Zepha Jackson is the woman behind Last Layer, a philanthropic wearable workwear label that focuses on responsible design, as well as Not A Stitch Up, a clothing factory created to fill the gap for transparent clothing production.
Read on as we chat to Zepha about always growing and learning, the unglamorous importance of Xero and offering a new approach to how things can be accomplished in a more thoughtful, responsible and progressive manner.
Q1. Hi Zepha, welcome to the Woman Of Series! Can you tell us what it is you create?
Hey Guys, Thanks for having me! Well, I guess what I’ve curated is a really beautiful team and together we are able to create clothing for other people and brands around the world. My projects are ‘Last Layer’ which is a wearable workwear label, focusing on responsible design and ’Not A Stitch Up’, the clothing factory created to fill the gap for transparent clothing production.
Q2. When did you start getting into the production industry? What inspired you to go down this path?
My first intro to the clothing world was falling into a pretty high level ‘fashion’ gig that had me questioning every aspect of the industry. Clothing was never something I really cared for, so I was intrigued and wanted to learn more from the ground up. At that point I was around 18 years old and had previously spent some time in the Philippines, I thought that would be a good place to go back to and throw myself into learning as much as I could - instead of studying in a western institute, I work better learning through experience. I was able to study supply chains, fabrics, visit factories all around Asia, start playing around with design and creating for myself.
So from the get go, i’ve had a very anti-fashion approach to everything, and my businesses have really just come about as my way of offering a new approach to how things can be accomplished in a more thoughtful, responsible and progressive manner.
Q3. Talk us through your creative process. How do you reach your signature style?
I design for myself and mates really. It’s important to me that all my belongings are simple and versatile as I’ve always hated having too many things. I spend a lot of time traveling so my ideal wardrobe is one that fits in a suitcase, consists of interchangeable pieces, pieces that can be used for summer outfits and layered for winter, to create looks that I can wear to a meeting, be comfortable working or playing in all day, then still feel comfy if I end up out at dinner or a bar later.
Q4. What has been your favourite project that you’ve worked on? Why?
There’s a lot of exciting projects and companies that I’ve worked with that are definitely up there as favourites and contributed to a lot of my growth but I think the most game changing project for me was my own, Last Layer.
Last Layer was a really long time in the making, my clothing factory, Not to A Stitch Up was the byproduct of creating it, and the brand is really an extension of myself. There is something so vulnerable about putting so much of yourself into a brand and out into the world, so it’s been a real learning curve. There’s also a lot of perks about having a project that is completely your own; taking it a pace your comfy with, collaborating with all your favourite people and just knowing theres no rules or people to answer to.
Q5. What single tool or strategy have you found invaluable to your business so far?
Xero - The accounting software. A very unglamorous answer I’m sorry. About a year into biz I realised that owning your own business really means you are now have to become an accountant and a spreadsheet, scheduling/planning wizard too. I hope I didn’t just pop anyones balloon. It should be obvious that business = lots of accounting but it was a weird realisation process for me because money has never and is still not a motivator for me. Personally, I was so used to being a freelancer where income can be so up and down which never really mattered to me, I don’t need a lot to get by so it never phased me too much.
However, when you start to add staff into the mix, you can’t be so nonchalant about the funds anymore. I have the responsibility of 15 peoples livelihoods in my hands, so I had to learn to take that seriously and start working to a calculated schedule in order to protect them and keep this thing afloat.
Q6. What (and who) is involved in the process of manufacturing?
So many people and process’s are involved in garment manufacturing!
A lot more than what people usually think, there are people out there that think clothes are popped out by a machine, but really there is so much manual labour involved.
To make it brief, your supply chain starts with the people harvesting your raw materials then there's the weaving team, dying team, embellishments, washing, pattern making, cutting, sewing, finishing, quality control...
Q7. What is your big hope and dream for your work?
I don’t really think I have one single big hope and dream. I feel like things change and evolve everyday, theres always a new opportunity I’m excited about, I don’t even know what I want to do next month let alone thinking too far into the future.
I just want to always keep growing and learning, so if I’m able to keep that going then I’ll be a happy girl.
Q8. What are your top 3 superpowers?
Well I definitely don’t think I have any superpowers. There are a lot of people out there that have talents and wizardry far beyond what I do. Any achievements or growth that i’ve had so far really boils down to my insane work ethic. Probably also my annoying trait of thinking nothing is too farfetched and just figuring out ways to make the 'impossible' work. Then there is the luck aspect of it all, without the people that have come into my life and made me who I am, things would look a lot different.
Q9. We’re all about women inspiring women. Who inspires you?
My mother. This is not a bias answer.
Q10. What advice would you impart on the next generation of women, and women in business?
Slow and steady wins the race. But there is no race. Take your time, enjoy the ride and do things thoughtfully.
We’d love to ask….
In what ways are you supporting your favourite creators during these uncertain times?
During this covid weird time we wanted to open up a barter trade option for Last Layer. Returning to the roots of how our ancestors used to do ‘business’.
We all individually have something to offer wether is be tangible objects, skills, services, products, art, advice etc.
It’s been a scary time for everyone and it all seems pretty dismal for the time being in our community of artists and small business’s. We’re not oblivious to the fact that tangible objects won’t pay the bills but for us this could help to give purpose, keep us going and we’re excited to see what could come of it.