“No invites were sent out for our launch party”

International lifestyle-brand founder and CEO Kristina Lindhe held a press event and nobody came, teaching her the importance of keeping control.

Take a look at the clothing and homeware collections by lifestyle brand Lexington and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an American company. But the woman behind the New England-inspired label is a Swede based in Stockholm, who’s made a retail powerhouse stocked in more than 900 stores worldwide. Kristina Lindhe tells us how being a teacher helped her build her empire and, while things don’t always go to plan, it’s important not to focus on the negatives.

I graduated as a high-school teacher. My career was very short, but I learned a lot. If you can manage a class of 15-year-olds, you can probably manage most things. Skills such as making presentations interesting, ensuring everything behind the scenes is working like clockwork, encouraging people and giving positive feedback are as important in business as they are in a classroom.

The idea, from the beginning, was to build an international lifestyle brand. I had fallen in love with American East Coast style and felt that, with my Scandinavian background, it would be a great combination design-wise. It was an opportunity to bring something special and unique to the market.

We sent out a spec sheet for some shirts to manufacturers where we were a little bit creative with how we drew the collar. Every single sample shirt came back with a collar that was straight on one side, curved on the other – exactly how we’d done it in the sketch. That taught me not to be creative in my communication with suppliers.

Once, we planned a big press event in Paris. It was to be held in Gallery Lafayette, a department store where we were opening a space. Their people were deeply impressed by our list of attending journalists and their whole management team decided to come along. But? No guests turned up. No one at all. It was so embarrassing. Later, we worked out that the person who had organised the event had forgotten to send out the invitations. Naturally, we want to have 100% control of everything now, and that person’s career in PR and event management didn’t go very far.

When we first started the business, we’d get a lot of attention when we opened in a new area or a department store, but things have changed. Retail is undergoing a huge transformation. Online is where today’s breaks come from. Together with social media and e-tailers, the internet creates more possibilities and opportunities.

I find it quite impossible to remember names and recognise people. One time, when I attended a big fashion gala, I suddenly recognised an agent that I’d had a meeting with the week before. I went straight up to him and said, “Hello, so nice to meet you again, you must be so and so.” He looked at me and said, “No, I’m not,” and walked away. When I looked around, people were laughing. It turned out he was the most famous person at the gala – the guest of honour and an internationally recognised designer of a big global brand. He was really offended and I felt very stupid. The lesson? Think twice before you go up to people and start a conversation.

In business there are new challenges every day. They can be anything, from the design of a product to a strategy, but I have never understood why you should focus on your mistakes. It’s much better to focus on what you’re good at and what you’re successful with, and go from there.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: http://www.ink-live.com/emagazines/easyjet-inflight