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Interview | Anna Murray | Laing

Interview | Anna Murray | Laing

It’s a joy working with Anna. Both Anna and her company, Laing, tick all the boxes to partner with Tea Pea. Passionate about design and fabric, Anna brings to the business, passion, care and a huge amount of industry knowledge.

Laing focuses on detail, fit and fabrics for its sleepwear and loungewear. This season there’s plenty of cashmere to keep you warm and feeling luxurious. Anna’s attention to design shows in the way each piece feels and looks.

Two key pieces for me this season. First, The Napper, which I’m sure was made especially for me and my need for the warmest and finest of scarves to get me through winter. Being cashmere it’s light, cosy and a delight to wear. I also never board an international flight without a large warm scarf to double as my napping blanket. Voila! – The Napper. The second new piece I’m enjoying with the cold weather upon us is the Madeleine Duster Robe. It looks great with jeans, actually any pants. It’s fine (cashmere and merino – yum), hangs well and generous enough to pull around if the occasion calls for rugging up! I’ve been bold and pulled away from my usual grey and chosen cinnamon. Happy with my choice – it’s a colour that goes with most of my wardrobe.

Recently, I caught up with Anna over lunch. It occurred to me that it would be lovely for you to get to know a little about the woman behind this successful brand.

Here’s a little about her.

Who’s in your family?
Two adult children, Madeleine is in her last year at Victoria and James is in his first year at Dunedin. I was very fortunate to marry my ‘keeper’ of a husband Ron 25 years ago.

Like many mothers, my daughter’s dog became my dog within a couple of months. I don’t regret it. He has become my little friend and forces me for walks.

Favourite things – what are they?
I love my garden and my home – I am a real nester. It should be no surprise that I love beautiful bed linen, throws and pillows. Any thing that makes your home feel comfortable, warm and inviting for yourself and others.

Out and about I like walks of any kind, urban (where I can nose at other peoples gardens), by water and in our amazing bush. I love all sorts of food so eating out can be Asian, Indian, European and a fusion of all. Anything from Kiss Kiss in Balmoral to Peter Gordon’s Sugar Club for a special occasion. Ebisu in Britomart is a regular and recently we have a had a local open up within walking distance for a lazy glass of wine and a tasting plate in the late afternoon sun.

And when in Wellington, I usually end up at Olive.

Luckily, my husband is a dab hand in the kitchen and really enjoys cooking so I often get treated at home with something that has caught his eye. 

We travel locally (luckily we have “friends with benefits” with beach and ski houses!) and overseas. We are back to Bali again soon, I love its laid-back vibe, the kindness of the people and food. Plus my husband can surf and I can sleep in. Itching to get back to Europe at some stage, but this time not rush through, take our time and spend longer periods in one area.

My music is all over the place! I love some of the great tracks from Roy Orbison, Sting, David Bowie. But I also really like the new music that my children introduce me to. So I have this eclectic Spotify list that really jumps around through different styles and artists. And I have been known to have Vivaldi's Four Seasons blaring too. 

It would be great to hear about your career to date.
Started life in photography/TV production before I had my first attempt at my own business aged 24 – a clothing label, that had quite good success in New Zealand. Love took me away to Australia for a couple of years and when I returned I started back in advertising. Fifteen years later, I left at General Manager level and consulted.

An interesting turn saw me work for a large sourcing company running their garments and home textiles division, manufacturing all over the world. It was this role that made me yearn to have my own business again and taught me how to look for and partner with great factories. 

Sounds like this is where you start thinking about a luxury loungewear brand?
Yes. I had reached a crossroads in my life where my corporate life no longer held the appeal or passion it once did. I had for a long time considered having my own business again and therefore plotting my own path and one day, after Christmas in 2016, I gave myself the now or never ultimatum.

Having been in the corporate world for many years, my weekends and evenings were very precious to me. What I wore at these times was also important. I could not see why your sleep or loungewear all of a sudden had to make you look like a Barbie doll, Disney character or great aunt Mabel. Why should fashion and sleepwear be at odds? And why was it all so poorly made in fabrics that would not last the distance or were not compatible with giving you a good night sleep through how they allow your skin to breath.

So, I took my love of sleep and nesting, classic, modern style and quality fabrics and started Laing Home. I was lucky that my business and marketing background working for some of New Zealand’s top fashion brands had given me insights into the world of fashion. I also had two strong role models to follow. My mother, Jill Tuck, was one of New Zealand’s top interior accessories designers and manufacturers and Beverley Laing (from where the brand name comes from) taught me about how to make a comfortable

Tell me about the structure and fit of the pieces and the fabrics you use and why.
I always start with a fabric. How does it feel, drape and perform? The fabric must breathe and be kind to your skin while you are asleep. I use natural fabrics like long staple, high thread count cotton and silk. Both breath and keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. And they are durable. I encourage my customers to hand wash and line dry to keep their fabrics, and therefore their sleepwear, will stay beautiful for longer, rather than buying cheaper products that become landfill within a year (or less).

Then, what design will bring out the best in that fabric? For instance, a crisp cotton lends itself to a more tailored Pyjama style, a silk is more about drape and flow. I have a library of images from last century through to now of women in sleep and loungewear to draw design inspiration from. The 1950’s are especially good. Women lounged and they prepared themselves for bed with rituals that included getting into beautiful sleepwear.

Then colour. What is in fashion, but also what looks good against the skin, especially when you have no make-up on.

And finally, construction. French seams for a perfect finish and to add strength to seams, pockets for slouching and carrying items, inverted pleats across shoulders for room of movement and plenty of room around thighs and hips.

For loungewear, I love cashmere. It’s luxurious but also so practical. Its super lightweight, soft against the skin, hypo-allergenic, seriously warm and surprisingly low maintenance. Like all wool fibres, you don’t need to over wash it, just air and store flat.

Recently I have started development work on new fabrics with a more sustainable footprint like organic cotton and linen and also some plant cellulose-based fabrics like viscose and modal. It’s about finding the balance between doing what you can to care for our planet and produce garments that perform as sleepwear. 

This winter, talk me through the new pieces and what’s great about them.
For winter, we have introduced more cashmere into the range. Our Cashmere bedsocks, The Sleeper, are gorgeous. The Napper is our new cashmere blanket and scarf - you will not want to be without it on those most wintry days, when you travel and on the couch.

The Sam Long Sleeve classic crew is also a new addition. We saw a place for women to have a classic, effortless piece to throw on when they got home at night, in the weekends and in fact, for every living occasion.

The classic Alfie Nightshirt is a favourite. Inspiration came from movies where in the morning the leading lady would throw on her partner's work shirt. One of the reasons the blue and white stripe is called Bankers Stripe. You just cannot not look fresh and modern in this nightshirt in the morning. 

Looking ahead, what’s on its way for the Laing summer season?
We are introducing our best selling Frank Cotton PJ set in the most beautiful soft grey/silver with white piping. So elegant, but soft at the same time.

Also, the popular Kate PJ Pant in blush pink will come with a matching PJ shirt with a shawl collar and piping.

For the romantic in us, we have the Marina PJ set and Chloe Nightgown. Made with viscose voile they drape and float like silk and we have incorporated soft ladder lace detail and a tiny frill. I have been wearing them for the last few months trialling them for wearability and washing etc and they are divine.

Plus, there may be a small linen lounge range. More on that to come!