Stories Vol. 1 Alana Oates creator of Llani

For our first volume of our series 'Stories' we interviewed Alana, the creator and founder of Llani. We talk to her about her vacation antics, starting her business, and staying inspired. 

How do you pack for a weekend getaway?

I’m totally not the girl that brings only black items knowing that everything will match (although, maybe I should be). I try to really embody the location and dress the part, that is half the fun. If I’m going to LA, I love mixing in crazy vintage pieces, eclectic jewelry, and it's the only city I can get away with wearing a hat. My husband loves to fish and we often go north to Block Island or Montauk- so I’ll pack the classics, nautical stripes and crisp linen paired w/ my Babouche in Spice. In New York I know it will be a ton of running from meeting to meeting in unpredictable weather. I always have my Embroidered Ballets to slip on between meetings. I try to bring one statement piece to keep things interesting, but sometimes a quirky eyeshadow will have to do. No matter where I'm heading, I bring my Moccasins w/ Baubles, which are perfect for roaming around a hotel or running out for coffee. They are super cozy and make anywhere feel like home. 

You went to school for fashion design. Some say career paths are like a jungle gym, not a ladder, meaning they allow breathing room for twists and turns. Did you experience any non-linear moves in your path to where you are now as the founder of your own brand, or was it always connected?  

In my fashion design school, we were actually always focused on apparel design. So my thesis was a collection of 5 head to toe looks I created (pattern making, sewing, even hand dying the fabrics). I somehow knew that once school was over I never wanted to sew another stitch. It wasn’t until I was at my first internship in my senior year that I was exposed to shoes and accessories. Once I started getting acquainted with leather (vs. fabrics) and shoe construction, I never wanted to look back.

The concept for Llani came from a life changing trip to India. Where do you source inspiration now, and how do you keep track of your inspirations and organize your ideas?

I rely heavily on the creativity of my vendors and partners in India. They are really the experts when it comes to embellishments, and I draw so much inspiration for that. I can mock up a motif, color scheme, and materials- any they will knock it out of the park when they bring it to life. To see something woven or embroidered by hand is just so authentically beautiful. For inspiration, I’m constantly looking at travel blogs and home interior books. I have a love affair with vintage and antique spaces and decor. I can always envision my shoes having a home in a beautifully decorated room.

How did you know that comfortable, versatile shoes were where you wanted to specialize?

I’m a heels girl myself, but I think the trend is just shifting. Women are choosing to be comfortable in their everyday ensembles. There is a versatility in fashion now more than before. I’m constantly inspired and encouraged by women who are carving out a path for themselves in the working world. Choosing to start their own businesses so that their schedules can belong to them to spend time with family, travel more, or be at home. I think that is setting the trend for our work force of the future. To partner with that, why shouldn’t we feel just as glamourous and empowered on our couch as we do in a boardroom.

What thrills you the most and concerns you the most in the first year of running your own business?

What thrills me the most is that the doors are now wide open. We live in such an incredible time of creative collaboration and partnerships. When I see brands now that I love and admire, it’s less ‘how can I afford that dress’ and more ‘how can I collaborate with that brand’. What concerns me the most is keeping my customers happy. As much as I love shoes, I have to admit, feet are the hardest part on a body to fit! I want everyone to turn to Llani again and again when treating themselves or their loved ones to a special gift.

The Llani women is creative, bold, independent, nurturing and self-aware
— Alana Oates

What is your daily routine on weekdays versus weekends?

Since I work out of a home office, it’s a bit of a blurred line between weekends and workdays. As a rule, I try to reserve weekends for time with my husband, family, and friends. We are often out of town on the weekends, making trips to the beach, out to the country, or a mini road trip. If we are home, then we try to tackle a home restoration project. I always reserve some time time for self-care too, like an extra long bath or face mask. On weekends I live in my Tasseled Mocs. 

What are some non-fashion things about you that not many people know?

I’m a pretty great cook and I generally don’t follow recipes.  I gain tons of energy from socializing and I really enjoy playing hostess and throwing parties or big feasts at our home. I love being outside, the beach, walking in the woods (aka hiking but I never call it hiking because I feel like a poser). I took acting classes through my whole childhood and I wanted to be an actor.

What makes you feel most beautiful in your own skin?

Good lighting. I love that time of day when the sun is setting and everyone looks so beautiful and glowy. I wish I could eternally walk through the golden hour. We put our whole house on dimmers, so I try to recreate that light when I can.

Fashion has become somewhat of vehicle for political resistance. Do you feel you're making any political, feminist, or empowerment statements through your work?

To me it’s less about politics and more about owning your life and who you are. No matter your beliefs or views, because everyone differs, I just want the women in my life to feel confidant to have an opinion of their own. To lift each other up, and empower one another to do good and do right by themselves. When I was growing up in the corporate world, there was so much competition and it could turn really bitter. I think now it’s a different time, and women are more aware of being supportive of one another. My best girlfriend always says ‘a high tide floats all boats’ and I truly believe that if you put out good energy it will be what you get back. There is nothing more empowering than being a positive force in an industry.

Interview by Ashley Thompson

Photos by Cheyanne Gil

Hair by Barnet Fair

Shot at Lokal Hotel

Styled by The Geisha House