New York City’s garment center has birthed its latest protégé. Designer Layla L’obatti, launched Between the Sheets, Inc. – a Luxury Intimate Apparel company in 2008. While studying at FIT, she conceptualized and held an inaugural BTS show that continued to grow year after year in participation and market awareness. At 21 Layla found herself an entrepreneur not only running the show, but making connections and laying the foundation for the business she would later start in intimates and lounge-wear.
Entrepreneurs often find that their vision is birthed by hands on ‘in the trenches’ hard work and dedication. True to form this savvy entrepreneur was intricately involved in merchandising, design, styling, art direction, and much more. Small beginnings can launch a savvy go-getter into uncharted territory. With plans to expand her company into the beauty, home fragrance and personal product categories, this lifestyle designer has proven that where there is a strong will … there is a way.
Founder/Age: Layla L’obatti, 25
Start-up Year: 2005 Fashion Show/ 2008 Debut Collection
Start-up Costs: Still Counting! With growing a fashion brand the investments are all upfront and as you grow you have to find ways to keep it going.
How I Got Started: I started Between the Sheets when I was a sophomore, as a student fashion show while I was attending the Fashion Institute of Technology. I incorporated in 2006 because running the events I wanted to keep it separate from my personal finances. The shows barely broke even and my father helped front a lot of the initial costs our first year, and over the three years we also covered costs by designers and models participating selling tickets to the event and getting sponsors.
Flash forward, two years out of school I had briefly worked at a start-up sweater line called VKOO, and then at D2 brands (a division of Delta Galil) on several brands including licenses and a re-launch of another start-up. I was overworked and in the back of my head was always this thought, “Just take the jump, what do you have to lose?” Today I look back and am so happy I did. In a relatively short time I have been able to do so much on my own, and the biggest difference is that these successes are mine and I have the satisfaction of working for myself.
Best Success Story: We got a request for samples from Marie Claire just as we were wrapping production on our first season, and I bit my nails for 3 1/2 months. I didn’t want to tell anyone that we might have made the story because things happen and you can always end up cut before the issue. One of my very good friends got her subscription early and sent me a scan, I was a little stunned because the story was not about lingerie and my line was featured next to a litany of big names. It was a pinch me moment! It was nice to get that press hit, especially for our luxury brand.
Biggest Start-up Challenge: I was already used to working at start-ups and doing the job of many people, but when you’re running it all yourself I realized all the resources that I was missing in sales, PR, and existing relationships with factories and suppliers. As a designer I basically had to build those relationships on my own from scratch. Now we have a great network of resources and people that support our successes.
#1 Tip for Newbies: Surround yourself with these types of people:
A. supportive, understanding, and caring people because you and your lifestyle will be going through a lot of changes and you need people around you who get that. Having a business is like having a baby, your priorities change.
B. honest and up-front people, because there is no worse feeling than something going wrong in your business and someone telling you after the fact that they thought there was something wrong. Be patient and try not take honesty too personally. Advice is free, so never refuse it when given, but if you took every free thing offered to you your house would be filled with garbage, so keep only the advice that means something to you. In the end, you will be responsible for any mistakes or missteps and that’s the way it should be. Then if your friend says I told you so, you agree and maybe listen more closely the next time!
C. creative, talented, connected people because friends like that can usually think out of the box or at least point you in the direction of someone who can help you with a particular problem.
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