Donna Harris, Joanna Turner and Sarah Scott-Hunter from LNDR clothing company at the head office in Shoreditch, London. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Donna Harris, Joanna Turner and Sarah Scott-Hunter from LNDR clothing company at the head office in Shoreditch, London. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

We took on a global sporting giant, and won

It's worn by the likes of Kourtney Kardashian and Gigi Hadid.

It's stocked in some of the world's most famous department stores, ­including Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

A court this year ordered sports ­behemoth Nike to ditch a campaign because it ­infringed on the trademark of this niche brand that's being produced out of an unassuming office in north London.

And it all comes down to the ­talent and foresight of three young women with firm links to Queensland, whose brand LNDR is gaining a cult following in the hyper-competitive sports and leisurewear market.

Queensland designer Joanna Turner founded LNDR with fellow Queenslander Donna Harris, from Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast, and Canadian Sarah Scott-Hunter (nee Donnelly, whose husband is from the Gold Coast).

 

Donna Harris, Joanna Turner and Sarah Scott-Hunter from LNDR clothing company at the head office in Shoreditch, London. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Donna Harris, Joanna Turner and Sarah Scott-Hunter from LNDR clothing company at the head office in Shoreditch, London. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

 

While Australian and American women were wearing their sporting tights and joggers to the super­market and even to dinner as part of the ­activewear trend, London took a while to catch on, with LNDR's arrival three years ago catching the wave perfectly.

"It was the right time to launch; Europe was still a bit slow to adopt that sort of lifestyle, whereas Australia and America are quite advanced," Scott-Hunter says.

LNDR offers a high-tech sportswear range that's as chic as it is functional, using fabrics sourced from around Europe. Because of this, it caught the eyes of numerous A-list celebrities including influencer Kourtney Kardashian, It-girl and model Gigi Hadid and actress Jessica Alba, while gathering 22,300 followers on Instagram.

 

HIT THE GROUND RUNNING

 

It wasn't an entirely surprising venture for ­Turner, who was still working at the time we spoke despite being eight months pregnant with her first child.

The 34-year-old is the daughter of Flight Centre founder Graham "Skroo" Turner and his wife Jude, who runs Spicers Retreats.

Joanna Turner moved to London in 2012 with her first clothing venture - a jacket and outerwear line called Francis Leon, but she soon decided to turn to activewear.

 

The Turner family, Graham and Jude with daughter Jo and son Matt. Photo Mark Cranitch.
The Turner family, Graham and Jude with daughter Jo and son Matt. Photo Mark Cranitch.

 

"I had a vague idea about ­activewear but it was more transitional between active and casual, in that kind of in-between space," she says.

"I knew I didn't have the skill-set to do every part of the business. I had an idea that I wanted to create a business that was more ­in-house, it was a very loose idea at that point."

Turner says she gathered a group of people she knew who worked in the industry, including Scott-Hunter and Harris, to discuss her "very basic concept".

"We talked about the types of products we could create. At the time it was just getting people's opinion but after that, within a week or so, the two of them [Scott-Hunter, 30, and Harris, 33] approached me to do it alongside me as well, to start the new brand together."

Both women have a sales background, which the business needed. Within months, the pair had quit their jobs and were working full-time with Turner.

"We didn't know each other that well, though we knew each other through friends ­before we started the business," she says.

"We hit the ground running," Scott-Hunter adds. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Earlier this year, LNDR hit the headlines when it won a David and Goliath battle over the sporting giant Nike. Using British celebrities including distance champion Sir Mo Farah, English footballer Harry Kane and English rapper Skepta, Nike launched an award-winning campaign with the slogan "Nothing beats a Londoner" - using the letters LDNR.

 

LNDR clothing.
LNDR clothing.

 

The capital letters and similar font made the women at LNDR very uncomfortable, and they finally decided to take the case to court to protect their trademark.

It took six months, was a stressful and expensive experience, but ultimately Nike was ordered to stop using LDNR.

"It took huge amounts of time," Turner says. "Apparently it happened quite quickly [for this kind of case] but it felt like a lifetime to me. If you've ever been through any legal proceedings, which we hadn't before, it was hugely expensive.

"Even though you own the trademarks and you've done everything, you still have to be able to back it up at the end of the day when someone infringes it. So that was a big lesson too, but we didn't feel like we had much of a choice."

The saga, which Scott-Hunter describes as being "not a nice thing to do", was stressful for the women.

"We didn't really want to [publicise it] - we just wanted it to be over, really," Harris says. But LNDR - the women spell the letters out so it sounds like L-N-D-R - had several solid years of trading under its belt before it took on the big guns at Nike.

