In a world where wellness is the new luxury and function is the new fashion, we are surrounded by brands that promise gym-to-glam looks. As a result, our LBDs (Little Black Dresses) have been replaced by LBPs (Little Black Pants). But there is one brand that may have just started this stylish transformation. Meet Aella, founded by Eunice Cho, that uses high performance fabrics to make sure you look smart and refined in the perfectly fitted pair of pants.
It was summer of 2014, when the athleisure trend was nowhere in sight, that Eunice Cho decided to launch Aella (pronounced ay-luh). The idea was to introduce activewear inspired workwear that bridged an active lifestyle with a polished look – something that helped globe-trotting and working women feel elegant in versus something that was purely athletic.
Eunice’s big break may have come when the Senior VP of PR from Bloomingdale's became an Aella client. A customer service call basically led to a pop-up partnership opportunity at the department store within three months (note to self: customer is always right!). But, Eunice’s success story goes beyond that one fortunate phone conversation.
“I have always been somebody that made things.”
Brought up in Korea and southern California, Eunice’s kindergarten dream was to become a makeup artist. Instead, she settled for baking cookies with her friend, designing boxes using construction paper and selling it all as packages to her neighbors.
Outgrowing the “almost” girl-scout days, Eunice graduated from Yale University with a degree in Fine Arts in 2009. Her first job was that of a studio assistant working alongside her then artistic idol, Wangechi Mutu. “I met her through a gallery visit and right after, wrote a fan girl letter to the gallery that was representing her.” The response? “I get good vibes from you. You should come work with me in Brooklyn!” Clearly, cold emails can get you places.
“I loved the business of fashion and wanted to do more in that sphere.”
After months of traveling overseas to install multimedia installations for Wangechi Mutu, Eunice entered the fashion space. She spent some time working as a visual merchandiser and product manager at Kiki de Montparnasse, a lingerie brand in Soho, New York. With an urge to do more, she enrolled into UCLA’s three year MBA program.
During Eunice’s time at UCLA, working a day job and taking night classes, the idea of Aella started brewing. “I realized that there was a lack of clothing options if you wanted to dress professional and still feel super comfortable. I had never worked in a corporate environment prior to my MBA so suits weren’t my thing.”
Yet, for those of us who have attended business school, we know that leggings just don’t make the cut. So, in an attempt to find the perfect balance, Eunice spent six months in fabric research that would lead to Aella’s first pair of signature pants being developed a year later.
“We want our clothes to be approachable even though they are very high quality.”
Leveraging her family business in textiles and endlessly walking through the garment district in Los Angeles, Eunice decided upon a four-way stretch, machine washable and sweat proof material. Today, her fabrics are also sourced from Turkey and Italy.
Ranging from $175 to $245, the pants are made from luxurious Matte Skin, an Italian-made, patented super nylon spandex on jersey material. What started with five pairs of pants and one jacket on an e-commerce platform in 2014 has now expanded into categories such as tops, blouses, dresses and jackets. The line is sold across retail stores in New York, Chicago, Charlotte, Los Angeles and San Francisco and is designed in a way that can be easily mixed and matched for a total #girlboss look.
Why the Name?
Speaking of #girlboss, Aella embodies an Amazonian warrior from Greek mythology who fought alongside Hercules to protect her queen. “We wanted to speak about the Amazonians because they were the first women to wear pants in classical antiquity.”
“Even throughout the 20th century, if you look at sartorial history, Coco Chanel was wearing pants to ride her horses. It was a shocking moment!” Thus, Aella’s branding is based upon the significance of pants as a representation of movement and mobility for women.
Eunice’s biggest challenge was to describe the concept. “Brand storytelling is an ongoing process. People understood what we were trying to do but couldn’t imagine how the product worked so we had to simplify it and provide extra services such as the try-on service.” Basically, for every pair of pants that are purchased online, customers get an option to try on a different size for free. Today, the try-on service is used by 80% of Aella’s first time customers.
As the brand grows, Eunice is aggressively pursuing the wholesale channel, changing her strategy from 70/30 retail/online to a 50/50 split. “Every brand has its own way but for us, being part of a retailer network means more support and greater brand recognition.”
Her advice? Stick to your brand DNA and always remember the problem you originally set out to solve. “The activewear-inspired-fashion space is crowded and many brands claim their products are meant to go from day to night, but we don’t necessarily want to jump in that category. We have always been a bridge brand of active-meets-aesthetic and we will continue to be that.”
Looking for an attire that will perform better than your anti-aging night cream? Take a styling quiz here or shop your favorites here using promo code: RADICHE for a 20% discount, valid until October 31, 2017.
Photo courtesy of Aella.