On Sunday June 12, 2016 DARLA Magazine had the opportunity to host Dear Laney's Rad Girl Brunch at a private venue in Philadelphia. The brunch included a great breakfast buffet with bottomless mimosas as well as a showcase of the new Dear Laney summer collection, 4PM in Napa. As the collection was being shown to all of the Rad Girls in attendance, DARLA held a live interview with Dear Laney's owner and designer, Cali. Cali launched Dear Laney in 2013 as a vintage-inspired line that was a reflection of her personal interests and enthusiasm for vintage clothing. She is a self-taught designer (with some help from YouTube) and she combined her love for fashion with photography, blogging, and people-watching to create the Dear Laney brand.
The whole concept behind the Dear Laney line + blog is to create an open platform so that girls can relate to Laney — Laney is the inspiration for everything so she's me, she's you, she can be anyone. Our customers are called The Raddest Girl On The Planet because I feel like anyone who wears Dear Laney is like the coolest girl ever!
For a more vivid idea of "The Raddest Girl On The Planet," envision a girl who sips chai tea while she listens to classic music from Frank Sinatra... But also hustles hard everyday to turn her dreams into reality while bumping Jay-Z through her headphones. She's a vintage maven who likes to dress in flowy kimonos and jumpers and if she had a stylist, it would be Rebecca Jefferson — the same stylist as Jhené Aiko. She's very creative with a timeless, effortless style and is passionate about using her talents and voice to make the world a better place. Definitely, the coolest girl ever.
For clothing, Dear Laney provides vintage-inspired pieces that women of all sizes can wear comfortably as well as very basic pieces that can be mixed and matched with accessories. They come up with the silhouettes for each new collection by customer reviews and by finding out what women of all sizes like to wear. Dear Laney focuses on staple and transitional pieces so that customers have a selection of essential items ranging from jumpers to wide-leg pants, to flowy dresses that can be taken from day-to-night looks. "When it comes to the patterns and colors of each collection, I like to play it safe. I choose neutrals, like nudes and blacks because that allows my customers to be able to go real crazy with their jewelry and shoes!"
For summer, the inspiration behind the collection is 4PM in Napa and for spring we did 12PM in New York. Counterclockwise, it's going to be a 24 hour period of each collection for the next four seasons. Each collection is inspired by where I want to go and what I want to do, so I spend time at that place and just grab all inspiration behind it. When we went to New York for the spring collection, I just spent the day there getting all the vibes, looking at different things like the architecture, how things work, and how people are. That's how I create. I just do research, sketch, and then go create the garment.
The 4PM in Napa collection showcased during The Rad Girl Brunch consisted of jumpers, dresses, tops, and bottoms that are perfect pieces to wear for all summer activities including beach days, a night in the city, and even weddings! From Dear Laney's, "Laney Dress," which is their first silhouette ever made to the "Bailey Jumper" that can be be worn on a date night or girls night out, there are pieces to complement the body and lifestyle of any woman.
Dear Laney is currently sold online through their website, xodearlaney.com and they recently just got their items into five boutiques; three in California and two in Philadelphia. For the future, they plan on doing more pop-up shops until they are able to open up their own store. Dear Laney is also working on collaborations with boutiques and other brands including a special project with a sponsor of The Rad Girl Brunch, Virginia Blu. The mission of Virgina Blu is to tie a purpose to fashion. They explained to us how when you purchase and wear their T-shirts, you're fighting against cancer as the brand stands behind the cancer society, Susan B. Komen and is working to expand as a global brand. Dear Laney and Virginia Blu just teamed up to collaborate on T-shirts and a big project together to have both of their purposes and brands joined together.
We had such a great time at Dear Laney's Rad Girl Brunch and we were honored to have been able to host the live Q&A during the event. Check out our interview below to learn more about the story and inspiration behind Dear Laney as well as some valuable advice from Cali for establishing a brand of your own!
victoriadrianna: What's the story behind your brand name, Dear Laney?Dear Laney: I got the name from my Grandpop — his name was Laney and he passed away in 2012. I told him that I've always loved his name and I'd say, "If I have a daughter, but probably not... Or a dog, but I can't because I'm allergic to them.... Or basically when I have my first SOMETHING.... I am going to name it Laney."
I was thinking of names for my brand for an entire year after he passed away before it came to me, though. It started off as an online vintage store called, "Chai Tea Vintage." Chai Tea is my favorite tea in the world so I got that name from my grandmother who also loves Chai Tea + how I'm, what I like to call myself, a vintage maven.
When I went to start my original brand, I was constantly writing down things trying to decide on a name but I did't feel like anything was good enough. Then a year after my grandfather died, I wrote him a letter starting off with, "Dear Laney," and when I was looking at it I was like, "OMG, I love that!!"
I took that name and then I made it into a girl who is my alter ego. Everyone thinks that Laney is my name but it's not, haha! I just created my brand around that. Now if you get a Dear Laney garment, you get a piece of me; it was created by something I was truly inspired by. That's why I write letters through my online diary... So I can talk about who inspires me and where I get my inspiration to create.
V: What do you want the Dear Laney brand to represent in the world?DL: Ultimately, I want to create more for Dear Laney because I like to call it my "Limitless Brand." I don't want it to be just a fashion brand — I feel like I can do so much more with it! It's more than just fashion; Dear Laney could be a movie, it could be a store, it could be a book, we could be different non-profits. Next summer, we're starting "The Rad Girls Club" which is going to be an after school program for young girls, kind of like the YMCA. We just got approved for that and eventually we'd like to launch that as a full summer program.
V: From reading your blog, I learned that you made the decision to quit your job to pursue Dear Laney full-time. How did you go about making that decision?DL: Two weeks ago, I quit my full-time job to start Dear Laney full-time and I took a part-time job at a retail store just to get by. This year, I just want to be able to fully go for it instead of working another job full-time because I think when you do that, it just takes away from everything and you end up putting your passions on the back burner. That's really important, especially if you're passionate about something. I always say, "Push your passions," and I'm always tweeting "Hobbies become careers..." Because the more you push it, the more you'll believe in it, then the more everyone else will believe in it and you'll be able to achieve it!
V: What are some challenges you face while running your own company?DL: Getting people engaged while I'm still working part-time is a current challenge. I really only get time to post while I'm off or while I'm on break... So maintaining continuous interest is something I feel is really hard to keep up with.
V: What is some advice you would give to someone who is trying to conquer the branding aspect of creating a business?DL: Wait and really understand your market; study! I feel like when I first started, I wanted to rush to post everything I've done after a photo shoot or something like that instead of really getting a good end product. Mastering your craft is really important. When you master your craft and perfect everything is when you should put stuff out and talk about it.
V: How do you use social media to connect with your customers?DL: We use all social media platforms — Instagram, Twitter, FaceBook, the blog, and now we're going to start using Periscope. All of our posting on social media is run by our brilliant Brand Manager, Victoria.
V: You told me earlier that you started off as a blogger before you became a designer. How did you get into blogging + how did you make your career transition into entrepreneurship?DL: On my 21st birthday, I was at the 40/40 club and I met these guys who were Ques. One of the guys was a videographer; his name is Don Napoleon and he just won an Emmy at the time. We were all just talking and drinking and having fun, but once he told me that — he immediately caught my attention. He asked me, "So what do you do?" and when I told him about my interest in fashion, he encouraged me to start a blog which I started in 2010. After that, he invited me to Fashion Week as his apprentice.... And ever since then, I was just blown away and everything just grew from there!
V: How do you feel about running your company in Philadelphia vs. other cities that are more well-known for fashion?DL: I like the west coast, but I feel like there are so many similar brands to mine there, so it's like... How would I stand out? Here, there's only Free People which is also a Philadelphia brand and I figure if they do it, and they've been around for over 25 years, that it should be easy if I just stick to it. I think you can start off anywhere! People often think that you have to go to New York, LA, or Miami... But you have to look at it more like how Drake is from Toronto and there were NO rappers that were cool from there before him. I just feel like if you can make it in your own city, then you can make it anywhere! You've just gotta hustle.
V: Entrepreneurship isn't always a sure thing when it comes to making a living, and a lot of people battle with taking that risk and getting the courage to start... How did you get the courage to start your own business?DL: It just came to me one day because I know I didn't want to work for someone forever. I know I'm creative and I feel like working a job sometimes puts you in a box... Like a 9 to 5, sometimes just makes you go crazy! I noticed that I was always jumping from job to job because I would mentally check out within a couple of months. That's how I knew that I needed to do something on my own and something specifically in fashion because it's ever-changing and flexible.
V: What advice would you give yourself for motivation through a tough time and to encourage yourself to keep pushing to achieve your goals?DL: "You came this far, what's the point in giving up? Giving up is for suckers and I'm not a sucker!" If you're at the bottom, the only place you can go from there is up. It's either that or quit, but quitting makes you a loser... And everyone will know!
V: DARLAMagazine.com operates on a Sunday schedule to meet the busy lifestyles of our audience, so it's so cool that your brunch is taking place on a Sunday as well! How would you spend a Sunday free from work?DL: I always say, "Sundays are for lovers!" I wake up, grab coffee, and of course check all social media... Basically social-media stalk bloggers and all the cool girls I follow. After that, I like to just lounge around, hang out with my friends, and maybe do brunch... I keep it easy!
I can't wait to see what Dear Laney has in store for the future! Stay updated with Dear Laney by following the Dear Laney Gang on Instagram + Twitter @xoDearLaney and shop the 4PM in Napa collection now at xodearlaney.com!
[these things take time.] the poetry book available on amazon.com.