Sometimes I feel like I was meant to marry my husband because I was destined to meet his cousin Sarah, who I now consider as my sister. I’d always felt that I wanted to be, and was born to be, an entrepreneur. The difficult part was trying to find that one idea or concept that would launch me in that direction. I had been sort of a sounding board for Sarah to bounce all of her startup ideas off of. Being the pragmatic one, I was the balancing act for many of the big visions we had back then (and to this very day). In hindsight, even these failed start-up experiences had their own purpose in our journey. This was where the four of us, Sarah, Elaine, Ria and I first experienced working together as a Dream Team.
One of our ideas conceived in 2009 was called Limethread. As a social e-commerce platform based upon fashion, we decided to attend the MAGIC apparel convention in Las Vegas in order to gain further insight into the fashion mega-world. During our downtime that evening after the convention, Sarah and I decided to go shopping at the Paige Denim boutique. Most of the jeans I owned were premium denim, so I convinced her to try on a few pairs just for fun. Although they were my favorite denim brand (like all the other premium denim I owned), they all required hemming before I could “fit” into them. The quality of the jeans and Paige’s spot on customer service that day sold Sarah and she bought a pair. Little did I know that the sleeping giant had awoken!
The first start-up that the Lotus ladies worked on together, called Limethread, was more grandiose an idea than our budget and resources allowed. We closed shop and briefly parted ways. Shortly after, Sarah asked me what my thoughts were on starting our own premium denim line, one that would perfectly fit us average statured women who weren't 5’8”and taller.
What could make more sense?! Almost every single woman I knew (myself included), all had this issue, of having to hem even the most premium of denim. Not only were we paying premium prices for our denim already, but then had to take the time out, not to mention the extra cost, to get them hemmed before we could even wear them. Here we were, a potential start-up addressing an under-served yet already rampant need, including my own. Sign me up!
The idea was born, but none of us were designers, nor did we know much about the fashion business. Sarah placed an ad on Craigslist, and a few days later, she received a call from Lindsay, an entrepreneur who previously worked for Levi’s Design Team. Lindsay was also petite and vouched the pain we sought to eliminate. Bingo! For most of 2010, we’d travel back and forth to San Francisco, discussing fit issues, product development, samples, and branding with Lindsay. The synergy was great, but there were just too many unknown parts, and too little time to figure it all out. Although Lindsay was a blessing to work with, she respectfully parted ways as she herself was trying to focus on her own dreams and balance in life. However, what we did gain from Lindsay was our company name, Lotus Premium Denim. Her epiphany came during a train ride, as she was thinking of a name to describe our journey. Having faced our own personal battles, the lotus symbolized exactly what we were all about and what we stood for, beauty born out of muddy hardship.
We were a now denim line with a name, yet we were far from launching our brand. Sarah and I knew we needed a manufacturing partner to help us in product development. She decided to call Stefano Aldighieri, Founder of Another Design Studio, and also the previous Creative Director of Hudson Jeans and 7 For All Mankind.
A phone discussion turned into an introduction, which led us to our current production manager, Jeff, in Los Angeles. For the early half of 2011, Jeff listened to our ideas and constructed samples of our first slim cut denim style called Inspire. In working with him, we realized that we were our best designers. We already knew exactly how we wanted our jeans to look, feel and fit. I knew that we were onto something big as soon as I tried on that very first Inspire sample. I literally did not want to take them off! Not only was the fit better than all of the premium jeans in my closet, I actually felt sexy wearing them. A few minor tweaks later and our first production run of our very first denim style was a go.
Our husbands and our families supported our crazy idea that we could design the best fitting jeans for women, but with our personal finances wearing thin from all our travels, samples, business setup, and contractor fees, it was proving to be very difficult to move forward.
At this point, we still did not even have a launch date. Frustrated and exhausted, we knew we could not do this successfully without getting the right "Dream" team in place. And we knew we had so much more to do. We had a Founder with a passionate idea, a woman who could operate and steer the ship, but we needed a veteran in the fashion and retail world, who could reaffirm our market fit and help us sell. And then in late spring of 2011, Sarah introduced me to Marie Coronado. We met on a trip to Los Angeles for a sample fitting session held in Jeff’s office. She was absolutely in love with our Lotus brand, what it stood for, and why it was so critical to bring Lotus to market. In many ways, her spirit and unwavering faith removed our doubts, and compelled Lotus to continue forward...
Tune into next week’s story, and discover how Marie became a Lotus woman.