Enjoy the inspiring interview of our Editor-in-Chief Joseph Ralph Fraia with Kim Nguyen and Genevieve Redding, founders and managers of Sheergilt, Luxury Designer Lingerie company based in New York (www.sheergilt.com).

Joseph:

First of all, Kim, thank you for granting us this interview. I had the pleasure to have already met you at the presentation party for this new venture of yours, the brand you are launching right now. So if you please want to introduce yourself and tell us something more about this project.

Kim:

Sure. The brand is called Sheergilt. We started together about three years ago. Yes, it’s been a good three years in the makings.

J.

Together? You and….?

K.

Genevieve Redding. We are Kim Nguyen and Genevieve Redding, founders of the company. We met about five years ago, and our kids went to school together at Saint Bart’s. Both in preschool. We started speaking about lingerie and how I used to sell laces out of college, and Genevieve used to design for private label lingerie for many US and European brands for a manufacturer based in Hong Kong. We started talking, and I said, “I’ve always wanted to do lingerie.” As a matter of fact, my current company’s name is supposed to be a lingerie company, but I got distracted for the last 10 years. So I hoped someday to do lingerie, and so that’s where our friendship began, and we started talking about 5 years ago. 3 years ago is when we really made the move to go to Paris, look at the laces to buy to start creating our line.

Genevieve:

We went to the Interfilière in Paris. The Interfilière is the fabric show for lingerie specifically in Paris. So we went to source our fabrics to get ideas for the collection.

J.

Okay. So, Kim, your expertise is more about the fabric, the raw material?

K.

I do fabrics, but it’s more about the business end of it and how to do production, shipping, duties, customs clearance. Dealing with clients.

Everything, pretty much everything …… So……

J.

I see. And when it comes to you, Genevieve, what is your expertise? What do you focus on?

G.

My experience is more in design: sourcing fabrics, getting patterns made, fitting samples, production. Everything related to this area.

J.

I see. So, it might sound like an obvious question, but why lingerie? How come you felt that this was an area of interest for you?

K.

I’ve always loved lingerie, in the sense that it makes a woman feel powerful, in a sense that she’s wearing something very beautiful. She’s walking in with confidence. If it’s a great soft fabric or a lace, it feels very, very good. You might not have makeup on, but if you have beautiful lingerie on, you feel like you could conquer the world. It just gives you a certain confidence to walk around in lingerie with a beautiful dress or even a pair of sweats, I think it’s empowering for a woman to wear something that she feels beautiful in. It affects your whole being…. It’s a hidden luxury.

G.

It’s a hidden luxury. It’s nice to have something very beautiful and exquisitely made that no one knows you’re wearing. It makes you feel….powerful. It gives you confidence.

J.

Yeah, hidden luxury, I think it’s a very interesting concept because in part it’s about the aesthetic of it and in part, it’s about comfort. There is a daily aspect of it that of course people usually don’t see because it’s hidden but it’s very important in daily experience. Something that surely for men is a little bit different.

Coming to you, now, Genevieve, what was it that brought you to this industry and what do you find interesting about this industry specifically?

G.

Well, I love fashion design. This was my major in college, and I just happened to start freelancing for a lingerie company right out of college. It’s a very nice industry to work in. It’s not as– I don’t know if I can say bitchy [laughter] as ready to wear, not as cutthroat as ready to wear. Everyone is a lot friendlier. The seasons aren’t as one after the other. They’re usually twice a year for the major markets. So it’s a great product to design. It’s beautiful. I just love making it, and I find that everyone in the industry, whether they’re selling lace or designing or selling lingerie, they’re just very passionate about it. And we knew what we wanted to make when we started doing Sheergilt. We both had a lot of experience doing uniforms and lingerie and we have very similar tastes. We wanted to make something where we could use really expensive, beautiful lace and embroidery, but make it affordable at the same time. We wanted to make it comfortable. So we had this idea to provide lingerie to women from every age group, a product that women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s could wear.

