Its hard to compete in today’s “Fast Fashion” world. Laura Unruh found success by crafting shoes for the “smart chicks” with classic yet slightly trend-driven designs & styles.
LOU.EARL is for women who are intelligent, educated, well-mannered and aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I started designing shoes (and getting paid for it) after studying apparel design in college and completing a design internship with Tommy Bahama. The brand LOU.EARL was created about 11 years after I started working in the footwear industry.
I decided to develop this brand almost out of determination and some frustration. In 2012 I had a very difficult time finding work locally designing and developing: I had interviewed with companies and was receiving a good amount of interest and even a few offers but then somehow the position or the company’s budget would fall through. I knew that I could make great shoes and get them sold but I couldn’t do that with sketches. With my savings nearly gone, I borrowed enough money from my mom for a plane ticket to China and the adventure began.
WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR THE BRAND NAME?
The name LOU.EARL is derived from a name that’s been in my family for five generations. It belonged (and belongs; my mother) to women in my family who posses impeccable ladylike class, immeasurable strength and colossal talent. A few of them I grew up with and others I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting but I’ve always been surrounded by the memory and spirit of them. LOU.EARL celebrates them and women alike.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST HURDLE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME TO GET STARTED?
The biggest hurdle that I faced was finding people who believed in what I believed in. A lot of people think that finding a factory means that they have the brand secured but the reality is far from that. Finding a factory that was able to make what the shoes required and finding one who was even interested in making samples for me when I had nothing to show for it was more like a mountain than a hurdle.
WHAT WAS THAT “JUST DO IT” MOMENT FOR YOU TO GET STARTED?
Borrowing money for a plane ticket to Southern China. I was extremely worried that I would come back empty-handed and return worse off than I was at the time (financially). I already had a specific factory I was discussing development with but what I was taking on was extremely demanding and laborious; there would be unforeseen obstacles and I knew that. I just kept telling myself that I had to try.
What keeps you going?
The ability to create and the excitement of it. Knowing that the future holds an empty palette and I can dream up anything I’d like for it. Regarding the business side of the company, I’ve always been aware and braced for the challenges. I think it would be strange if there weren’t any.
Personally a challenge forces me to dive deeper into the issue and ask myself, “how can this be improved?” or “how can I change my perspective on this so that it can be successful?” For me, challenges equal growth.
What would you do differently?
I don’t think that I would have done anything differently if I could go back in time. All of the difficulties and struggles have been immensely huge teaching aids that I’m very grateful for.
Many of the challenges and hurdles I’ve faced came down to lack of finances so I would have secured solid financial backing in order to build and grow this brand with all of the potential that it has.
How did you overcome the “insecurities” and doubts?
I don’t think I ever really had any insecurities about LOU.EARL itself. The process of what had to be done to build the brand and achieve goals that were necessary to do so caused a lot of uncertain fears.
I think it’s natural to have some doubt about what you’re doing when you’re living in such a competitive industry but I’m very confident about LOU.EARL.
How do you maintain the reservoir of courage and strength to marshal on and innovate?
There are so many exciting things on the near-horizon for LOU.EARL and that keeps me excited and optimistic. This past year the brand has had some major growth as we’ve been putting a lot of new things into place such as our new website which will be launching soon.
We moved production from Asia to the United States which has been the biggest hurdle that we’ve overcome so far but it has also been the most exciting! Spring 2017 is in production now and will be available early March which we are really looking forward to since it will be our first collection in two years! I’m currently designing and developing Fall and adding some heels to the collection which is very inspiring. I think our new collections will knock your socks off!!
You Can Reach LOU.EARL via:
You Can Reach LOU.EARL via: