It was her mother that gave Sydney-based designer Phoebe Langdon a piece of advice that has always stuck. “Pick what you love to do because you will be working for a very long time,” she said. Phoebe spent many years throughout school taking short courses in various creative arts to test out different options but it was time spent with her grandmother that had the greatest impact. “Growing up I spent a large amount of time with my grandmother who was an avid sewer and had me picking out fabric from the age of three,” she says. “I guess the passion for textiles wore off on me. Since then I have been obsessed with creating beautiful things.” After living and studying in India, as part of a design degree with Nottingham Trent University, Phoebe returned to Australia and worked for several fashion labels as a textile designer. However, alongside her sister Delia, she launched Langdon Ltd in 2012. Since then they have picked up an array of stockists around Australia, as well as internationally. “At first it’s difficult creatively to put your work out in public but you have to bite the bullet and throw yourself out there,” Phoebe says.
Which five words best describe you? Intuitive, creative, resilient, risk-taker, determined.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I come from a very academic family background, however, I chose the creative path and ditched my plans for university for a very fickle design career. As an 18-year-old I was completely head strong on getting the “creative” out of my system but it has completely stuck with me. I started out studying design at Enmore Design Centre. Then went on to Ultimo’s Fashion Design Studio, formerly East Sydney Tech, and studied textile design for a year and then fashion design for three years. I was given the opportunity to then do a year in India to get my design degree with Nottingham Trent University. There I studied and worked in Rajasthan, learning how the export market worked and functioned. I moved back to Australia in 2011 and did a lot of freelance fashion and textile work with various labels while I worked at setting up Langdon Ltd with my sister Delia. We launched in 2012 with a very small collection and now we are stocked in around 100 boutiques in Australia as well as a handful internationally.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Trust the timing of your life. Every opportunity comes when you are ready for it. Everything in my life has always happened at the right time, in retrospect.
What’s your proudest career achievement? I’ve had a few. I love the random moments of seeing my designs on women in the street. I did a lot of print work for many fashion labels in Australia while I was starting the business and I’ve fortunately been able to see my textile design work on the catwalks and in department stores. I also never tire of seeing Langdon Ltd in magazines and in store windows. It makes all the sacrifices and hard work worth it.
What’s been your best decision? Moving to India was probably the best decision I have ever made. I was only 23 and it was incredibly challenging but I was able to work out what I wanted to do with my life. Separating myself from my life at home in Australia and having a year to contemplate my future was confronting and scary but five years on it has made all the difference. I’m lucky I did it while I was young without any responsibilities. I drive past the apartment block that I used to live in every time I’m in India to reflect on how much my life has changed since then and I am incredibly grateful for the experience and all it has given me.
Who inspires you? Anyone who is brave enough to live their own life originally. We’ve all got our own individual path and talents and there’s no point following someone else’s.
What are you passionate about? Working with local artisans. I was very fortunate to be taken to remote villages while I was studying in India. There I was able to learn the many traditional techniques that I have carried with me. The majority of our production is hand made. We work with villagers whose sole income is weaving - a skill that is dying out. I am continually amazed by their creative input into our designs. They always have a solution to any design or production problem. I also love the juxtaposition of using my contemporary designs with century-old hand-weaving techniques. The design opportunities are limitless when you have such raw, beautiful and simple practices to work with.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Iris Apfel.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? The International roll-out of our brand. My sister and I are working on our move into the international market. We are dreaming of securing some pretty amazing department stores overseas in the next two years. No rest for the wicked!
What are you reading? Life Lessons from Nietzsche by John Armstrong and I’m also re-reading The E Myth by Michael E Gerber.