J.

I see. Very interesting. Something else that I was interested in is, what is the statement that you are making with this brand? Of course, nowadays there is a lot of competition. There are many brands. But fortunately, now the current economic context allows people to express themselves in a brand, and build a community after their brand. That is something that in the past was almost impossible to do or would have taken years. Now with this technology, social media, this was made easier. So what is it with Sheergilt that you would like to express and how do you see this brand as different from others?

G.

Well, as a designer for over 100 brands worldwide, over the years, I always wanted to use the best lace, the best embroidery, and I would design collections, and then at the end of the day, the customer would want to change the lace or change the embroidery to something cheaper just to save a dollar or 50 cents, or whatever. This would upset me because it seemed like such a small amount, and you lose so much in the quality and the look of the product. So, I always thought one day if I have my own lingerie company, I’m going to use all these beautiful materials, but I still wanted to make it affordable, and I knew there was a way of achieving that. The answer is, you don’t have to use very expensive factories. You can find good, inexpensive factories that have really good quality, and you can still use those expensive European laces and combine it to make a product that has a good price point but is still a luxury product. Comfort was a big thing, as well. We want it to feel like you don’t have anything on; a lot of our staff wears it and we wear it ourselves. You just don’t feel like you’re wearing anything. It’s just very lightweight and comfortable.

J.

This is an excellent way to take advantage of what the current market has to offer in terms of supplying, in terms of manufacturing, and in terms of marketing and distributions. Entrepreneurs are allowed now to use this large variety of tools they can find out there that can make their job easier. But of course this is also a tough business, especially when it comes to fashion and the branding, it’s another part of the spectrum that is very important. It was interesting that you mentioned that you met basically because of your kids. You’re both mothers. This may sound like an obvious question, how do you deal with that, being a mom, a wife, and an entrepreneur carrying such a tough business?

K.

Well, the names of most of the collection are after our daughters, Genevieve’s sister, and other girls in Tula and Natalia’s class. They were our inspiration, and they’re always our inspiration, our kids, besides what we love to do. I always teach my daughter work ethic and what work is about, how it’s created, the process. Our kids saw us go to Paris, saw us pick out lace. We would show them the process and now we have launched the product, and they see the finished product. and they feel very proud that they have been in the process. I’ve always involved them since the beginning of the process, telling them everything good takes time, and it pays off, but you have to work hard for what you want in life, and don’t give up because, in the end, your dreams will come true if you work hard. Everything has to do with hard work, perseverance, and never giving up.

J.

Well, there is a saying that goes “Perseverance is the mother of success”, and that’s for a reason. What about you Genevieve?

G.

I think it’s great for our daughters to see us having a company together. We plan to take them to Paris next time to pick out the lace with us. As far as my daughter, she has started her own clothing line now. It’s a project for school and she started a line of activewear. She is going there. She’s building her website. She’s designing flats, everything.

J.

Definitely, it’s in the blood when it comes to your family, you can say that.

G.

She is making storyboards, yes, she’s got this whole big plan. She asked me if I could manufacture things for her, so I’m going to have to figure that out!

J.

Be careful when you discuss the salary because….. just because it’s your daughter don’t go soft, okay?

G.

Yeah. I think it’s great. Even if it’s difficult sometimes and you’re busy and you’re trying to get stuff done while you’re helping with homework or making dinner. At the end of the day, I think it’s good to see them seeing you balance your life, and work, and be inspired. I think it’s good because they’re going to grow up and they’re going to have to work it out as well, how to be a mother and have a career.

J.

Sure. I think it’s important, this aspect specifically, that comes from the women’s side and from a mom’s perspective. Kids are smart, so they want smart answers. If you just tell them, “Mommy’s busy” or as a dad, “Daddy’s busy”, they’re not going to take that answer anymore, because once there was the authority and the fear. Thank God those times are back in the past. So now you deal with a very high IQ, sometimes with an adult in miniature, and I think explaining that “mommy’s busy because is doing this and that” it’s definitely a positive approach that it’s both educational and inspirational. Surely, more people, I think, should do that because if you just act out when you’re stressed, it’s not good for you and it’s not going to help in relationships in any way. So I think this is very inspirational, and I thank you for sharing that.