 

FEEL AND FUNCTIONALITY

 

LNDR officially started in early 2015 and was soon discovered by customers who loved the feel and functionality of the clothes, and shop buyers who rushed it into their stores, ­including London's famed Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.

Despite its success, the women kept a low profile and even now aren't keen to front the cameras, despite their obvious success.

Turner studied a bachelor of fine arts and ­fashion design at Queensland University of Technology. Her father's story is legendary in business circles - Graham Turner is the former adventurer who, with friends, turned a double-decker bus into the multi­million-dollar travel venture Top Deck in London.

 

Founder of Top Deck Travel company Graham Turner with one of his old buses in London in 1999.
Founder of Top Deck Travel company Graham Turner with one of his old buses in London in 1999.

 

Now, Flight Centre - the ­company he later co-founded in Australia - is ASX-listed and is the country's largest ­travel agency network. Then there's Turner's ­mother Jude, who founded the nationwide luxury hotel brand Spicers Retreats. Jude worked behind the scenes both for Top Deck and Flight Centre ­before launching her hotel line in the early 2000s.

Eldest child Matthew, 38, launched bicycle retail business 99 Bikes in 2007, which has since spread across Australia.

But when asked whether her own career had been influenced by her family's business nous, Turner laughs and says it wasn't a conscious decision.

"I guess whether it was intentional or not, it ended up that business has been a big part of our lives as a family," she says. "It wasn't something that from an early age we were all like, 'we're going to get into it'. [But] obviously it's an influence."

 

TEAM EFFORT A NATURAL FIT

 

LNDR is run as a team effort, with Turner at the helm of design, while Scott-Hunter and Harris manage the operational side.

It was a natural fit for the industry veterans, with Harris having moved to London when she was 21 from the Sunshine Coast, and working in retail for ­luxury clothing brand Ted Baker. "I was always interested in fashion growing up," she says.

Similarly, Scott-Hunter moved to London when she was 21 after uni­versity in Toronto, where she studied fashion.

 

Joanna Turner designs clothes for LNDR clothing company at the head office in London. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Joanna Turner designs clothes for LNDR clothing company at the head office in London. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

 

"I got offered a ­position selling Paige Denim for the country [Canada] when I was still 18," she says. "I wanted to move to London for an adventure."

Having made the decision to launch LNDR, the women threw themselves into every aspect of the business, from design to sourcing fabric, ­labour, finding an office and marketing their new product. "There was nothing about this [LNDR] that we just weren't passionate about," Harris says.

While an impressive lineup of celebrities has been spotted wearing their brand, the trio says it's not because they've been paid or asked to.

"It's really great about celebrities, but to hear your own customer base really loves it and backs the way that we do it without being paid [is also great]," Harris says. "When I'm down at the local gym and the girl next to me is wearing a LNDR sports bra, [that] is a really cool feeling. We're the harshest [judges] as well - you have to be thinking about the customers and how they feel."

Turner says they weren't interested in paying a celebrity just to wear their gear, but may yet ­entertain a collaboration.

"What we wouldn't do is pay for a celebrity to be the face of the brand or whatever; it would be more of a partnership," she says.

Despite the line being made in Europe from ­locally sourced fabrics, the women's strong ties to Queensland prompts the question: does LNDR reflect Australia? Turner says the label catered to the many Aussies living in London, and she ­believed their active lifestyles growing up in ­Australia impacted LNDR's designs.

 

LNDR clothing
LNDR clothing

 

"It influences the brand and how we put the collections together," she says.

Harris agrees, saying: "Growing up where you're outdoors, playing sport, athletics, netball and all those kind of things and having that active lifestyle already ... it was definitely something we already did, so it wasn't foreign.''

As LNDR continues to grow, the women say they will look to open a headquarters in Australia, although they have no timeframe in mind. But with the team set to expand to 20 very soon - doubling their staff in just 12 months - the brand's success is clearly growing. And like most modern women, the trio acknowledges the importance of finding the right work-life balance among the business mayhem.

"I'm married to an Aussie from Queensland; we met here, we have a son called Oz - not named after the country," Scott-Hunter says, laughing.

"The whole team is so supportive [with family time], having a life outside work. We had our LNDR baby before I had Oz, we were running around the world when I was nine months ­pregnant. The atmosphere here and the support level are unparalleled."

But when Turner is asked when her maternity leave is scheduled to begin, the other women both laugh. "There are no exact maternity leave plans, but I guess you just don't know how these things will pan out,'' Turner says.

"I'm not really planning on stopping work, but we'll see." ■



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