Beauty, talent, an eye for top trends and style on top of millions of followers on Instagram aside, there is something else Hollywood trendsetters like Jessica Alba, Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez, Kristen Bell and Vanessa Hudgens have in common –they are all fans of Wanderlust+Co.
That’s a very impressive list of OOTD’s to be spotted on for a brand that started off in the bedroom floor of founder Jenn Low in Australia a mere 6 years ago.
“It’s not at all glamourous,” says Low with a laugh as she regales the tale of how it all started. “I madeshift my own lightbox from cardboard and was photographing pieces from my bedroom floor before uploading them onto the website. My husband – boyfriend at the time – walked in on me on all fours on the floor with this box and my point-and-shoot camera.”
From seeing to the designing, production, packing, and shipping of her products all by herself, Low today oversees a team of 18 in a beautiful headquarter office in Kuala Lumpur, where sales in the 5-figures numbers go out a day. It is hard to imagine that there was a time when 100 orders a day was all Low wished for.
An era before Instagram
A big love for beautiful things drove Low to quit her accounting profession and career in merchandise planning after that to start Wanderlust+Co.
“I love fashion, especially accessories because the right ones can transform your outfit,” she tells. “Growing up with an entrepreneurial dad, business was always in my blood and coupled with my experience in merchandise planning, it all came full circle for me to create Wanderlust+Co.”
Designing beautiful wearable pieces and finding the right people to manufacture them was the easy part; It was the technical side that she had to struggle with.
“I set up the website on Wordpress – we didn’t have apps like SquareSpace or Shopify back then,” she reveals candidly. “Entrepreneurs today are very blessed; 6 years ago we didn’t even have Instagram.”
She also had to pick up new graphic design skills since she was a one-person team. “I taught myself Photoshop because I had to touch up each photo that went up on the site by myself. I was a woman on a mission, doing everything on my own.”
Finding the right manufacturers was also a challenge by itself because Wanderlust+Co was so new and independent.
“I already had a few artisan friends who recommended manufacturers but protection of these sources is everyone’s bread and butter so I still had to do a lot of research on my own,” she recalls. “You also had to find a supplier who believed in you because the quantities I was making wasn’t large. Being in the trend-driven pocket of the industry, you’re really competing with giants like Zara and Topshop.
Australia to Kuala Lumpur
One year into the business, she also had to make the decision to move the business back to Kuala Lumpur to be with her husband.
“At the time the brand was just set up and we were just beginning to gain a good footing so it was definitely a massive decision."
She had to rebuild her team, taking on 2 others to help her restart the business plan at its new home. About this time was also when Wanderlust+Co blew up in popularity thanks to an endorsement by blogger Leandra Medine of 'The Man Repeller' and a feature on TimeOut New York.
As much as those were tumultuous years, she looks back at them with fondness.
“When you have a small team, there is a lot of beauty in every step of the way,” she admits. “The closeness of the team and how you would pick each other up in difficult environments is something that you will never get back again. It’s very much like watching a child – your child – grow up, you have to enjoy every stage because it’s not going to come again.”
At the same time, she is grateful for how much growth Wanderlust+Co has been granted and what it has taught her along the way.
“One of the hardest things to grasp for entrepreneurs is that you’re now surrounded by a lot of very talented people who have their respective strengths and contribute differently in ways that is beyond what you can do as an individual,” she reflects. “You need to learn how to keep balancing this because yes it’s your baby, but it’s also everyone’s because we all played a hand in building and growing it.”
“What’s humbling about that is that the message and vision of the brand is very much still you, but also a collective.”
Made for your daily adventures
Today, she is involved more in the decision-making part of the business like marketing and finance but still always ensures to squeeze in some designing.
“Designing is still a massive part I love doing, being able to start from a clean slate,” she divulges, which is how each Wanderlust+Co jewellery piece starts off.
“We ask ourselves ‘Who’s that girl for the next season?’ We create a character and personality for her. Then it becomes a moodboard, followed by sketches, then samples before it materialises as products.”
“Getting people to believe in your message is very important.”
This ensures every collection is relatable to the Wanderlust+Co’s target audience of the urban, modern young women living in the digital age.
“We’re very wearable. We’re unique enough but still wearable. We love that because we’re not aiming to be very avant-garde,” she explains. “We are for the lovers of beautiful things, for that digital girl who is tapped into trends. We want to create jewellery for women’s daily adventures.”
It has worked thus far because Wanderlust+co’s pieces have been known to make it to life milestones of its buyers, from graduation to wedding proposals to the weddings themselves.
“One of the things I learned very quickly was that you have to capture your audience with the message that’s stronger than just ‘buy my product’,” she shares. “Getting people to believe in your message is very important.”
"It takes a whole village"
As Wanderlust+Co continues to grow, so does Low continue to learn in perfecting her business and brand.
“We’re learning everyday,” she tells. “There’s no magic bullet to it – it’s not a glamourous job.”
Her biggest challenge is patience.
“Oprah once said that things will always take longer than you think, be harder than you think. The biggest lesson across all situations is knowing that nothing is permanent,” she shares. "When you’re going through the stages, things can sometimes feel very permanent – you will sometimes say the wrong things, sometimes make the wrong decision because you’re in the wrong frame of mind or were impatient for it to pass. Only patience can pull you out of that.”
“If you want growth, the answer is in your people. It takes a whole village.”
She is drawing the bulk of her strength from how the Wanderlust+Co brand is inspiring others.
“Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, really search your soul to ask yourself what’s important to you?” she implores. “If you love something enough to sacrifice for it, knowing you won't be getting money for it for a period of time, then go for it.
That was how she came out sparkling strong and shiny, just like her pieces.
“I like the word tenacity. Try and keep your spirit light and learn how to love people,” she advises. “If you want growth, the answer is in your people. It takes a whole village.”
(Product photos: Wanderlust+Co)
Another Bright Young Thing with a brand to be proud of: Sherlyn Tan of Twenty3.