Age || 28
Company Name || Softwear
Job Title || Co-Founder
Company Start Date || December 2017 / Launch: October 2018
YEARS LIVING IN NEW YORK || 10
Social Handles: @wearsoftwear
Company Website: Softwear
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a model when I was a kid and then I moved to New York and realized very quickly that was not what I wanted. But opening my own clothing company was always something I knew. I never got along with any of my bosses, I would always butt heads because they would always just negate any ideas that I had or would tell me I didn't know what I was talking about. Being an entrepreneur always felt right. A clothing company just happened to work out with my background in fashion but it was never ever something that I saw myself doing.
What is your background in fashion?
I went back to school, to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and started working as a buyer and then in the wholesale world. That’s where I was talking to consumers of different backgrounds like contemporary, designer, athletic, active or athleisure. I was listening to the consumer and doing trunk shows and going out there. Not the buyers but the actual customers who were buying it, they were all saying we want something sustainable and local, something that was more affordable and something with more quality fabric. I just took all of those lessons and that wholesale background.
What were the the issues when you first launched?
I mean there were more than I can even count but really the biggest one, aside from how do you keep it local, was how do you keep cost down. We had our fabric and we found our manufacturer in California, a small family mill. We got our fabric and saw that after a few washes it would shed like confetti all over you. So it was so severe we didn't know how we were going to do it. It took us about six months to revive and come up with a new formulation for the actual fabric, so we had to reweave and add a different backing and front. But it took us six months extra to figure out what the issue was and how to fix it. That was where major delays came from. With a new fabric no one has ever used comes great responsibility. How does it sew? How does it stay? How does it wear? We went into this blind so it took us a little bit of time. We had 43 fittings and it was just non-stop over and over, what can we fix and what can we make better until we finally realized we did everything we could to make the best garments we could.
What is the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out?
Probably my business partner always telling me that, at the end of the day, the founder is always going to think that their product needs improvement and that there is always something more you can do. You'll drive yourself crazy if you constantly try to improve, so you’re going to have to accept when you make something you have to release into the world and move on and stop obsessing. It took me a minute to get there. Just don't waste your time on the little things, you have more important things to do so prioritize and give your time to what needs to be done.
What is your workspace like?
I work from home right now, we don't have an office or anything. We have our warehouse that has all of manufacturing pieces and the factory and we just kind of take my suitcase and go to an appointment. I take the subway with my bag full of clothes and just kind of bop around the city.
What is the most important thing you've learned since starting out?
To follow your instincts and your gut. There have been so many times where my partner will tell me he thinks I am doing is stupid or he doesn't agree with my idea but, in my heart, I believe in what I am doing. Truthfully, that’s how the entire brand came to be because no one ever thought that Softwear was going to even become a brand. Everyone thought it was stupid, it was pointless ,who cares about T-shirts and who cares that it was made in America and nobody gives a sh*t that its sustainable. I’ve heard pretty much everything and I’ve had more people tell me its not going to be good than its going to be good. Through the tears I ultimately knew what my heart told me was right and there has never been a bone in my body that was ever worried about Softwear, above what a normal founder should worry about. I would say don't listen to anybody just feel it.
What is your design process?
So when we started designing it was okay what are the bodies that we want and we came up with our core collection with five for women and three for men and this is truly what people will go back to over ans over. The perfect hoodie, pullover, jogger, tee and tank, and guys have a hoodie, tee and jogger. You really don't need anything else. So when it came down to it, it was really what story do we want to tell? So, the first collection was very nature inspired so when you look outside what hues do you pick up on. When we were designing number one was fit. It is always to remove the excess and the bulk. Why is there mesh paneling on the leg because now it's winter and I can't go out with a huge piece of my leg only covered by mesh or why are there holes that hurt when I sit? There were just always something to it so we just tried to simplify it and see what the actual need was in the market. So a tank that doesn't have frills or a tie on it, great lets do a style like that. We worked with a designer just to get the logistics down like measurements and things like that because I am not actually a designer. I know how to come up with designs and concepts but I don't know how to implement them technically. The core collection that we have right now is our priority moving forward and really building on the blocks that we've set.
Do you have a personal motto?
I would say this too shall pass because you can start on the hardships I've faced over the past two years while starting Softwear. It started after my mom got sick and I almost lost her and dealing with break ups and make ups and life and death and you know everything in between. And then having your baby that is your business and we had no investor and had no money backing us. I quit my job and took a risk and so everyday I remind myself that these sh*tty moments will pass. We will get through everything.
What is the most rewarding thing that has happened since starting out?
Getting Bloomingdales. We are their new sustainable brand for their pop-up shop. That was surreal. I remember trying to get them for years and with every company we worked for. Finally I convinced them after 500 emails over six months just to give us five minutes to just get them to touch the product and that's what did it. That five minute meeting is what sold them. Also, celebrities buying our product is always cool. Especially when they buy it themselves and we don't even give it to them.
How do you define success?
To me, it's as long as I have my basics covered and I can wake up everyday and know that bills are paid to live. If I can have that, and wake up every morning feeling fulfilled, that's how I define success. Money doesn't equate that. How many people do you know who have more money than God and are miserable? Just living for the weekend or can't wait to just go and drink every night to get away from it. But. when you hear someone say when they wake up and they smile and they get up and are excited about starting their day, that is success.
Which women inspire you?
The usual suspects my mom, my sister and my grandmother. My sister has gone through an eating disorder and recovery and my mom has gone through six brain aneurysms and almost dying and I just recently lost my grandmother but she lived to 100. My dad, ironically, even though he's not a female, they all give the same message of fierce independence. My grandmother was never allowed to go to school, she had to get married. This was Egypt in 1950 and there was no choice. Even my mom, she was working and having children and gave up everything to have her family. So that message of being independent and having your own money. Don't ever let a man dictate what the f*ck you're going to do in your life and who you're going to become. That is the fiercest message I would say, that incredible independence and know your worth. Don't let anyone teeter that.
How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?
Usually meditating and breathing and things like that or boxing. A lot of times it's like when you get to that point where you physically can't sit still and there is a moment of like I am going to punch something, it might as well be a bag. That is the first place I will go. But I would say meditating and journaling too. I have really been journaling a lot since the beginning of the year. It really helps to alleviate the anxiety you feel and to get it all out and just write it all down on paper so that you can actually see what you wrote and challenge those thoughts. Then going deeper and working through that method and why are you feeling that. I think it's really healthy, especially when you're stressed, and understanding why and what is causing it, so you can respond instead of reacting.
What are some of your goals moving forward for Softwear?
Definitely taking a paycheck and making a salary. Just being able to connect with as many clients as I can and getting the product on as many humans as I can. Not because of a sales tactic or for the money. I truly believe in what I am doing and think that the product makes people happy and does fill a void. If I can get that to as many people as possible, that’s my goal. We are going to start working with the Childhood Cancer Society to start giving children hoodies in the hospital, so they have something to keep them warm. That is my goal, to get someone joggers or a hoodie and just keep getting product to every person that will give me the opportunity to allow them to put it on. And, if you don't like it, take it off. I want Softwear to become the brand that people look to for basics.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.