Featured Story: Evelyn Frison on Creating "Low Maintenance Clothing for High-Performing Women"
Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a brand that I’m a big fan of.
If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so difficult to find clothes that are extremely versatile, comfortable, and most importantly from a Global Garbs’ perspective - made with integrity and sustainability you’re in for a real treat.
In this month’s featured interview, I sat down with co-founder Evelyn Frison of Pivotte.
Pivotte is a brand focused on “low maintenance clothing for high-performing women.
Their mission is to help you build a wardrobe that inspires confidence.
Like most people who start brands, it comes from a personal need or void in the market.
That’s exactly how Pivotte came about.
Both Evelyn and her business partner, Yehua Yang realized that there wasn’t women’s clothing that could easily go from a professional setting, to drinks out with clients or friends that was actually comfortable and moved.
"When I started looking at solutions for clothing that looked good but allowed movement, all I could find were men’s brands.
Women’s clothing is made to make women “look great”, according to our “cultural standards of “beauty”. But they’re not meant to emphasize productivity, and actually moving around.
But men’s clothing is. And historically men’s clothing has always been that way. Men get this clothing that’s functional and stylish."
After voicing her frustrations with her at the time friend (and not yet business partner), Evelyn actually started getting mad.
Why wasn’t there clothing that existed like this for women? Clothing for ambitious, confident, professional women that was comfortable, easy to move in, not dry-clean-only, and easy to travel with?
After realizing that they could actually create a brand themselves, they set off to do just that.
Their first capsule collection was launched on Kickstarter almost three years ago in which they well surpassed their reach goal.
A well curated capsule created from sustainable fabrics that are antimicrobial, stain and wrinkle resistant, requires less washing, plus can be worn many different ways are some of the key components that have made Pivotte such a success.
THE SUSTAINABLE PROCESS
Yehua who comes from a fashion design background and has worked for many well-known brands, was living and breathing the world of fashion from a design and production aspect.
After being a part of that entire process; all of the waste, pollution and overall working environment of some of the factories she worked with, she knew that if they were to create their own brand, sustainability and ethical production was going to be something at the top of the list.
What they learned is that there’s no real template or guide in terms of creating something that’s sustainable, so it definitely was a learning process. They managed to find a mill that was Blue Sign certified which is essentially a system that unites the textile supply chain in order to reduce it’s impact on people and the environment.
What they realized is there actually aren’t many vendors that could create the types of designs they wanted using sustainable and ethical practices, so it was actually quite easy to narrow down.
The found a supplier that not only uses special dying techniques that use less water and are less harmful to the environment that was also Blue Sign certified.
In addition to the technique fabrics, they also use merino wool that is created using non-mulesing practices to ensure that sheep being used for their wool is sheared in a humane way.
We all know that being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest thing, so I had to ask what their biggest struggle was.
Her immediate answer? Time and money.
As a small brand, doing small production runs and even buying the fabrics in smaller quantities has been a challenge. Money for both buying higher minimums and also money for marketing.
"As a small team, it’s really just us two founders, so time is always an issue as well.
Also, everything is going to cost twice as much as you thought, and it’s going to take twice as long, so you definitely have to factor that in. We actually planned pretty well, and I’m actually leaving my full-time job soon and I feel comfortable about that."
"We’ve actually sold out several times now.
Another sort of factor of really going for it 150%, I think when you’re starting a brand you’re sort of testing a hypothesis.
Until you get a product out there, you really don’t know.
Women are really interested in what we’re putting out there, and our hypothesis was that we could make these products and women would like them, which has turned out to be true.
Our next hypothesis is that we can actually grow this, and see if we can scale.
We’re really lucky. People responded really well to our clothing.
People have come to us for a variety of reasons. Some people like the fact that we emphasize comfort. They’re like, ‘look, I’m at my job for sixteen hours a day, I want to wear pants, but I don’t want that waistband like digging into my gut all day and I just want to be able to move around.'
Some people love the travel aspect a lot. Some come for comfort, or easy care aspect, and some people like that we dig into hyper-technical areas."
LAUNCHING ON KICKSTARTER
After a successful launch on Kickstarter in which they met 150% of their goal, I talked to Evelyn about that process and what it was like to use crowdfunding as a means to launch the brand.
They were quite fortunate to receive some good press on Glamour, Inc, amongst other popular sites to really promote and drive traffic.
“The process was an emotional rollercoaster. It was just crazy. People think you have this idea for a product, and you just throw it up on the website. That’s not how it happens at all.
We spent a lot of time planning leading up to the kickstarter. You need to do the photoshoot, the video, write out all the copy, and it’s basically one giant marketing initiative.
I would say that we started planning around three months prior to the launch date, and then for the last month and a half we were like on top of it.
And then once we launched the Kickstarter, it was a different wave of the (emotional) roller coaster. It just increased the intensity, because you see the numbers every day.
But it was incredibly touching and moving. And what I mean by that is when you do the work and put a product out there, and people respond to that. I had a lot of people that I hadn’t talked to in like twenty years reach out and tell me that they saw the campaign (because it was all over my social media), and say ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this, it’s so awesome’. And then they would pitch into the campaign.
