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The Co-Founders of La Ligne Explain How They're Keeping Their 'Ecosystem' Intact

In an op-ed for Fashionista, Molly Howard, Meredith Melling and Valerie Macaulay share how they're navigating the pandemic as a brand.
La Ligne founders Molly Howard, Meredith Melling and Valerie Macaulay.

La Ligne founders Molly Howard, Meredith Melling and Valerie Macaulay.

For better or worse, we cannot stay away from the news. Well, some of it is news from real news sources, and the rest is a combination of conspiracy theories, memes and John Krasinski's news channel. But either way, except for the last, it's all pretty grim. Besides focusing on our deeply romantic feelings towards Governor Cuomo, it's hard to not sink into depression when thinking about what the world, as a whole, is going through. That's why it feels a bit tricky to complain about the situation our company is in. It's hard to care about fashion at a time like this. 

But in truth, it's about a lot more than fashion. When thinking about what matters about our current struggle, we've also become acutely aware of the best part of what we have created with La Ligne. From the start, our brand has been a culture, a community, a product concept centered around a mutuality of values and energies and lifestyle and purpose. So, without a doubt, what matters most right now is our employees. And our sewers, factories, warehouse, PR firm, digital agency, fit models, photographers, pattern makers and of course, our customers. The human beings who are the community of La Ligne. Sometimes it takes a negative to remind you of a positive — that even though we are a "small" company, our existence not only clothes our customers but also employs, directly or indirectly, so many people.

We have not only a responsibility but also a need propelled by our values, to keep that ecosystem intact. When in what seemed like the blink of an eye, our existing store closed, construction on our next store stopped, shopping appetite declined and wholesale orders were canceled, our first instinct was panic. But our second instinct was action. We eliminated quitting or shutting down as an option, and we worked backward from there. That is the greatest lesson we have learned from this experience and the one we'd most like to share.

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We realized immediately that we had built something special when we saw our customers, surely enough going through their own struggles, wanting to help. They wanted to support small brands, ours included, and we knew we needed to do what we've always done but adapt to the changing world around us. We have never marked down our product or gone on sale (with the exception of Cyber Monday) but on March 15th, we launched a site-wide discount of 15%. We figured the focus for the coming months would have to be on cash flow, instead of margin, so that we could, in fact, sustain our La Ligne community. As a mostly direct-to-consumer company, we have always tried to communicate to our customers that our price point reflects a built-in discount, but we realized we had to do whatever it took to keep the lights, or the Zoom, on. 

After a week of the discount, we launched our first-ever online sample sale, which lasted two weeks and continued to keep the customers coming. For the duration of the quarantine, we will offer a site-wide discount of 15%, and each week, 15% of sales will also be donated to a different charitable organization aiding the lives of those affected by Covid-19. For us, this is the balance between taking care of our brand and customers as well as our community. Retail therapy isn't exactly the kind of therapy we all need right now, but feeling cozy and comfortable at home is something we can offer.

Since the inception of La Ligne, we have worked incredibly hard to get our brand into the world, to engage and drive customers to the site, and to have fun while doing it. We invite people into the lives of the members of our band; to learn about their dreams and aspirations along with their interests and appetites. And sure, finally, to have them click buy. No matter how we did that before, right now, we have to do it differently. The new normal, for the time being, is finding yet another way to break through to people, even when it feels like buying a sweater right now should be the least of anyone's worries.

So, what's the plan? Our number one objective has got to be to keep this community alive. And to do that, we need to engage with our customers more than ever; meet them where they are, which right now is hopefully at home. And healthy.

-Molly Howard, Meredith Melling and Valerie Macaulay

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