10 Questions With Lauren Whitney And Luela Spiro Of LÚELLE
Picture this: it’s well past midnight on a Sunday, and I’m scrolling through my Instagram explore page. That’s how I found LÚELLE, a New York based company that creates everyday intimates for women. Their products are meant to feel like a second layer of skin, natural, with a comfortable fit.
I was lucky enough to sit down with both of the founders, Lauren Whitney and Luela Spiro, to talk about how they started their company, collaboration, and a few other fun things.
Mad Girl’s Collective: I’m going to jump right into this. How did you two meet and eventually start your company, LÚELLE, together?
LS: We were both working for Elie Tahari at the time, but on different teams—Lauren was dealing with production and I was dealing with fit. We hit it off, found out we lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood in Brooklyn, and the rest is history.
LK: We really aligned when we realized we both wanted to work on an independent project, together. A few months later, all of a sudden, LÚELLE was born. Despite our respective drives, I don't think either of us expected it, which has made it a really cool adventure.
Did you always imagine running your own company? What did you want to be when you were a kid?
LS: I don't ever remember a time when I wanted to be something other than a fashion designer. Wanting to own a business seamlessly followed, since it’s a great way to show your vision, maintain its authenticity, control the kind of work you want to do, and decide what you want to be a part of.
LK: Growing up, I went through different concepts of what I would do as an adult, but I always knew I wanted to own my own business. Through all these conceptions, I also always dreamed of having a business partner. I didn't know who it would be, or what we would be doing, but I knew it would be an amazing and empowering project. Originally, I gravitated towards becoming a hair stylist or a bar owner, but then I started working for an alterations store at age 15.
What’s it like co-owning a business? How do you work together as a team?
LS: It’s a lot of things: fun, hard, empowering, emotional. It’s so much, but it’s a great balance. When I don't know how to do something, Lauren does and vice versa. You always have a person to enjoy the wins with, someone who really gets it.
LK: Co-owning a business is everything that Luela described and more. It's one of life's biggest lessons about yourself. If you have an open mind, you get to see yourself from a birds-eye; that’s what working on a team is about. Compromise and patience are large components of co-owning a business. Having someone to share concepts, responsibility and wins with is the biggest reward I've ever experienced. Luela and I are stronger than ever, and I wouldn't want to work with anyone else.
Do you have different work styles?
LS: Yes and no. We definitely both work best when we are hands on, and although we enjoy handling some things on our own, we are most inspired and motivated when we are meeting with people together, running errands together, going to the factory together, and so on.
LK: Since we are both working full time, LÚELLE is our after-hours baby. Still, during the day, we communicate about everything, all the time. We have different working styles, and most days we can’t be together, but on the days we meet to bring our creative visions together, everything feels wholesome. It’s what LÚELLE is—both of us, together.
I love the way your products, Instagram, and website all flow together to tell a complete story. You have really defined your brand voice! How did you nail that down so well?
LS: I think that came most organically for us. Our voice is a reflection of who we are and how we feel wearing the product. It’s what our friends tell us when they try them on. So weaving the imagery and visual that’s already an authentic expression of our lifestyles becomes seamless.
LK: Before LÚELLE was born, we’d meet before and after work to conceptualize who our 'LÚELLE girl' was. As we kept putting pieces of her together, we realized that the brand was a cohesive mix of Luela and myself. At the time, we were both 25. Now, at 29, we’ve both grown, and so our girl has changed as well, and every aspect of the business has grown as well. Right now, our message and ideology for LÚELLE is the strongest it's ever been. Building a brand isn’t an overnight endeavor, it takes time, development and the perseverance to overcome any looming doubts. To succeed now, you must build the confidence to also show yourself to the world, and that takes time. Luela and I are really proud of the product—we’ve stabilized a new, basic but essential panty that every woman should own—and I think that pride shines through our story.
What issues did you run into when you first started out? How did you tackle them as a team?
LS: For me, production was a big issue. There are so many moving parts, especially when dealing with local manufacturing, and is so much necessary coordination between everyone involved. It was just overwhelming, but luckily, Lauren stepped up to take the lead, and I'm so happy she did!
LK: For me, the biggest issue was keeping track of everything! To echo Luela, all the moving parts of domestic production can get convoluted, but it's also one of the most beautiful aspects of making LÚELLE. All our products are handled and developed by different entities within NYC’s Garment District; that means we must entrust different vendors, who have never met, to have a cohesive vision of what we are creating. We've since nailed balancing all these relationships and are on the right track.
Did you guys have to get funding to start out? I’m sure some of our readers would love to know some tips on how to get started.
LS: Absolutely. In fashion, there is a lot of overhead cost, and without funding we would have not been able to source our fabrics and trims, make our samples or fit our samples, multiple times, to make sure the fit was perfect. We are very, very picky with fit. If you feel like you're not wearing anything when you’re wearing LÚELLE, then we've succeeded.
LK: Yes, funding is a definite in fashion. After realizing LÚELLE was something that could make headway, I decided to quit Elie Tahari and transition to part-time. Soon after, I contacted my friend, James Chase, who is a magazine writer and editor. He sat with me weekly, for about 4 months, while we developed an investment proposal and presentation. That proposal eventually led us to our first round of investments. Prior to receiving funding, Luela and I would pool our money together very diligently created our first samples! It was so stressful, but kind of badass, and it makes me so thankful to be where we are now.
What can we expect in the future from LÚELLE?
LS: Right now, we are working on perfecting our bras. We’re taking our time, testing them for a long period of time to see how the fabric feels with all day wear. At the end of the day, we want to ensure that you’ll feel supported and sexy.
LK: High-waisted panties are also our upcoming jam. This summer, we will also have a limited run of silk dresses and slit shorts—honestly, you’ll never want to leave the house without them. You can expect to see pops of color for our Elle Classics as well! Yay!
Do you have any advice for women who want to pursue a non-traditional career path?
LS: Take your time, and really nail down your motivations. Make sure you're starting the business for the right reasons.
LK: I don't think there is a traditional career path for women; anything we do can be seen as non-traditional to someone else. The only advice I can give is: if you want something, create and learn how to navigate the path that will lead you to achieve your goals. Don't ever think you can’t get there. With strong perseverance, you’ll arrive at your destination.
Who are some creators, artists, or female entrepreneurs we should be following right now? Who would you like to see us interview next?
LK: Samantha Irby – author of 'We Are Never Meeting In Real Life,’ 'Meaty' and 'Same Year, New Trash.’ She is beyond inspiring and places so much depth into just being a real human.
Hallie Hart – a New York artist who only paints with her hands. I met her at a cafe on the UES a few years ago, and she continuously inspires me with her art and drive to create. She was/is a part of Mana Contemporary and has always been a supporter of LÚELLE.
Lina Arrojo - Creative Director at Arrojo Hair Salon and Education. Lina is the mother of twins, as well as the creative mind at Arrojo. She conceptualizes amazing visions and hairstyles, while also developing the direction and vibe of the brand.