That personal connection was so rewarding and fun, which was surprising because I thought I ‘d be more fixated on the numbers. But had the campaign failed, I think I would still taken a lot away from it because I don’t think I realized how supportive people could be, and that was really touching."
I asked Evelyn about how she manages to juggle her full time job and running Pivotte.
What I love about what she said is that it's honest and real.
It’s her actual day-to-day life and she doesn’t sugar coat anything.
We both discussed how we hate the whole 'I started my business with $10k and look where I am now!' type of story. People don’t like to talk about all the hard work and sacrifice it takes to run a business.
Maybe it’s because people only want to hear about the glamorous side of being an entrepreneur, but I believe that openness and honesty is what connects you even more to your customers.
So I was quite thrilled when Evelyn dove deeper into what her day-to-day life looks like.
“I started a new job right after we started the business. My days are pretty long, but I’m not someone that can put in 18 hour days. I’ll never be that person.
A lot of times, I try to knock out two birds with one stone. I kind of get my social needs out by going to a networking event. So for example, a Dreamers and Doers event. I get to see people that I really enjoy talking to, that I want to learn more about, but it also fulfills a social need.
Typically my week is pretty mixed, but I try to have two nights a week that are very structured where I’ll go home or to a co-working space, sit down and pump out work or meet with my business partner.
On the weekends, I do work quite a bit. I work during the day, but I do go out at night.
I think at this stage you do need to do as much executional work as you can, but I think it’s also important to take a step back to actually walking through who the brand is.
We’re trying to create a brand identity so I’m really observant about how I move through the day because it helps me think about how my brand moves, and helps other women move through their day.
So in terms of getting real...
The inventory is currently in my apartment, and I live in a very small walkup in Brooklyn.
We try to be very organized, and it’s all color coordinated and by size, but I am living amongst towers of tupperware in a weird fortress.
The thing I like about that though (having my inventory on hand) is when we need to communicate to a customer to change an order or add more things. I love this aspect of being able to recognize repeat orders and include a little note thanking them for their support.
The unfortunate thing is we are actually moving to a warehouse finally, so my apartment will no longer be our warehouse, which I will personally be grateful for (just mentally), but it gives us a less flexibility. But it would be bad for customers if we just continue to ship everything out because there’s just more room for human error.
So now that we are scaling and growing, I don’t want to get the point that we’re risking a customer’s happiness just because I want to keep everything in my apartment.
We started with a pretty small line, so we didn’t have a lot of product then, which is why we’ve been able to maintain a bit more control, but now that we’re expanding and growing, I have nowhere else to put it.
But honestly, I’ve really loved the moments of my partner and I being at my apartment and we’re doing inventory and packing boxes in complete chaos.
It feels so special.
I truly believe that you need to be resourceful, save as much money as you can until you reach the point that you just cannot do it anymore. And that takes you to the next level."
A PIECE OF ADVICE
In entrepreneurship, no matter the stage you’re in there’s always the woulda/coulda/shoulda story. I think learning from others is something to take into consideration no matter what field you’re in.
Evelyn talks about her one piece of advice if you’re starting a fashion brand, and also what she wishes she would have known before launching their Kickstarter.
“If you’re a designer, you’re not going to get by on aesthetics alone. This is a very competitive field. Most of the time you’re not adding anything revolutionary, so you’re going to need marketing, someone to help you with finances, etc.
Just having a point of view is not enough.
It comes down to balance.
If you’re an artist, don’t forget about the business stuff. If you’re on the business side, find someone who is more creative and can balance the conversation.
My partner and I (we’re best friends outside of the business), are complete opposites. She’s the artist, designer, and my expertise is in marketing. We have different perspectives on how to solve problems which is very valuable. “
One reason I decided to pivot (no pun intended) Global Garbs’ focus was I wanted to be able to dig deeper into the stories behind founders and creators who are making a difference in the fashion industry.
After working on the merchandising side of the business for over a decade and similar to Evelyn’s business partner of seeing some of the negative sides of an industry I spent my career in, I’ve come to the realization that in order for things to change there needs to be more companies like Pivotte to create a movement and shift to really make an impact on creating more sustainable practices.
One major takeaway from this interview with Evelyn was that these two founders had a clear mission and why when it came to who their end consumer was.
They also knew that in order to create something with purpose and something that customers would not only love aesthetically and functionality wise, that it became an obvious factor to only work with suppliers who upheld sustainable and ethical practices.
They also are creating a community and movement which is female empowered and purposeful in choosing fashion that has many more selling features beyond just sustainability is what will ultimately drive the brand forward.
They want sustainability and ethical practices to be the norm.
It shouldn’t be something people use as their marketing message in the future, but something that is as standard across the entire fashion industry.
Hopefully one day this will be the norm and we’ll talk about how we “used to promote sustainability”.
But until then, Global Garbs will continue to uncover more stories and brands of people like Evelyn and Yehua making a difference.