Posted on October 28 2019
After years of experience in the fashion industy, Andrea Seemayer, took it upon herself to create A.Lynn, an apparel company that provides real apparel for real women with real bodies. In short, her brand is giving customers what they deserve, a true fit for their own body. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Andrea about the inspiration behind the brand as well as her biggest business obstacle and how she was able to overcome it.
ALLY: Tell us about yourself. What were you doing prior to launching A.Lynn Designs?
Andrea Seemayer: I have always had a career in the fashion industry, specifically in the development of apparel. Over a decade of running fittings for contemporary brands, I became a fit expert. Leading up to this, I started the industry as a creative designer for a private label, meaning that I was the person who found inspiration and sketched a garment. After years of working as a creative designer for multiple mass-retail brands, including Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Kohl’s, I transitioned to working for a contemporary apparel brand, Alice + Olivia, as a technical designer. In fashion, the technical designer is the person who brings the creative designer’s sketch to real life. I would create (what I call) the “blue prints” to clothing, which would then be sent to the factory digitally to have a sample created. I worked my way up to a technical design manager and then moved to Rebecca Taylor, where I started to help oversee Product Development responsibilities as well, including sourcing fabrics, manufacturers, and trims. After a bit of time, I further gained experience by taking on the ownership of both product development and production departments at ZAC Zac Posen. By this time, I was sourcing, costing, setting calendars, determining allocations, managing dual-teams, managing budgets, and developing partnerships with production fabric mills, garment manufacturers, and freight forwarders. I still use every tool that I learned in the industry in my day-to-day at A.Lynn. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the experience I’ve endured.
ALLY: Tell us about the inspiration behind A.Lynn Designs.
Andrea Seemayer: I wanted to build a fashion brand that gave more attention to the customer and opened up options in clothing that provided them with more comfort and confidence in their own skin. It is too often that women (and men) feel that they cannot find apparel that fits their body type perfectly (off the rack). After more than a decade in the fashion industry, I saw a pain point in the fit limitation of height to width proportions. The fashion industry's standard incremental size change for a waist measurement is +/- 1" for each size, whereas the standard to change the length of a garment is only +/- 2" from a size 0 to size 16 (that's 8 sizes!!). This archaic size system does not accommodate for people's height differences or proportions (e.g. short-waisted, long torsos, etc...). I, myself, am only 5'0" tall and experienced, personally, the pain point of needing better fit and functioning clothing for more body types in fashion. This experience drove me to execute the creation of A.Lynn, an apparel company that provides real apparel for real women with real bodies.
In the world of men’s blazers, shirts, and pants, they always get a 2-number system to shop from (e.g. chest width + sleeve length, waist width + inseam length, etc…). Whereas, when you shop in the women’s departments, you’ll notice it’s always a 1-number system (0-16 on average). I am ready to give us, at the very least, the same options that men get, just to start…. A.Lynn’s found a way to give customers what they deserve…a true fit for their own body.
ALLY: What has been your biggest business obstacle and how did you overcome it?
Andrea Seemayer: Brand awareness and exposure has been a giant obstacle, especially with the ever-increasing price of social marketing and advertising. If you were to promote your brand on social channels (even) 5 years ago, the cost for customer acquisition would be less than half than it is today. Large scale consumer companies of today are spending up to (or more) than $500,000 monthly on online marketing. Clearly, a young brand cannot compete with a budget as massive as that…so, we’ve had to get cleve on how to reach potential customers.
To overcome this, we’ve build grassroots ad campaigns that organically uses our campaign models’ to spread the word. I’ve also used connections from the industry to get myself into fashion events, such as London Fashion Week and multiple boutique popups around New York. Lastly, we are dabbling with in-store experiences. In November of 2019, we will have a month-long storefront in Brentwood, California, to expose the Los Angeles area to A.Lynn. In short, we are going back to an alternative door-to-door sales strategy that allows us to meet our customers in real life to learn about their wishes and desires, as well as meeting store owners and potential wholesale buyers to learn what they want to see from up-and-coming brands. I believe it is all about knowing your customer to be able to stay alive and expand further!!
ALLY: What has been your biggest business accomplishment?
Andrea Seemayer: In short, I think that the biggest accomplishment is creating/growing the brand to the point we’re at with 0 outside funding and a team that can be counted on less than 1 hand. I built and launched an entire line with a newly innovative size scale that hasn’t been seen before in women’s fashion by myself. I now (luckily) have two employees to help A.Lynn, one being my CMO, Tamara Laine, aka my right-hand woman. After having Tamara and our design associate on board, we’ve been able to launch a successful marketing campaign that highlights women of all shapes/sizes wearing their A.Lynn to achieve badass dreams, grow our social following, increase our email lists, and get featured in multiple publications (including Forbes). We will have our own store for the month of November, launching in a new city, and it is all happening as a bootstrapped startup. The amount of work that has been achieved with little manpower is extraordinary!!!
ALLY: What advice would you offer a friend who is thinking about starting their own business?
Andrea Seemayer: Love what you do!!! There will be sleepless nights, months where you never see friends or loved ones, times when you want to give up, and obstacles that bring you to tears. So, you better have the passion inside to constantly pick yourself up by the bootstraps and move one.
I would also add that you need to either (a) learn the basic knowledge of the industry your business will be in first, or (b) find a co-founder, or advisors, that are experts in the industry you plan to be in. You will need some help navigating through the nonsense of industry standards, and it will always be helpful to have someone on your side that “gets it”. It’s like going to a new country and getting around without knowing the native language…if you have a trustee that can guide you, your travels will be easier.
ALLY: Favorite quote?
Andrea Seemayer: Team work makes the dream work. (anonymous). It was a quote I heard once in my early career and stuck with me forever. I whole-heartedly believe that the strongest businesses and most successful innovations come from well-rounded teams that put in 110% together.