Fashion is subject; it can be as literal or theoretical as one makes it. The smallest piece of material can transcend an entire collection into a political statement; it can make or break the designer. Take the stripe; for instance, one may see it as merely a stripe on fabric. Valarie Macaulay (CCO), Meredith Melling (CMO) and Molly Howard (CEO), founders of La Ligne, consider the line to be a way to translate the stripe into a collection that empowers women of all ages with effortless self-expression.
Through their fashion experience, the founders realized that to make a statement, not only did their approach have to be bold, but their collection had to as well. The company’s utilization of the stripe acknowledges the beauty of lines and the infinite forms that can take shape.
“It’s baked into the name of our brand, La Ligne,” Macaulay shares. “It was something I think like a palate cleanser, something that cuts through a lot of noise and fashion. It was something that Meredith and I always go back to in our own wardrobe. It was something stylists asked for when they were curating their own shoots. It was this graphic that we felt that we could always push forward. It is timeless. It’s democratic. It works. We felt we could make this into a brand or a graphic that we could really own.”
Macaulay’s career began at Harper’s Bazaar as an intern before advancing into the accessories department. After close to two years at that magazine, she began working at Vogue, where she ultimately became the bookings editor. It was at Vogue where she met Melling.
Melling’s career began at the defunct Mademoiselle magazine to run the multi-advertiser program, which was a cross country tour where they hosted fashion shows on college campuses across America. Vogue then offered her a position as a merchandising editor. She quickly realized that she wanted to be a part of the storytelling, not just pushing brands’ messages out to the public. After leaving her position and a short hiatus, Melling returned to Vogue. She spent another 16 years at the magazine before resigning with Macaulay as the climate within the publishing industry began to shift.
Macaulay and Melling then met Howard, who was head of business development at rag & bone. Prior, she worked at the Financial Sponsors Group within the investment banking division at Credit Suisse. She worked on consumer product deals, which enabled her to work with a multitude of industries.
Entrepreneurship was new to the three founders. They decided early on to create a direct-to-consumer business model rather than being entirely dependent on wholesale. Initially, they launched both a core and seasonal collection. However, that system didn’t work. The customers weren’t buying into that vision.
“We decided pretty quickly within the second collection to do away with that,” Howard states. “We created one collection that launched. The next big change was that we realized that we couldn’t just launch a season’s worth of clothing and then expect the customer to pick and choose some pieces and then come back the next week and then come back the next week; that wasn’t happening. It felt like we would have these big days when we launched the product, and then it would get much quieter. We weren’t wholesale dependent, so we didn’t have to produce all of our collection at one time to ship out to a wholesaler. We decided to release our product weekly.”
As the partners have transitioned and expanded the brand, they have kept the stripe’s power at the forefront of their decisions. The mission is not only to empower women but to create a community. Throughout the last three years, La Ligne has formed a community of over 300 men and women across all different industries known as La Bande. These individuals champion and support fellow female creatives and entrepreneurs through collaborations, non-profit partnerships and intelligent content produced and developed by the company.
As the founders continue to expand within their market, they focus on the following essential steps:
- Consider what will happen if you don’t take the risk. Play out the what-if scenarios. Sometimes not taking a risk is riskier than actually going for it.
- Determine how you’re going to stand out. Look at the space you want to be in. Who are your peers? What void are you filling?
- Make sure the reason that you’re pivoting is that your life experience has told you that’s where you know you should be versus that’s where you think you should be.
“When I was thinking about leaving and starting my own thing,” Melling concludes, “I immediately started to think about the downside risk. Like, ‘well, this could happen, and this could happen, and that would be horrible.’ I had to shift and start thinking about the upside risk. If I didn’t do this, what wouldn’t I learn about myself? What wouldn’t I accomplish? What wouldn’t I achieve?”