Going back to your project, this is the first collection that you launched, right? And so what is the market that you are targeting specifically, and where do you want to get to with this campaign? How do you plan to grow the brand awareness and of course, expand this brand that has just come to life?

K.

We did our first launch party in New York, and we are trying to get it to specific boutiques, into boutique hotels that have a retail space, because that’s also my background. So we are using our network of friends, business connections to build brand recognition. We’re also in the process of planning our Los Angeles launch party where we will– it will take time to build that, to get the press out there. We have a couple sales reps in LA, a couple in New York, and we’re gathering our sales reps all over the country to help us get them into more stores, even in a boutique in the Cayman Islands. So it’s starting small, but little by little, we plan to really build the brand and mold it into something really big. E-commerce is really big for our brand these days, and I think word of mouth, getting the press to recognize who we are.

J.

And get girls and women to wear them!

K.

Exactly! We have a great Instagram account with a good following, and we’re building that also, but most of all, this is our first collection. We are going to get feedback too, and with the feedback, we’re just going to make the second collection even more approachable.

G.

So yes, we’ve hired Karin Bradeen in New York, and then we have two salespeople in LA. We’re trying to get into a lot of boutiques in the beginning, and we have our collection. We have enough stock where we can offer no minimums. We can deliver right away. We make it really easy for boutiques or online retailers in the smaller places to sell. And then eventually we’d like to get it to a point in a couple of years where we’re in the bigger retailers, and then online, of course. E-commerce, I feel like it levels the playing field a little bit for new brands to be able to sell online. Even if it is difficult to get customers to convert, but that’s a great place to sell now.

J.

Yeah. Well, with the great opportunity that comes with basically having the world potentially looking at your brand, then there is the commitment of working and getting the brand out there and get people to know about the brand and the specifics about the brand. Why specifically somebody should buy your products.

G.

We’re so big on posting things on Instagram because it shows you not only our products but the whole feeling of our brand. @Sheergilt is our Instagram. When people follow us they can just get a feeling through the images and quotes, see our lifestyle, and our products, and get a feeling of what our brand is about.

J.

Yeah. Again, these new tools definitely give more opportunities to specifically build the angle from which you want your clients basically looking at your brand, and now with Living magazine we’ve been doing this for 15 years, where we are trying to give to the definition of luxury a specific meaning, which is not necessarily about the price. A luxurious experience is not necessarily related to the amount of money that you invest, but it might be in looking for the specific company or product that makes the products that you like, the way you like. And because of the e-commerce now, many local businesses, businesses, where basically for their own nature had to remain local geographically, now with the e-commerce they can really go global. So on one side, there are more challenges, but on the other side surely more opportunities. And so definitely there is the plan to go also to LA, the West coast. That’s usually that’s also an interesting market, very different from the east coast. We have an office in LA and we see the difference from the events that we organize to the topics that we have to deal with. The west coast is a different world. And at the same time, the opportunities are different, because the social environment and the location, socially speaking, the location where you can actually present yourself and your brand, are much more numerous. In LA, everything is meant almost to allow people to show who they are or what they do. Even the professionalism dealing with the red carpet, the difference is embarrassing. Even if in New York, I think we have more red carpets than LA, it’s still very amateurish here. In LA, it’s a doctrine, it’s a process that the professionals dealing with the red carpet know it is very strict, rigid. And over there is serious. It’s a serious thing, walking on the red carpet. So definitely that can position your brand and your product to a different level, and with Hollywood right around the corner, you never know. We’ve seen with other brands presented in our magazine that in LA you can dream big, because all it takes is the right celebrity at the right moment happening in a store, looking for lingerie in this case, and tries it, loves it, and the very next day, everybody’s talking about you.

