We explore the tranquil Herne Bay home of the fashion designer and co-founder of Loobie’s Story, as she reflects on the trajectory of her business and shares her love of travel
A truly personal home reveals a great deal about its occupants, and Laurinda Sutcliffe’s peaceful Herne Bay abode is awash with mementos from trips abroad, with a resort-style feel that is mirrored by the bohemian aesthetic of her fashion label.
Co-founder of Loobie’s Story, a brand beloved for its vibrant prints and use of colour, Laurinda is an industry veteran with decades of experience and, with the tenth anniversary of the label approaching, she is reflective about her journey to date.
Fashion has always been Laurinda’s passion, and from a young age she made her own clothes. After finishing a Bachelor of Arts degree, it was a post-graduate cadetship with Portmans that provided a doorway to the industry.
After a sojourn to Europe for the classic ‘OE’, she returned to Australia before being offered an opportunity in New Zealand with the fashion brand High Society, where she stayed for 20 years, eventually becoming the creative director. However, when the 2007/2008 global financial crisis hit, everything changed.
“I was made redundant, which is actually the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she reflects. Although an admittedly painful experience, Laurinda (ever the pragmatist) embraced the opportunity. Serendipitously, her husband Brent had just sold his menswear business, so the couple had the money and time to pursue a new venture. Some people questioned their timing but Laurinda disagreed: “It was the perfect time to start – we saw a flat market that needed excitement.”
With Loobie’s Story, they saw the chance to do something different. “We were everything that other New Zealand brands weren’t,” she explains. “We were bohemian and fun and didn’t take ourselves seriously.” With Laurinda’s intuitive style and comprehensive retail background, as well as Brent’s business savvy, what started from the spare bedroom of their previous home has grown into a business with 140 stockists.
Laurinda credits much of Loobie’s Story’s success to their use of colour and print, and she attributes that approach to her upbringing. “I think being an Australian and having grown up in that environment – beachside living, resort style – that type of clothing was close to my heart.”
To achieve the vibrant, bohemian look of the label, Laurinda works closely with print designers – and is proud that all of the prints used by Loobie’s Story are original. The colour palettes of her collections are equally important, and Laurinda ensures that pieces are harmonious, not only with the rest of the range but with previous seasons too. “We’ve always been about pieces that are collectible and that will have ongoing validity – so our colour palettes tend toflow from one season to the other.”
It’s an approach that resonates with their loyal customers. “A lot of people that love Loobie’s have things for years and years, and they can keep updating them and wearing them. And that’s not us greenwashing our business, that’s what we’ve always been doing.”
Much of the textile inspiration for both her business and home comes from Laurinda’s extensive travels and love of exotic destinations – she cites Bali, Morocco and Mexico as some of her favourites – drawing influence from her experiences of their architecture, food, fabric and craftsmanship. Textiles also play a key role in the decor of her home, and Laurinda utilises them to inject colour into a space.
Her home is full of sentimental mementos, with precious pieces picked up on her travels to Bali, China, France and India; it’s these things that are most dear to her. “They’ve all got a story behind them,” she muses, “Sometimes you’ve met the artisan who’s made it, or maybe we’ve worried about whether we could get an item home in one piece.”
This thoughtfulness extends to her approach to living and entertaining. An avid cook (her current favourite books are by Yotam Ottolenghi, Annabel Langbein and Pete Evans) she equally enjoys unwinding in her kitchen at the end of a busy day and entertaining close friends. “Cooking makes me feel more balanced, especially when I’m feeling stressed,” she explains. “It’s very much a way that you show love – so when our friends come over, I’ll cook for them.”
We absolutely adore this home. I could spend days at a time and not leave - it's my sanctuary
I’m ridiculously busy,” she confesses, and with a relatively small business (her head office has a team of 10) she has to be hands on. “I’m very involved in the marketing, strategy and sales. I do a lot of the buyer presentations as well.”
Laurinda adores living and working in New Zealand, and credits it with keeping her grounded. “I think with the busy life that I have, being in a smaller place means it just feels a little bit more manageable.” An understanding of the demands of life is something Laurinda applies to Loobie’s Story. “The way we design is very much for busy women. They do want to look good, but they have to be comfortable and things have to multitask through the day.”
As a busy business owner, it’s imperative that Laurinda’s home be peaceful. “It feels like a real escape from the world. Even though we’re in a densely populated area, I actually feel quite tucked away and cut off.” It’s a feeling very much supported by both the decor and architecture of the house, which wraps around a heated pool and is surrounded by greenery – creating a resort-like sense of privacy in the city.
Don't be afraid to mix things up if it’s your taste, chances are it will work.
The layout of the house means that now, with their son away at university, Laurinda and her husband only use the lower floor – a flowing space with expanses of glass and underfloor heating. “I don’t know how many nights Brent and I would sit on the couch and, because the living area is glass, looking out to the garden and the pool, we sit there and go, ‘oh my gosh, it’s just heaven.’ We absolutely adore it. I could spend days at a time and not leave – it’s my absolute sanctuary.”
The transformative design of the house allows it to be enjoyed regardless of time, weather or season; the glass doors fold away into cavity sliders, so in the heat of summer their home can be opened up for exceptional flow. With such a beautiful space, there’s little that Laurinda wants to change.
“I want to do a little tweak to the kitchen, purely because the dining space is a little tight but the kitchen is absolutely massive,” she explains. “It’s huge and it doesn’t need to be. So I want to chop off a metre of it at one end and just open up that dining space – that’s really all that it needs.”
As far as what else is on the horizon, Loobie’s Story celebrates its tenth birthday this year. “It’s exciting to have gone through that journey and to still be learning, growing, developing and evolving every step of the way – I feel proud that we’ve gone through all those changes.” Laurinda has a range of celebratory products in the pipeline, and she plans to celebrate the brand’s success and teamwork – and then relax in her sanctuary before she’s off again.
Words by: Emma Gleason. Photography by: Stephen Tilley.