Dani and Conor Mercer, the Perth couple behind luxury boutique LESSONS are enjoying a creative rebirth.
Like many of us, the pandemic saw the duo slow down – in fact, they got to slow down for the first time since opening the doors to their luxury boutique way back in 2014.
“During the pandemic, it was a good time for us to really evaluate where we were at,” Conor tells us, as we chat in the State Buildings’ bustling Postal Hall, the current home of LESSONS.
“We’ve been doing this for six or seven years… It was a good time to think ‘What does my life look like after the pandemic?’ We had time to slow down – we were going to Paris, Milan, New York, LA, four or five times a year, it was just this constant buying-travelling-releasing, buying-travelling-releasing.”
Their original store was located in a hidden basement on Pakenham Street in the middle of Fremantle. When they initially took on the lease, the cavernous space had a sandpit instead of a floor, and they spent six months renovating the store into a mysterious, moody, designer space.
The intriguing concept worked, and the promise of a hidden basement store advertised only via word-of-mouth got them in the door for some of the most exclusive global brands – brands that weren’t yet available in Perth. This coincided with the rise of young creatives in fashion blurring the lines between luxury and streetwear.
Over the ensuing years, LESSONS grew bigger and bigger, eventually moving into a space just off King Street, and then into their current home at the State Buildings.
“Our whole focus had been to build the store to this internationally respected boutique, a brand that was recognisable and that meant something, we were like, ‘What’s next?’ Do we want to just keep doing this for the next five, six years? Or did we want to take a look at what else there was?”
Having dabbled in releasing pieces under LESSONS’ own internal brand, it was a natural transition to think more about what their own clothing line would look like – and how it would reflect their ethos.
“We thought, is it possible to make clothes, on a regular basis, to the standard that we want to, in Western Australia? Is that possible?”
So began a two year journey of finding a local manufacturer, finding fabrics, finding pattern makers:
“Convincing the factory to do menswear, finding out what limitations there were on what we could actually do, and do those limitations mean we couldn’t do enough different types of product? Can we find the fabrics that are interesting, that are up to the standard that we’re used to selling? We went through this whole process, and the answer to all that was yes, it is possible.”
“It kind of ticked every question that we were asking ourselves. Sustainability? Yes. Supporting local, doing it local? Yes. Us being able to creatively put our own spin on what we wanted to do…”
What has emerged from this process is Equinox: the first iteration of LESSONS Lounge. Made entirely in WA and inspired by seasons of change, Edition One features a combination of luxurious, satin sets and ribbed mock necks – the more “sophisticated” side of the lounging coin – as well as oversized terry sweats and tees. While technically a menswear line, the brand has always taken a unisex approach to their offerings. (Dani also helms Le Look, her own womenswear line that recently launched.)
“The LESSONS brand has grown up as we’ve grown up,” Dani tells us. “It’s more based around what we want to wear and what we enjoy.”
“Exactly,” Conor nods. “In eight years you change what you wear completely. For us, now that we’ve grown up, we’re more interested in tailoring and comfort.”
“From the bed, to the bar, and back to bed. We want you to be able to wear it at home, be comfortable, go down to the supermarket, go to the bar.”
The range will grow in coming weeks to include luxe wool pants and linen tees, as well as slippers (with sheepskin sourced from meat-industry waste product via the oldest sheepskin factory in Melbourne), jewellery made in conjunction with an ex-staff member’s brand, and longer term the couple are looking at introducing a range of homewares.
“It’s limitless. That’s why it’s so cool for us as well, we’re not just doing clothing, there’s so many different avenues we can go down… Incense, candles, the sky’s the limit, which is kind of why it’s really given us this rebirth of creativity.”
The range will also be at a lower price point than the stores previous offerings, prioritising accessibility while maintaining brand integrity.
“It’s really important for us that anyone can come and shop in the store, and we’ve always drilled that into our staff that no matter who comes in the store, they get the same service.”
“Maybe a 16 year old comes in and it’s their first shirt from a ’boutique’… It’s cool that we can offer that. And then, you know, an affluent executive comes in and can have a similar, cool experience – for us, it’s really important that it can be an inclusive environment with the design of the clothing, the price point, with the way they’re treated by the staff.”
“It’s so important for us, like on our labels it says ‘Lessons Lounge, handmade in Western Australia’, because we truly believe that the customer that’s coming through here, they would be more interested in buying something that’s made in Western Australia than possibly a brand that they could get anywhere else. They can come and get this piece of Western Australia, this thing they take home with them is a story for them to tell. So being able to share that story with the people that are coming through here, it’s cool.”
“It feels right, the right time, the manufacturers falling into the right place, the space is in the right place, it’s a creative rebirth and we’re just happy to be able to offer something to Western Australia that is made in Western Australia, that we’re proud of.”