Getting Back Into the Apparel Business After a 20-Year Hiatus
Step into Trishia Grace’s compact atelier in West Hollywood and you will see her world of fashion influenced by delicate fabrics and femininity.
Inside a mere 250 square feet of space, there are long rolling racks of colorful dresses that evoke the days of old Hollywood when women spent time developing a wardrobe that played up their desire to be glamorous.
“I wanted to develop something that was classic and could live forever. It was a style I had been wearing for a long time,” said the fashion designer, who has just launched her first self-named collection for Spring/Summer 2018 after a 20-year break from the fashion industry.
Many of Grace’s dresses have a billowy, unconstructed look that take inspiration from the slips and negligees the fashion designer collected during her trips to vintage stores and flea markets in the Los Angeles area when she was first contemplating whether to do her own collection.
Dresses come in long-tiered looks, caftan-like silhouettes or flowy tunics that can be worn as a dress or paired with a pair of pants or jeans. Other styles include hand-dyed slips that can go solo or be placed under a dress.
Chiffon is the predominant fabric for many of the dresses because of its lightweight quality, and bright prints permeate the collection with blasts of color.
“I wanted to have an essence behind my brand, which is a feminine feeling and being beautiful for yourself,” Grace said.
Grace has just begun to tip her toe into the fashion world again. Some two decades ago, the veteran fashion designer left the business to raise her three daughters in Huntington Beach, Calif., south of Los Angeles. But with two adult daughters and a third in high school, Grace decided to move to Los Angeles three years ago following a divorce.
She wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to pursue. She had done a stint in gourmet cooking, but when she weighed what really made her heart sing it was fashion.
Prior to taking time off to raise a family, Grace had worked for 10 years at Teaze of California, a company first started in the 1980s that made juniorswear and then branched out to childrenswear. From 1985 to 1995, Grace was vice president of sales and design, working on million-dollar contracts with retailers such as Sears and Target.
It was a time when the Southern California apparel industry was still manufacturing much of its clothing in the region. At its City of Industry, Calif., headquarters, Teaze of California had 200 garment workers and did its screen printing in Santa Ana, Calif.
So Grace knew that coming back into the industry would not be the same as when she left. In the beginning, to get her small brand going, she invited women up to her atelier in a historic brick building to sip champagne in an interior courtyard and view the garments, using the potential shoppers as a focus group.
Then a few years ago she met Neil Cohen, a stylist in Palm Springs, Calif., who ended up using her dresses for a luxury shoe photo shoot he was coordinating for Palm Springs Life, a regional magazine.
“I really liked the product. It seemed right. The dresses were easy and modern. These are great resort-style dresses,” Cohen said. “They could be vacation dresses or easy lifestyle dresses. They could be a beach cover-up if you are going on holiday or a cruise.”
Cohen, who has 35 years in the fashion industry, helped the fashion designer merchandise the collection and advised on prints and fabric. Cohen felt there were too many sheer fabrics, such as chiffons and georgettes, so he suggested adding some chambray and striped cotton prints to the dress collection to balance it out.
To make her samples and her collection, Grace is manufacturing in Los Angeles with various contractors she has found by networking with people in the apparel industry.
With samples made, Grace has hired an East Coast sales representative, Debbie Fragna, who is taking the collection on the road to specialty boutiques in her area.
Cohen advised Grace to also find a sales rep in the Atlanta area as well as Los Angeles and then branch out to the Midwest when the line is more established but to concentrate on specialty stores. “I think she can have the right business with the right reps in the right regions,” he said.
The collection is geared toward a woman of just about any age because of its plethora of flowing styles and slips that can be worn under dresses to smooth things out or worn by themselves. Retail price points are set at $190 to $275.
Eventually, Grace’s goal is to build the brand into a lifestyle collection that encompasses the feminine side of women. “I feel so excited,” she said, “because I am on the curve of what this movement in apparel is going to be.”