Silvana Landa McAdam
Q: Walk us through your story!
A: Oh, where to begin! I’m from Argentina but moved to Ireland 20 years ago (lucky that my mum is Italian so I have the double nationality). I worked for some big multinational giants like L’Oreal Luxury division where I launched new brands into Ireland (like Kiehl’s) and then moved to Travel retail to depend directly from the office in Paris. It was all super exciting and after seeing brands made, directly from the “mothership”, I felt it was time for me to launch my own. But luckily, after L’Oreal, I took on a role to develop a smaller brand (big locally but not abroad, at the time) in Europe.
This gave me the final push I needed. I was able to place an unknown brand in the European market. My grandfather, Italian immigrant in Argentina, was a cobbler and I grew up watching him work with leather. So, when it was time for me to decide what kind of brand and product to launch, I didn’t move far from these roots. I always had a love for the industry but also a strong entrepreneurial streak thanks to my parents.
Q: What has been the most rewarding phase of your career?
A: My background is not in design, but rather in brand building. Strategy, commercial, etc. So this was a definite challenge. Being able to make mistakes and overcome them, to learn so much, this has been incredibly rewarding. I wanted to create a brand that made sense, a product that added value to women’s lives. My strong vision is still the same, only now it feels really achievable after being on the market for 2 and a half years. We got that customer validation and nothing makes me happier than to get orders from different parts of the world.
Q: What do you do for inspiration? Do you ever hit creative roadblocks and how do you overcome them?
A: I find inspiration in my everyday life, in nature, in people, in architecture. I didn't approach my brand and this industry from the "fashion" world's point of view, I think this would paralyse me. I always thought I'd create accessories from the "lifestyle" angle rather than "catwalks", if it makes sense. It's hard to stay switched on and creative all the time. We all have those moments. I find that when my head is cluttered with ideas and work, I can't operate well, so I take some time to just "be". It's incredible how quickly clear ideas come to your head when you are not obsessively looking for them.
Q: Who has been the most inspirational person in my life and at what stage?
A: My Italian grandmother Paulina. She was a pant suit tailor who had a child during World War II and managed to immigrate to Argentina and create a wonderful life. She has such work ethic! She was a life force. My mum is the same, it runs in the genes. I hope I'm like them.
Q: What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours?
A: I'd say...GO FOR IT! There is room for new brands, for new ideas, for new projects. And every industry is crowded! So don't worry about that. Believe in yourself, in your product and learn and adapt along the way. Women have this incredible force and commitment that sees ideas to completion.
Q: What are the best resources that have helped you along the way?
A: Definitely networking. This is such a key part of developing a company! During my career I met wonderful people that have helped me and encouraged me. Never be too shy to ask for help. People will only be too happy to give you a half an hour coffee meeting or phone call. I feel that when you help someone, you grow even more. Be generous with your time and tips.
Q: What are your top self care routines? A: Exercise is my lifeline. I run (5K only) a couple of times a week and I do yoga. When I don't do this, I crash, my body and mind suffer. My second tip would be meeting my friends, my tribe. We love meeting for brunch and having eternal chats. We really struggled with this during lockdown, and Zoom meetings aren't the same.
Q: What is the most challenging part about what you do?
A: Time has been tricky lately. I have two kids and having them home during lockdown has made an impact. I started getting up at 6am to have "head space" and time for myself. Also, the other aspect of time is that we are growing fast and we are a very small team. Having time to do everything properly is challenging, but seeing the company grow gives me the strength I need.
Q: What is your best Business advice
A: "fail fast"! I learned this early on in my career and that has helped me so much! No point in stretching an idea or product that doesn't work. Identify it early and move on. I don't mean quit when things are not going your way, but rather, follow your gut feeling and if something isn't happening and you are obsessed with it, it's probably time to ditch it and come up with a better plan. Life saver for me.
LANDA is a brand with a firm DNA: Quality, Design and Functionality. I love knowing that we're creating products following traditional craft methods but not charging the big price tag. And that our Handbags make sense, they have been made for living, for people to wear them everyday and feel proud about them. - Silvana Landa McAdam, CEO + Founder of Landa Bags