April Leight and Lauren Alexander of California Clothing Brand LNA Discuss Their Growing Success
Written by: Alexandra Shubin The Designer Duo Behind LNA’s Classic T-Shirt Talks Shop LNA clothing
Photographed by: Taylor Lewis
Beauty Stylist: Chelsea Gehr
The idea for the perfect “men’s inspired T-shirt for women” led to the creation of LNA on the very same day April Leight and Lauren Alexander met. You could certainly say it was, well, a perfect fit. The SoCal girls have a relaxed style with a determined edge. From when they first started 10 years ago, as a team of two, they now have a staff of 13 dedicated and creative individuals that help cultivate the company. They are constantly working to perfect and innovate their line that has been featured in runway shows and magazines.
While Southern California acts as an inspiration for their clothing, there’s a lot more behind LNA’s simple, classic look. Every piece is well designed and thoughtfully crafted. LNA is comfortable and sexy, which is everything an active yet stylish consumer adores. Leight outlines marketing, social media and celebrity support the brand has received while Lauren elaborates on the vision behind LNA and the creative process.
Q: When was the moment you two realized the line was actually going to take off?
Lauren Alexander: I think it was after our first trade show in Las Vegas—we literally pulled the samples off the sewing line, put them in April’s car and drove to Vegas! No one had heard of us and there we were in this booth filled with T-shirts in every color of the rainbow. We had such an amazing response to the line and that’s when we knew we really had something. I still remember adding up all the orders on my cellphone’s calculator during that show.
April Leight: April Leight: Back then, there wasn’t Instagram or Snapchat, so if we got a paparazzi shot of a celebrity wearing our tee and it was mentioned in Us Weekly, it would instantly become a hit and take off. I will never forget starting to see Jessica Alba, Ashley Olsen and Kim Kardashian being photographed in our tees and suddenly everyone had to have LNA.
Q: Did you always imagine yourselves as having your own line?
LA: For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a clothing designer and have my own line. I actually found a school project that I did when I was 13 and when asked where I will be in 10 years, I wrote, “I will live in Westwood and be a fashion designer.” I don’t even remember writing that but I moved to Westwood exactly 10 years after I wrote that and started LNA. I’ve always been a dreamer!
AL: I wasn’t quite sure at first. After I graduated UCSB, I thought that I would want to open my own store. So, I went to FIDM and studied merchandise marketing. After I graduated, I saw other lines such as Juicy Couture, C&C California, and Seven, launch into huge sales and then later sell. It was right then that I decided I would do the same. And, thankfully, I met Lauren and we were able to create our dream.
Q: How did the idea for LNA start?
AL: Because we wanted to make the perfect tee, we started to discuss what we wanted the tee to look like: wearing your boyfriend’s T-shirt but fit right for our female bodies. Since Lauren had her dress line, she knew the steps we needed to take to start samples. I will never forget walking into her home and she had the first sample made. She had me put it on and I said, “Yes, this is it!” From then on, we started with four basics (v-neck, crew neck, racer back tank, basic tank) in three colors and started the selling process. And now it has turned into thousands of designs over the years.
Q: How do you balance each other out when working together on the clothing line?
AL: I think because Lauren and I were strangers, and not friends, that decided to start the line, it worked out. We have only known each other as business partners. Lauren is the head designer and handles all of the creative, and I’m more on the operational side dealing with the numbers and the business side. We never step on the other’s toes and always support one another.
LA: From the very beginning we both took on separate roles so everything just flows really nicely. I’ve always done all the creative and April is the most supportive partner you could ask for. She really believes in my vision and trusts me as a designer.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about starting LNA? LNA clothing
AL: We have built this line from the ground up and we get to design clothes that we want to wear. It’s a dream come true to pull up to this warehouse with our names on the outside and inside sits an entire closet that we designed and get to wear every single day. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.
LA: One of the best things I could have asked for in my life is to be able to do what I love every day when I wake up. To feel proud of what I accomplished and have my hard work mean something. LNA was a dream I had when I was 13 and now it’s my reality. Being able to come to work everyday and make ideas come to life is exactly what I always wanted to do—and to have a platform to share this on is incredible. Plus, I have a huge warehouse as my closet!
