“If we tell you how we came up with the name Juicy Couture…we’d have to kill you!” In the heart of downtown Los Angeles surrounded by concrete giants, resides FIDM (The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) where a tent full of inquisitive students gathered to listen to Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, founders of the iconic American brand, Juicy Couture discuss their new book, The Glitter Plan.
For years, Juicy Couture dominated California culture before taking the rest of the world by storm. Celebrities like Paris Hilton, Madonna and Britney Spears (just to name a few) were spotted in the signature tracksuit. Juicy Couture transformed the way the world looked at casual clothing, which is no surprise why a pink Juicy tracksuit was acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London as part of their permanent fashion collection. Behind every great brand is often a creative genius and in this case, there are two.
In “The Glitter Plan,” the designing duo, Pam and Gela explain how they started Juicy Couture with $200 and transformed it into a $1 billion global fashion empire. Perched on a small stage, the pintsized powerhouse designers candidly provided further insight into the brands conception, success and their departure from Juicy Couture.
Tell us a little about your first venture, the maternity jean business.
Gela: When we started, we took our $200 and went downtown Los Angeles to a giant rag house and picked out jeans and cut the tops out of them and sewed in black lycra panels.
Pam: Ok Gela, wait a minute…you’re making it all sound very civilized. We actually jumped in dumpsters filled with filthy jeans and pulled them out, it was really a down low moment! When we started there was never a task that was beneath us. We did everything from driving the trucks downtown to jumping in the dumpsters, to shipping the product and then writing hand written “thank you” notes…I mean we did everything.
T-shirts were the first products you sold at Juicy, why did you think that t-shirts were a good category to start in?
Pam: Like in the maternity business, there was a void in the market and there weren’t cool clothes. We are both petite and we were looking for the perfect t-shirt that was buttery soft and came in a million great colors and it didn’t exist…so we designed that t-shirt.
What was your initial approach toward advertising?
Gela: When you’re starting a business and you don’t have money for traditional advertising, which is crazy expensive, you have to figure out how you can promote your brand in a way that you can afford. We could afford throwing a party for $5k and giving away product but we could never have afforded a page in Vogue magazine (60-80k at the time). So the lesson is to think about what you can do in your budget that is cool and authentic to your brand and culture.
We often hear people discuss the value of networking when starting a business, what were the most important connections to help you get where you are today?
Gela: We had no connections…
Pam: When I started my hat company prior to meeting Gela, I just cold called buyers and asked if I could simply show them what I was making. I don’t know if you can still do that today but I’m sure you can do it with certain boutiques.
What is something important to know when selling a new product?
Gela: No matter what your dream is for the product you’re making, you have to know that you have a customer for it. It’s not an art project, fashion is a business. You have to have somebody that wants to buy what you’re making or it’s not a business.
What are your thoughts about Juicy Couture today? Since you departed the label, is it still authentic to what you created?
Pam: You know what, that really is a tough question. It’s really not autobiographical to us today and it hasn’t been for a while.
Gela: The truth is that when Juicy started it was a very expensive item. In the UK a tracksuit was about $450 and now Juicy is going to be carried at Kohl’s, which is still fantastic. So when Pam says it’s not autobiographical, it isn’t. It’s a different look and vibe but you know what “Viva La Juicy!” We’ve moved on and I couldn’t be happier.
Without a doubt the priceless wisdom Pam & Gela provided was a mere appetizer compared to the full course meal found in the pages of The Glitter Plan. Check it out!
Chandia Brennen is a Certified Image Consultant and CEO of ItsGood2bME Fashion Consulting and Image Management based in Los Angeles CA, Chandia has been in the Fashion industry for over four years. She has worked for dozens of publications and holds the title of Senior Fashion Editor in both LA and NY. Chandia is a fashion scout for a Design Agency in NY and Brand Ambassador for HairEverywhere Luxury Extensions.