You were mentioning that this lingerie is good for many different women in terms of age, specifically. So when it comes to the present collection, maybe we can mention something about the colors or the models you decided to come out with. You can give us a few details about the collection?

K.

Yeah, the first collection we did a lot of basic colors. We did a lot of black and white and nude. So things that we know women will buy. And then next season, for spring, we’ll move more into colors. And then for each collection, there are about four pieces in each collection, and we’ve done an underwire bra and a triangle. Because some women only wear underwires. Some don’t like wires. And then a bikini and a boy-short. It’s all very sexy, but it’s all very comfortable as well. Classy and comfortable. So you can wear them all day. You can put it on in the morning and wear it all day. You don’t wear it just for one special occasion and that’s it. So we wanted sort of that combination of lingerie that women will have and put on in the morning and wear all day and it’s still very, very beautiful and sexy. And we’ve used embroidery from France, lace from France and Italy, and also from South America, and then a lot of the other components we used from Asia because certain things they can do very well and it makes our product affordable.

J.

Okay. So we can give to our readers the website, I guess, where I think it’s the hub where they can find information about the products and the models and the prices, and I guess also a list of the boutiques, maybe, where they can find your products?

K.

That would be great. I think right now we would really love to sell on our website to really get the name out, and we’re still building our boutique and we’ll get that together soon of who we will be in but, literally, we just launched a few weeks ago.

J.

So what’s the website?

K.

It’s www.sheergilt.com.

J.

Perfect. Last but not least, something you would like to stress, you want our readers to know that you want to share with our readers about your project?

K.

I think it’s all about fulfilling your dreams. I think everyone should try to fulfill their dreams in some way, whether it’s one year from now, 20 years from now, but always, if you have a dream to at least try and fulfill it, and if you fail try again… don’t give up.

G.

I think that’s a great message, and I do think I found, in running this company as opposed to working for other companies it’s– you just have to persevere. You just have to stick with it and keep it going; if there’s any problem, you just fix it and keep on going. You will reach the point you want eventually. It’s just a matter of keeping the momentum going every day, and putting everything into it.

J.

Yeah. I think this is for sure true. In addition to that, there is also that you are both women and entrepreneurs who know very well your “why” and your “what”. Why you’re doing this and for what. You have your kids. You have your career. And then there is the expertise. You’re too humble to admit that, but according to the conversation we had, you also have the right expertise. So, I think that success is always this mix, where the perseverance is important, but you need to be competent at what you’re doing and you need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And then the recipe of never giving up, that is something that, in life, it’s an undeniable truth. I watched recently this inspirational video from, I think it was Rocky 5, not a great movie, but there is this great scene when Rocky says that what makes a winner is not how many times you get knocked out, but how many times you get back on your feet. And this is very true, life is going to knock you down no matter what. You can’t plan to dodge all the adversities, all the things that happen in your life. You’re going to get knocked out. And there is nothing wrong with that. It happens to everybody; but what really matters is getting back on your feet and keep fighting, and you have to know why you are fighting and build competence; get an education, or work hard and become an expert at what you’re doing. I think this is something that can’t be ignored in your case, as for many other entrepreneurs; men, women, doesn’t matter; often it is not acknowledged well enough that there is a lot of hard work and it’s not just about dreaming and persevering. There’s hard work, you have to build your knowledge, and every morning you have to remind yourself “Why I’m doing this? Why I’m sleeping two hours? Why I’m so tired all the time?” I think it’s important to stress this out. So I want to thank you for sharing your experience. I wish you the best of luck with your brand; it’s going to be successful for sure, having two strong entrepreneurs like you committed in this project. So I want to thank you again and, of course, we’re going to be there when you’re going to launch the second collection, we want to know definitely more about this. Thank you very much.

K. & G.
Thank you and many thanks to Livein Magazine for this opportunity.

Interview by Joseph Ralph Fraia

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