For our very first session of Founder's Wednesday, we had the pleasure to chat with Stephanie Reynders, founder and CEO of Lagatta- an activewear brand for modern women. Former professional snowboarder & product engineer, Stephanie and her mom and style inspiration, Mimi are reimagining activewear for women in which they can feel confident, comfortable, and like themselves.
"We are special because we make activewear thats very thoughtful for people not in their 20s"
It all started with a mother-daughter shopping trip for activewear. Her mother tried a bunch of different brands with different price points, different fabrics, only to realise the lack of options there were. They realised that the activewear industry isn't very modern: it caters almost exclusively to athletes with performance-driven pieces that are skimpy, neon, thin and sheer. Then there is the rest: oversized, bland and grey. There is nothing out there that she can feel great in, that matches her young-mindset and also something that is suitable for her body.
This is where the 2 worlds of snowboarding and product engineering collapsed, realising the huge gap in the market. Lagatta was found for women to feel good, confident, and have fun in.
Lagatta activewear is not just about design and fabric. It is made to enhance what you already have, while also making you feel secure and held-in. Shapetech is a 2-layered system that adds an extra layer of support. You don't need to wear underwear underneath.
During the chat, Stephanie discussed the most common known questions to an upcoming fashion brand.
"Something that is very universal is that nobody knows"
It is an just accumulation of things that builds one big thing. You go step by step, and it goes down to something that may seem so small, but at the end of the day, makes up a huge part of what you are trying to create. Think differently, and ask the most simple, silly questions- because that is where innovation happens.
"Communication is key"
From taking a simple design to turning it into a prototype from 8 different factories in different countries, to then turning into a sample, was the most difficult part. It is very important to know if the manufacturer would help you enough, especially as a start-up or a small business. Communication is the most important, be clear about your needs. Do not be afraid to demand and make your expectations clear. You learn how the manufacturer approaches your product, and how what would they do if they encounter a problem. Find a manufacturer and people who care about your product and vision.
"Having a good story is great, but how to say it is important."
As a founder, you might not necessarily be a marketer or a storyteller, but when you are passionate about what you are doing, it just works. Try to step out of your founder's shoes and see what is really special about the product, what is the strength, and use it as a leverage to tell your story. The most important and difficult part is to get your email opened. Instead of an elaborate press release, keep it short, personal, non-spammy, informal yet polite and it works.
"The best time to raise money is when you don't need it"
It is a time consuming and stressful process, especially for direct-to-consumer brands. You need the right attitude to find the right people to pitch to. Rejections are a part of everyone's journey. You need to be confident, and put yourself in a strong position. As a founder, believe that you are selling a part of your business, instead of needing that money to survive (even though it might be that way sometimes!)
"As a brand, you don't need to shout about being 'inclusive', you can just 'be' inclusive!"
A lot of brands are doing incredible things. It is very difficult to build a brand that is truly inclusive because everyone is different and it is so hard to offer so many sizes, especially as a start-up. As for bigger players in the industry, they need to understand that including does not mean targeting. It is not right if you are plus size or aged, that you have to go to the other part of the store. We as an industry need to normalise inclusivity.
The only way ahead is to be original and connect with our consumer. With an influx of small and big brands in the activewear and loungewear area, especially after the pandemic, the market is very saturated. "The key is to find your niche, carve out a category for your brand," says Stephanie. A lot of brands have are doing a lot of things, there are sustainable options, inclusive options, and so much more.
"For Lagatta, we want to answer how can we focus on the woman who is most often forgotten in this industry".
For more, check out the entire conversation: