By: Caroline Vazzana
Have you ever been on the search for a specific item to add to your wardrobe, but just couldn’t find it? That was designer Lisa Larson’s thought process when she began her company Ragdoll LA back in 2013. . Lisa saw a gap in the market, and really just wanted to create pieces to add to her own closet. To be specific though, she was searching for the perfect worn-in tee, and after having no luck, she decided to make one. And soon after it’s launch only four years ago, Larson quickly grew a celebrity fan base including Kate Bosworth, Sophia Richie, and Alexa Chung- to name a few.
Today, her line has expanded way beyond t-shirts, and now includes, chic track pants, dresses, and jackets too! Read below as this buyer turned designer shares what it was like to start her company, her biggest mistakes, and how she’s #MakingIt.
Growing up, did you always have an interest in the fashion industry?
I was a tomboy growing up. I spent my free time horseback riding, playing soccer and was always outdoors. I think it was not until late teenage years that I started to have an interest in fashion. I studied finance at university during the day and took pattern making and fashion classes at night. I started to work as a stock broker - in pencil skirts, stilettos and blazers - but I quickly knew that this was not where my passion was. I totally changed my path and took a job as an assistant buyer and from there worked my way up...
What would you say was the biggest rookie mistake you made when first starting out?
You learn a lot of things the hard way when it comes to production. There are so many elements and so many things can go wrong. Making the fabric, washing and sewing. Whenever production comes they way I want it, I celebrate:) One of the biggest challenges was to get the vintage look, but still get the longevity of the clothes. I obviously don't want something to break after the first wash. The worst experience was probably when we washed a whole production one last time to get it just right and it lost all elasticity. So everything was probably 3 sizes bigger than before the last wash. I can laugh about it now, but it was not funny back then. So I had to test, and try until we got the long lasting results we wanted and are now known for. And I always order final production samples before I ship the rest of the products!
What did you wear to your first interview?
Full power suit and heel when I got the job as a stock broker. Cool denim and a basic tee with Gucci shoes from Tom Fords collection when I applied to my first fashion job.
What was your first internship or job in the industry and what would you say was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
I worked in a super nice multi brand boutique in Stockholm. I learned a lot from the owner when I did the buying with her. When working in a store you learn a lot about service, but also fabrics, fit and what sells. And working with the owner you see the reality of finance, planning and all the things that go wrong behind the scenes. Those memories calm me down, when it gets crazy at Ragdoll sometimes.
What inspired you to start your own clothing line and what did it take to get your company off the ground?
I was always on the hunt for the perfect sweater and tee. I love good basics that you can wear and wear day after day. My all-time favorite tee was a vintage flea market find. I was always scared it would get ruined in wash so I thought if I had more than one it would be so nice. I took that tee and developed the fabric and tested washes to get the right faded look. At the time I was also missing a cool lounge wear brand - something an Acne girl would wear. A European kind of lounge wear brand. All the lounge wear brands in LA where very colorful with a lot of prints, so I felt there would be space for something more chic and rock n roll. Black, white, army green and grey have been my essential colors from the start. I designed a small collection to start and when we had the samples we decided to give it a try. I knew I had friends who would support and wear the products to get the word out. We started as an online company - direct to consumer. We took the initial risk and produced the whole collection before we launched. After 3 months we had sold enough to pay back our initial investment, and since then we have grown organically.
What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
I didn’t really have any fears - I had a lot of work experience so the business part did not scare me. And I thought that if I would like the product, other people will like it too. Luckily that was the case.
How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
Cool, comfortable, chic and sexy. I put a lot of effort into fit and fabric. I think that makes the whole difference when you wear essentials. If we do a cropped tee its not too short, but you still get the look.
Who have been your biggest mentors and what is the best advice they have ever given you? Or what is the best advice you have ever received?
My dad was my biggest mentor. He always said to do things you enjoy and then you will become good at it. He taught me to work hard, save money and be positive.
What would you say are 3 qualities every entrepreneur should posses?
Staying focused on your goal and dare to take risks. Be hardworking and learn all the angles of your business, .
Where do you hope to see your company in the next 5-10 years?
As the go-to essential brand. We have a loyal customer base that comes back and buys everything in multiple colors. That makes me happy and I just hope to grow that circle.
As a working mom what is your best advice for achieving a good work/life balance?
I started my company when my youngest son was 3. I took the first years off to really spend time with my kids. Now when they are in school I can focus 100%. I try to pick up from school a couple of days a week and be home in the afternoon for homework. I want my kids to feel that I am home when they are home. When you have your own company work never ends so there is a lot of working in the evenings and on weekends.
As a designer and mother on the go, what is one item you never leave home without?
My phone. A lot of work has to be done on the go and I also take pictures of everything that inspires me.
What advice would you give to young designers hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Set your goal, stick to it and work hard. Look at the business side of things. Know your margins and where you can make your money - then grow in the pace you can afford.
Follow us on Instagram @MakingManhattanOfficial