Friends Karen Lee and Tanya Lee were ahead of a pandemic-related trend when they founded LEZÉ The Label, a pajama-inspired “workleisure” clothing line, in 2018. But now, with Covid-19 keeping much of the American workforce at home (and maybe in their loungewear), the duo’s brand is flourishing. “It all started from a phone call from Tanya, who was inspired by the fact that I consistently and shamelessly wore my Superman PJ’s out in public,” Karen says. “In addition, Tanya worked in textiles manufacturing and was fascinated in turning waste back into raw materials.” Their entrepreneurial spirit had roots thanks to prior experience. In 2016, the two friends co-founded a project selling wedding planners from which they lost money but learned a great deal. Before founding LEZÉ, Karen and Tanya had experienced self doubt in the workplace — as a result of dressing in uncomfortable, work-appropriate attire, according to Karen. There were two core inspirations for the pants — which came before the global pandemic, according to Tanya: A burning desire to wear pajamas in public but remain presentable. Convenience and function. “We wanted to roll out of bed and into meetings without changing into another outfit,” Tanya says. “We also wanted to create for modern women an entire workday that was as comfortable as the moment they take off their bras.” MORE FOR YOU Spring Health Notches A $190 Million Series C At A $2 Billion Valuation, Making CEO April Koh The Youngest Woman To Run A Unicorn A Year After Unleashing War Crimes Against Indigenous Armenians, Azerbaijan’s Threats And Violations Continue The Secret To Being The Wildly Popular Mayor Of Miami? Surround Yourself With Amazing Latina Women “We felt that as modern working women, we are versatile in so many ways and so why shouldn't our clothing also be?” Tanya continues. So, in January 2018, they took their idea to Kickstarter, pitching the concept before production, hoping to validate their idea that comfortable clothing could improve workplace confidence with “the world’s first pair of pants that were made to feel like PJ’s and created from recycled plastic and coffee.” “It was our low-risk way to validate our idea and prove a concept. Prior to this, our start-up project lost us money because we invested too much into inventory that didn’t sell,” Karen explains, a nod to their wedding planner startup that didn’t pan out. “So for LEZE, we put in US$4,000 to launch the campaign and in return, we gained a revenue of US $255,000 with an exact order quantity that was already sold.” Exploring The Time The Universe Lit Up... With A Space Telescope! They put in $4,000 to launch the campaign on Kickstarter and in return raised $255,000 of a pre-sold quantity — a feat they achieved in 12 hours. “To us, it was like 2,500 women telling us, ‘We want to wear PJ’s in public, too!’” Karen says. Now, three years after getting a solid footing thanks to the platform that launched their business, their mission remains to create comfortable workleisure wear through recycled materials. But the two couldn’t have expected what came a couple years later as a result of the pandemic which has kept the majority of the American workforce shuttered in their homes since March. Right before Covid-19 hit, they had put out an “insanely cozy collection” made from recycled fish nets. With lockdown shifting trends towards loungewear they were in a unique position. “We’ve been blessed to be centrally positioned in the new work from home norm that resulted from the pandemic,” Karen says. “We experienced over 200% growth in the last year.” Profit from sales made during the pandemic also helped them pay off $185,000 in production debt — changing quite a lot. And sales aren’t the only growth factor for the company. The pandemic forced them to find ways to make LEZÉ more accessible to its customer base from mobile devices. They also had to find ways to amplify the voices within the LEZÉ community to help their clientele feel connected while staying safe at home. And their company strategy changed too. They learned the “art of shooting campaigns over FaceTime,” according to Karen. Looking ahead, Karen says that she and Tanya are hoping to explore different sustainable fabrics that use regenerated or up-cycled raw materials including recycled cashmere. And, with inspiration from their FaceTime shoots, they will be inviting their community to create their own content with LEZÉ items. “Our hope is to connect like-minded people from around the globe with interests in comfort and sustainability,” Karen says.
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