Ibiza style: Designer interview – Shireen Serina, Lala Land Swim

Australian swimwear designer Shireen Serina always had Ibiza in her thoughts, since the very first time she’d heard about the ‘magical island’ from a friend in London in 2008. The island was calling her, and in 2009 – without knowing a single soul – she hopped on a plane to the island she now calls home with a dream of launching her own swimwear brand.

Fast forward to 2015 and LaLa Land Swim is one of the hottest new names in swimwear on the island, as seen on the coolest fashionistas and in the edgiest boutiques. But the journey wasn’t always easy for Shireen, who credits her determination and persistence (in addition to her love for the island) for her label’s eventual success.

Tell us about your background in fashion?
I used to design lingerie in Sydney years ago – my parents were manufacturers, they made clothing for many big designer brands and I was brought up in the industry through them. I was always very creative and so they encouraged me to design, but I knew I didn’t want to do clothes. Ultimately, I ended up getting into lingerie when I met my former business partner who had a sleepwear range, and it all started from there.

So what was it that brought you to Ibiza?
I fell in love, and I moved to Bath with my boyfriend (at the time). I was ready to go solo anyway but somehow, I found myself working on interior decoration projects… I got a little lost. When we split up, I moved to north London and decided to really get back to being myself – I was mixing with a lot of creative people and it really inspired me to start designing again. A friend in London was telling me about Ibiza – I was fascinated with it, and I decided to move here in 2009.

What’s the story behind the Lala Land brand?
It’s a long story! I’d made a small collection of lingerie, and I realised it was quite like swimwear – very bright, colourful, with a lot of prints. The kind of things that you don’t want to hide underneath clothes. It made me realise I wanted to do swimwear, and I wanted to go crazy with it, add embellishments, go brighter, it was suited to the way my mind works. That first summer in Ibiza I designed a range of swimwear and had arranged for it to be made in India, because my parents had closed their factory – I ordered 3200 bikinis, and they never turned up! I spent an entire summer with nothing… all my money was tied up in collections that were never delivered, I kept having to take different jobs to get by and I was spending every day praying that the stock would turn up and I’d be able to sell it. In the end, I received only 40 bikini tops, and I went back to London at the end of the summer so upset, but I didn’t want to give up. On one hand I was so down because of what had happened, but I was so inspired by ibiza – I’d found this fairytale world that I wanted to live in forever, where everyone was free, there were no rules and everyone was nice to each other. That was the inspiration for LaLa Land.

What happened next?
The next year I had all my stock made in Bangladesh – I went there myself and made sure it all happened. After another summer on the island, I decided to go back to my roots, back to Australia, and really focus on getting the brand off the ground. I wanted everything made there where the quality was high and I could monitor it all. It was there that I started working in collaboration with local artists, and the brand really developed its personality too. I’m forever learning. I think everything that happened has gotten me to where I am now. If I didn’t go through that, it wouldn’t have pushed me to want more, and make everything better. It challenged me, gave me determination and persistence. Things don’t always work out, but it’s how you deal with them that shapes you.

Where do you get your inspiration?
It’s all just in my head. From people, my surroundings, nature, festivals – I have unlimited ideas in my head. I could come up with 10 years worth of collections, and my dad is always telling me I need to concentrate on selling the current one!

What is your design process like?
I sit down with the artists and graphic artists I collaborate with and tell them all about the concept, then they paint the fabrics for me. I get all my fabrics from Italy, then I have them digitally printed with the paintings in Australia. I also collaborate with jewellery designers for the little charms that are on each piece, and the idea is that I can collaborate with different people wherever I go. I love making pieces that are practical and non-practical. They fit really well, and you can wear them to the beach, or you can style them up and wear them to a festival.

Who is the LaLa Land girl?
I think anyone who has creative flair, likes festivals and travelling – a gyspy kind of girl, who is into fashion and arts. I try to design my collections so there is something for everyone – I think about what would look good on voluptuous girls, skinny girl, older women, little girls. There is something for everyone to connect with.

How would you describe your own personal style?
I have a really random style, I love mostly second hand, and vintage pieces – I’m not into designer labels or expensive bags. I prefer something no one else has got, and like making my own things. I really love the fashion in ibiza, especially the jewellery. I’m getting into crystals right now and think I am in a bit of a Pocahontas phase right now!

Tell us about the LaLa Land caravan?
While I was still living in Australia, I had quite a bit of stock to sell, and I’d missed the buying seasons for the stores. Someone suggested the idea of a truck to me, and driving around to the beaches and selling my bikinis out of it, kind of like a mobile pop-up shop. I started looking into the idea. It’s huge in America, and there was so much online about it and so my boyfriend and I found this 1968 vintage Franklin Caravel and we decided to do it. It was really old, had a an old fridge and stove, two beds… we gutted it and turned it into a little shop, and a friend did the mural of the lion, the bear and the gypsy. It was supposed to be a quick thing to help me move some stock, but in the end we spent three months doing it! We loved it.

So you brought it all the way to Ibiza from Australia?
Yes! Originally we were going to leave it in Australia and do another one over here, but we just couldn’t bear to leave it. It’s our baby, and we had so many good memories of making it together that I didn’t want to part with it. We put it into a shipping container, with all of our stuff – my swimwear, our furniture, everything we didn’t want to part with – and it took 41 days to get here! Now we can tell stories about all the places the lion, the bear and the gypsy go to. We can take them to people’s villas, or festivals… but we’ll always keep it.