What a thrill to be invited to the studio of Tracy Squillante, President and Founder of the newly launched women’s studio-to-street yoga line, Haven Collective. I first heard of Haven when checking my yoga studio’s twitter feed one day .
The owner of Yogamaya had offer a congratulations to her friend and 2x certified yoga teacher for the launch. I immediately replied to both on Twitter, offering my own congratulations, and thus began the relationship.
Pro Tip: Get on Twitter, stat!!
I arrived at their building in the Garment District only to encounter a woman I knew in the lobby. She is also a designer working at another start-up, so a quick catch up on the elevator ride was a special surprise. You never know who you will run into in the garment district.
Tracy and her team greeted me as if we were longtime friends. Big hugs, a full introduction to the team followed by jumping right into the collection started our visit. Big hugs and smiles ended our visit but definitely not our connection.
In the title of their company, Haven Collective, we notice this word "collective". A Collective is demonstrated by people acting in a group, and that group includes women of all shapes and sizes. Haven serves their women from sizes 4-20 leggings while embracing a rich sense of beauty in their brand and messaging.
Finally, we see thoughtful and well produced active wear without the word "Plus" in it. In fact Tracy hates that word, and asks "We don't use Minus so why do we think Plus is acceptable? It's just a size, period."
We share some insightful lessons from Tracy on her new journey as a fashion entrepreneur.
Lesson #1: Keep listening.
By holding trunk shows at their boutique retail outlets. From east coast to west coast, Tracy and her team travel to fit on customers, and listen.
“Our customer is not afraid to give us feedback, from how they prefer the arm holes to fit on their body to the materials they like.”
As the collection is available in a drapey soft jersey bamboo, typically preferred by a younger demographic or women in the lower body fat range, as well as a delicious, breathable, Italian matte jersey. Practicing yoga outside, the Italian matte jersey tops, carrying a property of SPF 50, protect you from the elements.
Lesson #2: Be open to learning about everything.
Learn everything about running your company. Then, figure out when and where you hire the experts. Tracy dreamily thought as founder and entrepreneur she would build the company by hiring a bunch of experts, serve as the brand manager and enjoy lots of lazy afternoons practicing her asanas.
She very quickly recognized the need, as owner, to learn everything about the business. Getting her hands dirty, sitting on the floor packing boxes, going to factories, meeting and talking with everyone, in order to build that brand and company to her exact vision she discovered was an absolute requirement.
Through this process, she worked to identify the needs to hire a designer, a pattern maker, and a handful of others for reaching her goals.
Pro-Tip: Bring on Advisors smarter than you.
Advisors, with their experience and high taste level, raise expectations you have of your brand. Foster those relationships for success of the company.
Lesson #3: Be open to receiving different results.
Direct-to-consumer selling, via your own e-commerce or physical storefront, offers the best product margins for a new brand. When working with a showroom, or the wholesale marketplace, your margins are greatly reduced and so depending on your cost structure, may be very slim to none.
Anticipating this challenge, Haven Collective launched using the direct-to-consumer model. Focusing their efforts towards gaining wholesale clients was not part of the initial strategy.
However after being approached by a friend who owns a showroom, Tracy and her team opened themselves up to exploring this option. Very different advantages emerged:
- Publicity and Exposure to new clients. By selling in various boutiques, across the country, customers can touch, feel, try on the product. This increases brand and product awareness to new markets perhaps sooner than Haven can reach on their own.
- The chance to hang in a store, and discover your adjacents. We often ask brands and designers “Who do you Hang with?" Meaning…the brand hangs next to Splendid, Vince and Alex Wang. Not too shabby, good for learning more about your competitor products, also good for pitching to the media.
- Boutiques are proof of concept. By validating Haven's quality, a presence in stores provides access to customers via trunk show opportunities.
Lesson #4: Identify multiple pitch angles for your story.
Tracy works with a committed and smart PR firm, who get what she and Haven are about. They also quickly recognized the ability to create multiple story lines, to serve a variety of markets.
At any given time Tracy and her PR team offer up to 4 different pitch packages. They can switch between targeting the yoga marketplace, and the end consumer while also including strategies to reach an audience interested in fashion entrepreneurs/start up (us!), in addition to the dedication of expanding the lens on what makes a beautiful woman.
On that last story line, Tracy chose to work with Jag Models. The newly launched talent agency was started by former Ford Models executive, who sees brands selecting real woman bodies and figures for modeling as not just a trend but a celebration for acceptance.
How long things take, and that you have to go through every step in order to arrive at the next.
- Launched in September 2014.
- Designed for and sold to women of all shapes and sizes.
- Studio to street styling. Classic, modern, offering the right mix of form and function.
- 11 styles. 27 SKUS.
- Sizes 4 – 18, legging goes to size 20.
- Designed in NYC, Made in California.
- Fabrics are soft jersey bamboo and Italian matte jersey SPF 50.
- Sold online, at HavenCollectiveYoga.com
- Also available at a small number of US boutiques.
- Available for international shipping.
- Self funded, friends and family, for launch.
Thank you to Tracy and her entire team for the visit. I look forward to seeing you on and off the mat!
Enjoy a few images from their collection and be sure to check out the full line on their site, Haven Collective.