Interview: Kaylene of Lillian Nai

Lillian Nai is the footwear label of Brisbane designer Kaylene Clifford, who founded the brand after identifying a lack of boutique shoemakers offering fashionable shoes that fit the top and bottom spectrum of the size chart. Kaylene, a European size 43 quickly realised that the only companies offering a range of sizes that catered to her weren’t providing a fashion focused option and from there, Lillian Nai was born. When I first saw the designs I fell in love with the gorgeous soft leather and modern romantic styles… so I just had to steal some time with this fabulous designer… Kaylene was more than happy to share here story… and here it is for you to enjoy…

BT – You’ve said that you were inspired to create great shoes when you were unable to find what you wanted in your size; do you think designers need to branch out more from the perceived “average” sizes?

KC – I think designers need to be aware that as much as there are the “average” sizes, there will be always be people outside of that who are looking for something that meets their style. As I’ve experienced myself, I look for items to show my personality through my clothing and footwear that are classic – which is why I believe Lillian Nai will cater well for everyone.

BT – What are you favourite shoes to wear?

KC –  Being tall I love a classic ballet flat so the Rustic Deity in nude is perfect to dress up or down and also incredibly comfortable.

BT – What can we look forward to in the latest season collection?

KC –  “Take Me To The Sky” is the first collection for Lillian Nai and is focused on the saying the ‘Sky is the Limit’. This collection is centred on classic footwear whilst building the foundation blocks to take me to the sky. I’ve designed this collection on memories of summer that are dear to me. Whether it is colours that pop out or outfits I think the prefect shoe would go with, I wanted to create a collection that not only covered the much loved styles but also complimented women’s individuality and be versatile for the Australian summer. The Summer Daze shoe comprises of a beautiful leather lilac shade which resembles the Jacaranda trees that bloom in Brisbane. Perfect for the afternoon Saturday picnic, the Romantic Days leather tan wedge with a wooden heel is a great addition for either casual or dressier dates or just to help make you feel more beautiful. One style that is a bit of a twist is the Gypsy Sun Dance backless ankle boot in navy leather and tan leather straps which provide the right amount of edge for a night out. I’ve ensured all the shoe styles will suit women who want that simple and comfortable shoe but that is classic and is the perfectfinishing touch for their outfit.

BT – Do you have a particular signature design?

KC –  I would say my signature style is classic with a mix of bohemian and a slight touch of edge.

BT – When you choose your favourite shoes, do you prefer style to comfort or should they go hand in hand?

KC –  I believe you should always dress to impress but not over the top. I’m a minimalist so a maxi dress or jeans and a tee are my uniform, this allows me to dress it up with a pair of heels or for a casual look ballet flats whilst still looking polished. So I would say it definitely depends on the occasion, but comfort should not be sacrificed by style and vice versa, it should be well balanced. I believe I have been able to achieve this throughout my collection.

BT – As a new business, what are you most looking forward to in the launch of your label?

KC –  I’m looking forward to everyone seeing the shoes! It’s definitely the excitement of the work I’ve put into the label, everyone seeing the finish product and women being able to wear and enjoy my designs.

BT – What’s your favourite look for summer? What shoes will you match it with?

KC –  I love dresses during summer so a maxi or a sun dress is my favourite look. Depending on the occasion I wear my Rustic Deity ballet flats or the Wisps of Sunlight sandals – flirty, fun and classy.

BT – The Queensland climate is varied all year, are you excited to be able to design for such variety, do you have a favourite season to design for?

KC –  I’m very excited to be able to design a variety of styles to suit the climates not just in Queensland but also Australia.

I lived in Cairns for ten years so being able to experience cooler weather and wear boots has been very exciting for me and just experience more than two seasons (wet and dry)! My favourite season is autumn so I do enjoy designing ankle boots and shoes I feel would be great for the cooler months. The Gypsy Sun Dance ankle boot is ideal for the transitional seasons.

BT – Describe your design process.

KC – My design process is spread over a few weeks to create a collection. In that time I’m very aware of what’s going on around me, the story I want to tell through the collection and mood boards are created. Once I’ve picked the styles and colours it’s off to the manufacturers they create a sample for me and it’s ready for the look book.

BT – What would you be doing if you weren’t designing shoes?

KC – I studied Tourism Management at university, but have been working with the State Government for the last 18 months. I was lucky enough to follow my passion and fulfil my dream of designing shoes so I am extremely fortunate. However if I was unable to have followed my dream I most likely would be overseas working in the Tourism Industry.

BT – Anything else you want to share with our readers?

KC –  Whilst designing was not an initial dream career for me, the last couple of months has been beyond my wildest dreams. Finding a passion of designing and mixing business has been hugely rewarding and a path I never thought was possible. I’m extremely grateful and humbled to be able to fulfil this passion and share it with everyone.  To work on a dream and make it into a career I’m extremely excited about and cannot wait to see Lillian Nai making footprints around Brisbane.



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