Designer Laura Gelfand on the inspirations behind her clothing line, Le Lion.
Great businesses are born out of necessity. If we can’t find what we want, then we might as well create it, right? Such was the case for Laura Gelfand, Founder of the gorgeous, whimsical, and colorful sweater line, Le Lion. After a love affair with a vintage sweater that she just needed more of, she set out to recreate the embodiment of her favorite garment in an aspirational line that has deservedly grown a cult-like following.
“In 2017, I set out to establish my own brand after falling in love with a sweater I purchased on TheRealReal, decorated with sequins on the left chest,” Laura said.
“I found myself wearing it nearly every day and with nearly everything. There was something about the sweater that felt special, but also wearable and easy. For months I tried to find other similar sweaters, but couldn’t really find anything except for very ornate and expensive designer sweaters. That’s when I decided to start an embellished sweater line!”
Luckily, Laura had a fashion industry background that allowed her enough knowledge to get her brand up and running.
What she loved most about the sweater than inspired it all was the level of embellishment that evoked a lifestyle, and a feeling, more than being simply a one-off fashion statement.
She also knew that to sell, her pieces would need to sing to the very heart of her customers’ souls, by creating an emotional draw. Thus, she decided to add an element of personalization to each piece.
“Based on my experience in the industry (I was the director of wholesale for a brand called FIGUE at the time) I felt as though it was important to have an element of emotional connection for the customer, and that’s where the personalization came into play,” Laura stated.
From the start, this wasn’t going to be a line associated with fast fashion, quick trends, and pieces to be forgotten. Le Lion is the antithesis of a trend. It’s a collection to buy for the ages.
“It felt in line with where I perceived the clothing industry to be going (i.e., away from “fast fashion”). And so Le Lion was born — a collection of sweaters adorned with “embroidered interpretations of traditional heraldry” and “personalized with whimsical monograms and zodiac constellations.”
“I don’t typically have a new “theme” for each collection. The focus is more on slight changes to our silhouettes and then updates to yarns, colors and embroideries. Color (and sparkle, of course) is a huge part of the collection and part of what sets Le Lion sweaters apart. For the embroideries I am always referencing vintage and even antique heraldry, monograms, zodiac symbols and more. There is definitely an “old world” feel to the brand that is intentional.”
This sets our hearts on fire.
“The market has become so oversaturated with “stuff” that I found it harder and harder to emotionally connect with product. Fashion is such an emotional thing – it is a form of self expression and is so incredibly personal to many of us.
“It really has been tremendously depersonalized due to the giant Zara’s of the world. So I felt it was really important to put something into the world that had meaning to people and wasn’t just another thing they consumed – but something that brought some sort of feeling to them,” Laura stated.
So who is Le Lion for?
“It is meant for all women,” says Laura. “Depending on how women personalize our sweaters leads to a different array of emotions. It can feel celebratory, nostalgic, humorous, or just plain happy!”
Laura always knew she wanted to be in fashion, and the twists and turns of her life lead her directly into this most perfect path.
“I came out of the womb completely fashion obsessed and always knew it was where I belonged, but I didn’t know what my options were,” she said.
“I took sewing classes as a kid, made clothes for my Barbies and LOVED getting dressed. I had internships for Catherine Malandrino and Glam.com and then worked for Ralph Lauren upon graduating college. After several years there, I left to earn a degree in fashion design from Parson’s. After Parson’s I went to work at a start up women’s brand called FIGUE. I went there for design and ended up the Director of Sales for almost 5 years. It was a tremendous experience that allowed me to see a business being built. I always had a feeling I would set off to do something entrepreneurial but until the idea hit me I didn’t really have a plan!”
“So many people have been so incredibly inspiring and helpful along the way. All of the people I worked with at Ralph and Figue, my teachers at Parsons, my friends and family supported what of course seemed like a crazy idea. All of my customers have made this whole thing possible!!”
We love sharing these wonderful entrepreneurial stories with you, and we’re excited to watch as Le Lion continues to grow and prosper in its timeless, stand-out design.