinny enough," "no your hips are too big," "go home and workout more and come back", "you're great, but your thighs are too big." The sad part, though, was that I was the 'sample size.' If I heard this from agents, what were other women in the industry hearing? It was so clear that if I were starting a business, I would never make any woman feel the same way I felt. I would never let a model arrive at a casting or a shoot and leave feeling unworthy or not good enough. It was important to me to have women of all different body shapes and sizes fronting my campaigns. I would make it clear that as a brand, we are here to encourage and celebrate all women. I knew with high-quality luxury garments and this kind of vocal brand messaging, we could, in turn, help ALL women feel confident, sexy, and celebrated. This was when I realised this was my purpose. This is when I fell in love and found an appreciation for fashion all over again. I knew that starting a high-quality brand with a heartbeat and personality, which could also help women feel empowered and celebrated, would make me feel 'successful,'
If I had known how challenging the process would be, I don't think I would have started. I've gone to give in up upwards of 10 times. I've hit so many hurdles and have had no idea how to cross them. I've had so many questions and no solutions in sight. Who knew you needed different factories for different garments? Who knew it would be so difficult to find Australian factories? There are just so many steps to tick before receiving the final product. To say I had no idea what I was in for would be a complete understatement.
Researching fabrics and accessories, finding factories, getting samples, finding suppliers and coordinating with them took up every inch of my time. Whilst trying to manage my modelling and social jobs to fund the business, I decided to hire a designer and production manager to come on board because there was no way I could do it all myself. I didn't have the skillset, and I didn't know the ropes, and frankly, I had spent upwards of 6 months going around in circles, spending thousands of dollars and getting nowhere.
If I didn't have some great people around me, I would have given up, but I am so glad I didn't. As the brand has developed, so have our values. The LE MON brand stands for many things, but our values include inclusivity and responsibility. I've realised that those words can mean different things to different people, so I wanted to explain what they mean to me and what they mean to Le Mon. Inclusivity is being open-minded, considerate of others and always thinking of your impact; it's trying your best to make everyone feel powerful and celebrated no matter what. Responsibility is thinking deeply about how your actions as a business impact others and the world around us. It's about taking the extra step to research the factories and spending a little more to use natural fabrics; it's about making better choices overall that help reduce our impact.
With responsibility in mind, it's a slippery slope. You can't preach sustainability and say you're a 'sustainable' business without being perfectly sustainable, and being completely sustainable does not exist. My thoughts were, how do I communicate our brand values without people thinking we are greenwashing? It's terrifying. Once you start looking, reading, and researching how to be responsible, you can't stop because there is no end. It was scary to incorporate this messaging into my business because, as an over-thinker, I know people will pick apart what we're doing. They will find something negative to talk about. The more I understood I was overthinking and focusing too much on the little person in my head who wanted me to fail, the more I focused on the good we ARE doing, not what we aren't. I realised as a small business; we are already doing a lot more than some others. We are transparent about our practices and always considerate and open to suggestions on how we can improve. We will always be honest with you, and that is ingrained in my personality. Overall I just wanted to be an honest business, but I didn't want to act like we were perfect because the truth is, no one is.
Currently, we only use recycled and or biodegradable packaging. These are our boxes, thank you cards, envelopes, mailers, and more. Our hang tape, care label, swing tags, rope, and the like are all made from recycled or biodegradable materials. For clothing, we chose to work with kinder fabrics like Tencel, linen, 100% cotton, silk, cupro and recycled poly. We have several fabric suppliers that we work with and incorporate deadstock and made-to-order fabrics as much as possible. Our accessories and trims are not made from plastics where possible. The exceptions here are boning and other trims that are necessary for the garment to function. Instead, we use natural stone, coconut and other plant-based natural alternatives. We currently work very closely with three Australian, family-run factories. The aim is to always work with Australian made factories; however, we have partnered with one international factory to create our fully-fashioned knits due to not being able to source an Australian factory that produces technical knit. Every factory we work with is ethical; they pay their workers a fair wage and treat them with respect. We do our due diligence by asking for reports from all international partner factories and ensuring they can provide proof of their wages and working conditions.
Although we are not perfect, as a brand-new small business, we are doing our absolute best, and we are so proud of our achievements so far. As I've mentioned, it's ingrained in my personality, to be honest. I will ensure the business adopts these same personal values of mine and guarantee we will never be deceitful. We will always be clear and transparent about many aspects of the company and always have communication open to how you think we can improve. On both a personal and business level, we are learning every day, and we will only get better at navigating our learnings as time goes on. Every collection we develop we will improve from the last.
Le Mon is more than just a brand to me, it is an extension, and an expression of personal values that I hope can be shared and experienced by you all when you wear your LE MON pieces.
If you got this far, thank you, and you deserve a glass of wine or a block of choccy!
Lots of love,