The first thing Lisa Gorman said to me was that she doesn’t really have a routine.
‘I don’t want to come across as someone that is really under control and managed in life because half the time, I don’t feel like that.’
Lisa has a way of instantly establishing a certain candour and warmth that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from one of Australia’s most successful fashion designers.
But like her quirky-cool label Gorman, Lisa is different. The brains behind the iconic fashion brand started out as a nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital before deciding to do a retail and visual merchandising traineeship.
What began as just a few pieces sold through her then flatmate’s fledging store FAT52 in 1999, Gorman now has a team of over 150 employees. With stores across the country, Gorman’s signature bright prints and bold accessories are instantly recognisable.
While Lisa admits it’s difficult to develop a consistent routine in the fast-paced world of fashion retail, having two girls in primary school has meant that she has become a master of prioritising.
Working in line with school hours has removed a lot of stress. ‘It was that change in family life that allowed me to find something that has been better for me personally’ she says.
From designing her next range at Gorman HQ in Abbotsford, to visiting the library and swimming pool after school, Lisa shares her ‘non-routine’ routine, some advice for handling burn out, and notes on the importance of trying.
Waking up at the same time each day is probably the only routine part of my day! Before the girls are awake is sometimes the only half an hour or so that my partner Dean and I can catch up. He has a coffee and I have herbal tea, and then we just sit around and talk about whatever before they are up it is all on.
The girls get up for school and I make them breakfast and Dean makes this crazy-healthy smoothie for us. There is a bit of a system going on where someone gets the kids ready, meanwhile the other is making sure the pets are sorted. We have chickens and a rabbit!
For school lunches I often make what we like to call ‘Spankops’ which is short for spanakopita, but is actually nothing like spanakopita. It’s fried kale and feta in lightly fried flat bread and folded into a sandwich type thing.
Dean does the kids drop off, so I try to leave then too, ideally on my bike.
Each day is different depending on the season. One day we might be designing the styles for the Spring ’16 collection, another could be spent on product analysis, another on an upcoming show. Our schedule isn’t strictly ‘routined’ – but good planning allows for all of that to happen.
I generally go into marketing first, and spend a bit of time looking at everything from our collection launches, weekly email to our customers, window plans, new store openings, and so on.
The fashion industry is a very spontaneous industry at times. While we have to design our collection 9-12 months in advance, in retail, short term plans can change really quickly.
I have definitely felt burned out at times, and see it in other designers and retailers, but something that I have learned with my business is if you worry too much about your decisions, you won’t actually get anything done.
The other thing is to always have clear priorities for any given day so that you don’t feel like you have to address everything that comes to you at once.
I generally don’t make my lunch because I will either grab something quick near my office, or I will eat leftovers from the night before.
It is pretty much meeting-to-meeting-to-meeting for me. I don’t have a personal assistant, but Anna takes care of all our PR and marketing, and that requires my time, so there is some planning there.
There are some things that are non-negotiable for me, and one is picking the girls up from school most days – that time is important to me. I don’t want to get stuck on that treadmill of getting home at 7:30 every night and only seeing them for half an hour.
In the summer we will ride home from school and maybe go to the library, swimming pool, grocery shopping, or getting something for a school costume.
Often I will still have to take phone calls for work. They hate it when I am on my phone. But I try to explain to them in the ‘olden days’ I would have had to stay at work because there was no such thing as an iPhone, so I couldn’t check things on the run!
But it is kind of a big debate really – does a smart phone give you more freedom, or does it actually chain you to work?
Dean is a really good cook so he will often do the grocery shopping and prepare dinner. I also cook, so if I’m preparing a meal the girls will either do homework – which usually requires some level of bribery – or muck around.
We aim to eat together most nights and that’s a time to chat as a family, ask them what has been going on at school and catch up a bit.
After we finish dinner and have yoghurt and fruit for dessert, it will be time for the girls to brush their teeth. Then of course they will procrastinate instead of going to bed for what seems like a lifetime!
After we do the girls reading and finally get them to bed, I sit down and let out a big, exhausted sigh. I will either clean up or not bother, and one of us will go water the garden, or put the bunny back in his hatch for the night.
To offset picking up the kids from school, I often need to do emails at night. This is the part of the night that becomes very thrilling: Dean and I sit at the end of the bench with our laptops open, tapping away.
I am trying to use email less. The more you send out, the more you are going to get back so by default the less sent, the less you are going to get!
I don’t watch TV and movies generally make me sleepy, so I prefer to browse around on Pinterest and research stuff on the net at night. It’s probably really bad for your brain before bed, I know, but it is what I find myself doing.
I will then do house-y things like pick up mess or hang out the washing, unpack school bags and put the dishwasher on.
When I go to bed my head hardly touches the pillow – all of a sudden the alarm is going off again at 6:30 in the morning again.
‘An extraordinary life is just about trying to do the things you want to do, and accepting that you won’t always get everything done. Try most of it, and expect that some of it will work.’