18 April 2024, 01:15
By Furniture News May 16, 2016

Larissa Cairns, creative director and owner, The Linen Works

Larissa Cairns is the creative director and owner of The Linen Works, which has created strikingly-crafted pure linen products for the home for over ten years.

Why visit your website?

Linen has seen something of a revolution in the UK and abroad, particularly in the form of that distinctive crinkled linen look which is perceived as being more contemporary and easier to care for. Our range is produced using only pure European linen in soft, muted tones with a simple and understated look. Customers buy from The Linen Works because they appreciate linen products and subscribe to a restrained style – pared down chic.

How did you enter the trade?
I have always been passionate about product design and after gaining more retail experience I found my passion for the flax industry. Linen not only has a distinctive luxurious feel, it is also native of Europe and it is extremely environmentally friendly – it grows in rainwater only and requires no fertiliser. The entire plant is utilised, which means zero waste. It fitted flawlessly with my ecological values.

Who is your e-commerce hero?
Natalie Massenet from Net-a-Porter is undoubtedly an inspiration. Her instincts have proved to be frighteningly good and she has an incredible vision. We also share the same hatred for changing rooms.

Describe a typical working day
I wake up just before 6am and enjoy a couple of liberating hours at home when I am not yet online. I listen to music, make coffee, look after my plants and after a walk across Clapham Common I reach the office ready to start the day.

No day is ever the same but I tend to focus on my recurring responsibilities in the morning, which is when my brain is more analytical. Afternoons are quickly absorbed by meetings with our team, PR and contacting key buyers.

Creativity can be found in all pursuits and escaping from ordinary influences helps me to see things from a different angle and remain inspired. By dusk my artistic side has kicked in so I focus on new collections and curating looks for our marketing campaigns.

What part of your job would you prefer to avoid?
There isn’t anything I particularly dislike. We have a growing business and it is all about knowing when to adapt and when to hold fast. If things go wrong, it means that there is an opportunity for improvement.

What has been your greatest challenge?
Performing a MBO just over a year ago has been my biggest challenge. It meant keeping our core team focused whilst undergoing many operational changes all whilst we continued to grow. Christmas sales rose by 60% from the previous year so for many weeks, finishing at 11pm seemed the norm.

How much do you invest in making your site more visible?
We have invested a lot in SEO and have partnered with a senior SEO director to ensure it gets done properly. Consequentially we have seen some impressive results on both organic traffic and conversions. We also enjoy working in collaboration with likeminded people and businesses, which ensures our brand voice on social media channels is genuine and natural.

What’s your take on how the relationship between online and physical retail might develop?
Ten years ago we would only buy products for the home that had been seen and touched. Now we feel more confident distinguishing what is good when shopping online. As an e-tailer I see potential on bricks and mortar only if there is a strong strategy to provide a seamless customer experience across the web and in store, otherwise from a consumer point of view, it is an increasingly frustrating concept.

What are your growth plans for the business?
I am grateful for the repeat customers we have, 34% per annum and growing. We are constantly asked when we’re going to have a physical store and I feel confident our first one is not far away.

What advice would you offer an aspiring e-tailer?
Look for a sustainable business model and keep the quality high – something that makes you feel good regardless of financial rewards – it makes it much easier to sell!

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