Q: How do you manage to stand out against competitors?
AL: We are known for creating basics with an edge. So whatever we wear, there is some detail in the shirt, dress or pants. Whether it is a cut-out, zippers, a tie, or a torn pocket. We perfect it over and over again, with something new to the garment, which I think makes us stand out.
LA: For us it’s always about having a different point of view on basics: How can I create a T-shirt that stands out from all the others? My hope is to always keep evolving and surprising people each season.
Q: As you’ve grown, how has the marketing changed for you?
AL: Marketing today is really all about social media and bloggers. I feel like every year, there is some new social media outlet and new upcoming blogger we have to check out. We’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and then, just this year, my brother said you have to have a Snapchat and Periscope. It never ends but it gets new and exciting. LNA clothing
Q: What is your biggest challenge as far as marketing is concerned? LNA clothing
LA: You know, when we started, if you had a picture of a celebrity wearing your clothing, you would get so much press and stores would get excited. Now it’s so different—photos of celebs don’t get us the attention they used to.
Q: How big is your team as of now? LNA clothing
AL: Well, 10 years ago it was just Lauren and I, and we shipped our first million dollars that year, and today we have a team of 13. Some of our team has been with us for the past eight years. We are like family.
Q: What were the challenges you faced as you began to grow? LNA clothing
LA: We were so lucky that LNA took off right away. But that doesn’t mean it was easy—you can be the hottest new brand and have all the celebs wearing your stuff, but then next year there are two more clothing lines coming to take your place. Each season I think, “OK, I’ve done these T-shirts—now what? What’s missing, what’s a new take on something we wear every single day?”
Q: The color scheme of your fall 2015 collection seems much more strict compared to your spring line. Can you explain? LNA clothing
LA: Fall always tends to be a less colorful collection for us. For fall, we focus more on texture and fabric and experiment using treatments instead of color. How can we make a collection look well rounded and full without the use of bright colors? I love the idea of a rainbow of neutrals in different fabrics and shades. Fall silhouettes tend to sit closer to the body and the fabrics are much cozier. LNA clothing
Q: Can we ever expect to see a bright orange or lime green garment?
AL: Hey, if there is ever a demand for that at a tradeshow, we will make it for the customers.
LA: My money is on orange.
Q: What can we look forward to from LNA in the future?
AL: We have an active collection coming out later this year, which is exciting. It’s nothing like any active line that I have seen out there. Lauren is Miss Bar Method Queen so she knew exactly what she wanted to create and let me tell you, it’s outstanding!
LA: Next year I am going to focus on building the active division. I’m very into health and fitness so this is definitely a passion project for me. I’m always sneaking out of the office midday for a Bar Method session! I am also planning on refocusing some of my energy to the men’s division. It’s really taken a back seat to the women’s line over the past few years. I keep promising it, so it’s time to deliver.
Clothing for a Cause: LNA donates products to local school fundraisers, along with OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center which is an LA based nonprofit that offers grief support groups and services to the community.
Favorite Places to Shop:
April Leight: I really love to shop online. It’s so easy and I never have to leave my desk or home! My three go tos are Shopbop, REVOLVEclothing and Net-a-Porter. Every day I go to those sites and click on what’s new. It makes shopping so easy. But if I venture out for a car ride, I love to shop at Barneys and Elyse Walker.
Lauren Alexander: Erewhon Market—it’s not a clothing store but I think it’s where all of my money goes. I could spend hours in there exploring all the different aisles. It’s the best health food store in the world and that tonic bar is full of magic potions that can cure anything. I spend so much time designing clothes that I actually don’t shop very often; you are most likely to spot me in a health food shop.
On the Line:
April Leight: My favorite piece from the line is the good old white crew neck tee. It was one of our first pieces we ever created back in 2007 and it’s literally the most perfect basic ever. I have about 10 of them in my closet, both long sleeve and short sleeve and wear them a few times a week. It will always be my favorite.
Lauren Alexander: White muscle tees everyday! And anything ribbed for fall.
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T E E /// -rrific. The Designers Behind LA’s LNA Clothing Brand Explain How They Perfected the Classic T-Shirt.