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Woodley + Lowe co-founders: ‘We don’t want to be another brand created by two moms’

Historically, fast fashion retailers have dominated clothing designed for tweens and teens. Yet Gen Z, more than any other generation, is known for its environmental consciousness, leaving young shoppers torn between buying affordable, fashionable clothes or sticking to their eco-conscious values.

With a mission to provide socially and environmentally responsible clothing at a more affordable price than designer brands for teens, Woodley + Lowe was founded in 2020 by two moms, Rachel Thebault and Neda Talebian Funk.

“We’re trying to keep in mind who our client is and that her hard-earned childcare money has to go a long way,” Thebault said on the latest Glossy podcast.

After shopping for their own daughters, the co-founders were frustrated with archaic size recommendations for teenage clothing. “The problem we particularly observed with preteen girls was that these girls grow up at very different times from each other and they grow up in different ways,” Thebault said.

The pair have developed an exclusive sizing scale, which bridges the gap between teen and women’s clothing and allows consumers to grow into the brand at their own pace. To resonate with its target Gen-Z demographic, Woodley + Lowe created a robust ambassador program, comprised of high school and college brand representatives. Ambassadors work to foster a community of fans who are educated about buying quality, sustainable products and are encouraged to think about how and where their clothes are made.

The brand has found success in the athleisure space in particular, with the pandemic boosting sales across the sector. However, Thebault and Talebian Funk see category expansion in the future of Woodley + Lowe, while continuing to take a thoughtful approach to teen fashion. Talebian Funk said the brand plans to build content libraries based on how Gen Z consumes information, including providing interactive and video-based options. And, a potential physical store and brand collaborations are on the agenda to continue growing brand awareness.

“Since the early days, we thought, ‘How can we become a Goop for this generation?'” Talebian Funk said.

Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

From focus group to ambassador program

FunkTalebian: “Before creating this brand, we started a private chat group on Instagram. We hired two high school kids to direct it because our goal from the start was to co-create with our audience. We don’t want to be another brand created by two moms. Right away, we started watching their posts and learned, “Wow, that’s what this Gen-Z audience is looking for.” They helped shape the initial phase of our brand. They chose everything from our brand name to our logo. [They reviewed] our initial colors and designs.

From this small group, we then built an ambassador program. We currently have over 250 Ambassadors across the country between the ages of 13 and 28. We are now going further with the ambassador program, where we have launched a more advanced level of ambassadors whom we meet regularly. We have meetings to discuss design and marketing. We think it’s our secret sauce; having these ambassadors is what gives us our edge. It’s what keeps us in touch with our community. It is an important part of our business that we plan to continue to evolve and expand as we grow.

Sales channels and retail partner Opportunities

FunkTalebian: “We have a few small partnerships with local retailers in both the New York and Boston area. Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons are some of the successful summer towns. [Selling in physical retail stores] is not a high priority for us, but we realize that it is important that customers have the opportunity to touch and feel our products. We also did a number of trunk shows and pop-ups, all of which were successful.

Longer term, an omnichannel approach is obviously important for every retailer, but especially for our brand, because Gen Z loves to shop. They like to shop in person, so experiential retail and in-person retail will continue to be important as retail evolves. We could have our own stores one day and they could be an effective way for us to expand across the country. »

Why the brand is self-financing

Thebault: “Before we got started, we spoke with a number of people ranging from different venture capitalists to angel investors. It was a tough time because when we needed money the world started to freeze [because of the Covid-19 pandemic]. We started thinking about how we could fund this ourselves. We were so eager to move on and take it to the next level, so we started working on it ourselves. We invested a lot of money in the products and the website, which we felt was important. You can’t market something that doesn’t have a great product behind it. And our website is our store. This is the experience people get when they come to our brand for the first time, so it was at the cost of a few marketing dollars. We had to be scrappy and work hard on marketing ourselves and through our community of ambassadors. Now we’re toying with the idea of ​​raising angel funds or venture capital funds to invest in marketing, now that we know what works. But so far we are self-funded.

Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds