Oct 27, 2017

Fashion Files: Q&A with Darrah Christel of Loho

Most women don't notice the void for low-rise hosiery until they look around and realize it's virtually non-existent in the market. That was the exact scenario Loho creator Darrah Christel found herself in as she searched unsuccessfully for tights that wouldn't dig in to her love handles and confirm every negative thought she's ever had about herself.

If you can relate to this, you're in the right place, because Darrah's created a brilliant product that will make you love wearing tights again. Enter Loho, low-rise hosiery designed and developed in Seattle featuring a unique waistband that sits naturally on the waistline and molds to the body. The secret is a silicone backing that keeps the tights from falling down making them easy and comfortable to wear for women of all shapes and sizes. Check out our Q&A to learn more about the backstory behind the brand and how you can help support the launch.

Q- How did you come up with Loho?

A- It was sort of an accident, to be honest. I'm a writer by trade. Fashion design is never something I thought I'd dohosiery and lingerie were probably the furthest thing from my mind, but living in the Northwest, tights were a necessary evil if I wanted to wear dresses in the winter. I didn’t really even think twice about it until I had to write about them for my job at zulily. 

When the copy team would sit down to write about hosiery we would collectively chat about how uncomfortable wearing tights could be. Everyone had a “trick” to wearing them. I remember my colleague Alaina telling me, “Cut the sides of the elastic. That will loosen them up.” So that night I tried it. I was getting ready to go dancing and wanted to feel comfortable. But to my disappointment, cutting the sides of the elastic didn’t really help, so I had to cut off the entire elastic waistband. 

Little did I know that without the waistband the tights wouldn't stay up. Halfway through the night, I made a run for the bathroom to rip them off. That's when it dawned on me that wearing my underwear on the outside of my tights would help them stay up. The rest is history. I made my first pair of tights using a lace waistband and realized I was on to something. 

Q- What were your biggest obstacles when it came to manufacturing and why was it important for you to produce in the U.S.?

A- Finding manufacturers was the hardest part of all of this, especially for someone without a design background. After watching The True Cost on Netflix, I realized that only 3% of the clothes we wear are actually made in the U.S. And if you think about that, that means there are very few manufacturers left in the states. They’re all going out of business because it's cheaper to make things elsewhere, like China. In the beginning, I did speak to a few manufacturers overseas, but none of them were willing to disclose information about their employees or working conditions. That's when I decided to do my manufacturing in the U.S., even though it meant fewer options and higher production costs. 

When I first started calling around, nobody wanted to call me back. And I couldn’t find email addresses to save my life. Trust me, I would have rather emailed than called. I’m a millennial. I hate calling people. But I finally got a hold of a hosiery mill that was willing to work with me. I tried to get them to sign an NDA because my patent was still pending, but they ignored all my attempts to get it signed. I finally let it go in order to keep things moving forward because they were the only hosiery mill willing to work with me at the time. 

Six months into iterating and developing the line, the manufacturer sent me an email saying they were going to have to send back my samples and couldn’t work with me anymore. It came out of the blue. Turns out, they sold my design and the process we had just been working on for six months to someone else. I couldn’t have been more pissed off, frustrated, and discouraged—but I put my feelings aside, and went through the motions of formally sending a cease and desist. Trust me, I don’t like taking legal action. As a new business owner, legal fees will bleed you dry, plus there’s no guarantee anything will be done. When all that happened, I thought, "this must be a sign from God that I’m not supposed to make these tights...."

But when you’re in doubt, that’s when your tribe really shines. I wasn't ready to let go of my vision for the line. I remember telling my mom I didn’t want to have to go back to cold calling hosiery mills so she insisted on calling on my behalf. An hour after I gave her a few numbers, she had the owner of CC Hosiery on the phone. It must have been a sign because their showroom was literally a block away from the lace manufacturer I was already working with in New York. And just like that, business travel became much more efficient.

Q- How did you decide what factory would ultimately manufacture your line?

A- CC Hosiery is the same company that makes Hanky Panky’s signature lace waistband, and they actually wrote a great blog post about the Klauber BrothersI have plans on going out to visit Klauber Brothers and CC Hosiery with a film crew so that I can share just how great these suppliers are, and how interesting the whole process is. Stay tuned!

Q- How has the line evolved since you first conceptualized it?

A- When I first thought of this idea, I literally thought I’d be making underwear on the outside of tights or somehow connecting underwear to tights. That’s how I sketched them. Luckily, I started working with a patternmaker to bring my vision to life. We tried every kind of lace, backing, denier of tight, and landed at what I think is the perfect pair—beautiful, comfortable, life-changing. I’ve literally worn through all my samples, which I regret because now I have nothing to photograph. 

Q- How has your background helped you launch this line?

A- I used to be a fashion blogger. That was around 2010, the same year I graduated college, and there weren’t a lot of paying writing gigs. I actually flew to New York and had an informational interview with In Style and People Magazine in the Time Warner building, and was advised not to pursue print, since they were unsure what the future might look like for them. 
So, I decided to self-publish and take up fashion blogging. I did that without pay while working at Nordstrom. As it turns out, I have this incredible gift of finding women the perfect denim, no matter their size. I’d study all the jeans we had on the floor, knew the product inventory like the back of my hand and would put women in jeans they didn’t know existed. It was like finding their glass slipper. I got addicted to that feeling. Giving women something they thought they’d never find. 

I’ve also been writing in fashion for a long time, for brands like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, zulily, REI, Target, and most recently, Brooks Running. I worked as a stylist in that time as well. And between the two, I’ve learned a lot about the industry, what’s out there, what people are looking for, and most importantly, what problems women are experiencing

Hosiery remains an outdated, non-innovative space women still have issues with. I make it a habit to visit the lingerie department at Nordstrom every time I go in, and I eavesdrop on customers talking to sales associates. And without fail, it’s an issue with comfort or size inclusivity. I feel sad for the customer in the moment, but I feel really good about what I’m putting out there.  

Q- What advice do you have for other women looking to start their own line?

A- Don’t be afraid of not “doing it right.” This is coming from a perfectionist. So I’m with you—I don’t like putting things out there I haven’t perfected yet. But I’ve had to get over that. I started my Instagram account last year with just prototypes of my tights. And the images I have in my campaign are of models wearing prototypes. But if I waited until I raised enough money to make the real-deal manufactured tights, I’d just now be starting, and I wouldn’t have had all the opportunities and exposure I’ve had this year. I wouldn’t have been accepted into Rent the Runway’s Project Entrepreneur program, or been featured on Cara Alwill Leyba’s podcast Style Your Mind. So when people tell you to just start doing, they mean it. Perfectionism is the ultimate procrastination. 


Get Involved

Darrah is currently running an iFundWomen campaign and is *so close*  to her goal of $10,000 to produce the first run of Loho tights. Please consider supporting this campaign by pre-ordering a pair of tights or simply making a donation to see this project come to life. Darrah's iFund Women campaign ends on Oct. 31st and we don't want you to miss out on supporting this great local brand while also supporting U.S. manufacturing! Act now by visiting the iFundWomen Campaign Page and pre-ordering a pair of Loho tights.

Please SHARE this post to help us spread the word about this amazing local brand! We also invite you to follow the Loho story on Instagram. Tell Darrah that Sydney sent you! 😘

No comments

Blog Design Created by pipdig