BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL
Arming Women With a Strong Sense of Style is the Goal of Gertrud Founder
Taking inspiration from venerable women of the Golden Era of Hollywood as well as art and music, Sarah LeRoy designed her new collection to bring wearable glamour to modern fashion. With a focus on classic tailoring, North Carolina native LeRoy looked to women such as Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich and Georgia O’Keeffe to create Gertrud, a new brand of womenswear that is made in Los Angeles.
“Sometimes designers can look at a woman as just one type of person or think about dressing her for one type of experience during one part of her life,” LeRoy explained.
For her line, which launched its first collection, named Gertrud Vol. I, on Dec. 13 with a party at the Mack Sennett Studios inLos Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood, LeRoy wanted to use her brand to prepare women to look stylish as they navigate their daily lives.
“At Gertrud, we try to think about everything a woman may be doing—work, date night, going out with girlfriends and being a mom,” she said. “We give her the tools she needs, in terms of clothing, to feel beautiful and empowered to be ready to face the challenges ahead.”
As a former shareholder, senior vice president of marketing and member of the board at Winston-Salem, N.C.’s Piedmont Distillers, LeRoy might seem to be an unlikely designer. But it was her position as an executive decision-maker in the wine-and-spirits industry that served as valuable preparation for a venture leading a fashion line.
“While it wasn’t in apparel specifically, it’s amazing how similar the processes can be,” LeRoy said. “When I had the idea for the line and it was a good time to step away from what I was doing, I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of my experience does apply to apparel as well.”
LeRoy’s product-development partner, 20-year industry veteran Heather Morton, is president of Orange, Calif.–based Blue Salt, Inc. and has worked with companies such as Hudson Jeans, J Brand and Lucky Jeans. She feels the Gertrud founder’s fresh approach to fashion is an asset.
Through Morton’s network, LeRoy discovered a group of apparel-manufacturing professionals that includes independent cutters and sewers in addition to established factories, allowing the two women to focus on a shared vision of artistry in garment production based in the traditional denim city of Los Angeles.
“Sarah was recommended to me by someone at Cone Mills,” Morton recalled. “There was this sense of creativity that had been stagnant in the last several years. Because she wasn’t from the industry, she wanted to push boundaries that most people wouldn’t. It was this fresh outlook on everything.”
Feeling a gap in the market, LeRoy noticed that most garments found in retail were falling into one of two categories: high-end streetwear or finely made suiting. Creating a happy medium of quality, smart dressing for women is the place where she wanted her line to fit.
“There is a market out there that is underserved,” she explained. “It might not be for everyone, but I think this is where trends are going to head—creating an atmosphere of women designing for women in a way that is sophisticated and stylish but you can still live your life in it.”
When naming her brand, LeRoy discovered the German meaning of Gertrud is “adored warrior,” which is the type of woman she wanted to reach. Not only is the woman bold and successful but she is also compassionate. LeRoy exhibited this quality when researching her sourcing partners, committing to prioritizing partners from democratic countries such as South Korea, Italy and Japan, where the rights of workers are protected.
“She is very much a woman similar to Gertrud,” Morton said of LeRoy. “She loves quality, craftsmanship, the artisanal part of creating a garment. She respects it and doesn’t want to falter on any level of quality. It’s all very important for her and me. It’s important to work with someone who believes in it.”
Pieces in the Vol. I collection, which was created as a Spring 2019 line, include one of LeRoy’s favorites—the L.P. top. The high-neck blouse, made of premium Japanese cotton, relies on box-pleat ruffles with a cap sleeve and crepe-de-chine lining, while Italian matte-gold ball buttons finish the shirt, which retails for $1,200.
Another favorite of the designer is the E.S. pant, a black wide-leg pant in lightweight Italian wool, which retails for $1,250. There is an element of a secret that lies within the piece as a side-box pleat features a black-and-white silk-charmeuse inset that can only be seen as the wearer moves.
As she took influence from women who carved their own paths in the arts, LeRoy also had a bit of fun while designing Gertrud. The Vol. I collection includes Supima-cotton graphic T-shirts that retail for $150. The B.A.F.—or Bad AF—graphic T-shirt features the image of Marlene Dietrich adjusting her bow tie on the set of the 1930s film “Morocco” as a cigarette dangles from her lips. A black bar bearing the words “bad AF” typed in white covers Dietrich’s eyes.
Looking to cultivate Gertrud into a brand that is competitive with Stella McCartney and The Row, LeRoy is planning to release Spring/Summer 2019 by March or April. Building upon the foundation of Gertrud Vol. I, she revealed there will be more pleating and menswear influences. By Fall 2019, which will have an August release date, the brand will include outerwear and blazers.
While Gertrud currently relies on black and white, LeRoy is carefully planning ways to introduce color into the line. As her brand evolves, LeRoy is excited about the role Los Angeles will have as Gertrud brings glamour back to daily dressing.
“The heartbeat of Gertrud is in L.A.,” she said. “Every resource I was trying to find ended up being L.A. based. There is so much innovation and energy; there is so much happening out in California right now, especially in L.A. It’s cool for Gertrud to be a part of that.”
Available online at www.Gertrud.co, the brand currently relies on an e-commerce model, but LeRoy is open to working with retail partners committed to the Gertrud mission. Sizing for the brand runs from 0–14 and XS–XL. Retail price points range from $100 to $1,250.