By the age of 16, there was no question that I would start a company and it would focus on fashion, so I began a ten year journey to learn as much as I could about apparel design and running a business by way of internships, retail jobs and earning design and business degrees. In 2005, feeling as ready as I would ever be, I shipped the first Loyale collection from my apartment, funded with a modest nest egg. Being the only employee, I held fast to the ideology that sincerity and hard work would be my most dependable colleagues. From that point on, I was living my dream of managing an eco-chic fashion company in a booming New York City economy. My years of preparation to launch Loyale were like listening to Rosetta Stone to learn a foreign language and expecting to speak fluently. Nothing could truly prepare me for the onslaught of press outreach, cash flow management, projections, e-commerce shop upkeep, trade shows, P&Ls and balance sheets, on top of designing three collections a year, but I loved it.
It had always been my goal to make a positive impact by offering stylish, sustainable clothing at an accessible price point and I was doing just that. Within a few years, magical things happened, The New York Times’ Sunday Styles featured a Loyale dress, 60 retailers were carrying the line, Vogue ran a one page article, Jessica Alba, Blake Lively and other top celebrities were wearing my designs, and I was awarded an Eileen Fisher women-in-business grant to support the company’s growth. At the same time, the numbers weren’t adding up...we were experiencing double digit sales growth annually, however, there were no revenues and Loyale was barely breaking even because our margins were too slim. I thought I could keep it up because the collection had a great following; customers loved that I always used the best sustainable fabrics and had extremely high production standards, but season after season, I was working so hard and unable to pay myself, let alone hire a team. Ironically, in pursuit of sustainability, I created a company and lifestyle that were completely unsustainable.
After serious soul searching, I made a big change and relocated to North Carolina in 2009. It was time to jump off the hamster wheel I’d created for myself, lower my overhead and reassess the business. Little did I know I would love the South so much; it immediately grounded me and everyone was welcoming...I felt at home and more serene than I had felt in years. I did however underestimate that partnering with new mills and finding a Southern factory would be a colossal undertaking. My research lead me down long, winding roads fraught with cul-de-sacs, so I started to take detours and ended up working with a film festival, a music festival and an entrepreneurial focused non-profit. Thankfully this path gave me ample opportunity to take part in the thriving Southern culinary scene, learn new skills and make exceptional friends, as well as thoroughly evaluate my blunders, successes and favorite elements of Loyale.
As I looked to turn a fresh page for the company, my beloved brother passed away unexpectedly. Overnight I was an only child and felt an urgent need to be there for my niece and nephew...all the while thinking, what is life without my best friend and most dedicated supporter? I moved back to Northern California and took one step at a time. Emerging from this heartbreak, I’ve unearthed an unexpected gift, I see life and Loyale for what it should be, from a much more raw and exposed place. It’s become clear that both should exist on a foundation of gratitude, inclusivity, giving and above all, cultivating community. This blueprint guided me to shift towards ethical home essentials with a focus on collaboration and building relationships.
Designing ignites my soul and I feel like this creative expression is essential to my existence. Every molecule of my being has always pointed me toward this line of work, but taking life and my loved ones for granted is a flaw I need to strike from my entrepreneurial experience. I don’t want to live by a set of rules someone else made up, I want to embrace a life that makes a lasting difference. In pursuit of my passions and in the wake of great loss, I’ve taken the time to really think about what I want to be doing and what feels most beneficial. This is reflected in Loyale’s business model...it’s a holistic approach to live each day with equal consideration of mind, hands, stomach and heart.