Thanks to My Daily Thread for interviewing me and posting about my collection on your website
Lisa Kanouse: Saurette
Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 11:00PM
Lisa Kanouse experienced the fashion industry from nearly every angle, yet never felt designing was for her. It wasn't until she had two sons and went shopping for children's clothing that she was inspired to launch Saurette. A girls' line influenced by contemporary adult design and runway fashions, Saurette is an alternate line for the parents who are looking for trendy clothing that looks as though it came right out of mom's closet. Now a sponsor for the Babes in Wonderland Boom Boom Room at the Golden Globes in January, Saurette has emerged as the unique girls' clothing line Kanouse had envisioned.
How did you become interested in fashion?
I grew up in Detroit and was influenced early on by Rock & Roll and Motown artists and their individual expression. I always loved clothes and looked for ways to set myself apart from the crowd. I did a lot of experimenting with my personal style, some good, some not so good, but I was always willing to take risks which is what I think makes anyone successful at what they do. My original plan was to become an accountant, but I quickly learned in college that I was more interested in socializing than studying numbers. AfterI was expelled for a semester, I researched other fields and discovered fashion. I went on to become a straight A student overnight in the Fashion Merchandising program at Western Michigan University. I was opting to stay home and study the History of Costume on Friday nights instead of going out partying. I couldn't get enough of it. I had finally found my passion.
What were some of your "good" style experiments and what were some not-so-good ones?
It's hard because when you're in the moment, you never realize it. I was always willing and interested in trying something new and looking different than everyone else looks. It carried into my current life because it's what I like to dress in and what I design. Everyone looks back and says, "Oh my god, what was I thinking?" with a lot of the outfits, given in part to the times changing so much. Fashion in the 80s and early 90s was really crazy. We all thought we looked good, but when you look back on it today, it's not something you want to dress in again. > What background and preparation led you to start your own line? I was lucky enough to experience many different areas of the fashion business. I moved to NY right after college for a year and started as a stylist for the New York Prêt (an old women's trade show back in 90's), and went on to stylefor MR Magazine. I got lonely being in NY with no family or friends and decided to move to Chicago to live with some college friends. I was styling for the Chicago Tribune & Marshall Field's fashion office, beforetrying my hand at buying for Montgomery Wards. After about 6 years in Chicago, I fell in love, got married and convinced my husband to move back to NY with me. This is when I discovered product development and design. I was in women's product development for over 12 years and have a strong track record in successfully launching 4 start-up women’s brands for major retailers. With my experience, I know I will be able to effectively translate my business goals into an efficient and solid framework for success.
What advice would you give to others in finding out if they have what it takes to make it in the industry?
I think it's so difficult trying to get into the industry when you're outside of Manhattan or LA. I think a lot of students aren't clear on what the opportunities are. That was the case for me. But going into retail and studying fashion merchandizing, you think you're either a designer or a buyer and not sure what's in between. I worked for a tradeshow and I didn't think I could be a designer because I couldn't sketch and I never thought of myself as a designer back then. I was taking buying classes but it wasn't really my strength. I wanted to do something creative, so I started out with the fashion show styling thing, it was fantastic but really difficult because you're constantly pounding the pavement and you don't have steady pay or benefits. Luckily now we have the internet, so do more research to see what opportunities are available out there. Me, personally, having the background that I had working in different aspects of the retail industry has given me the ability to start up my own company, but has made me a stronger merchant throughout my career. I understand and relate to the buyers.
Have you found the industry to be tougher than you would have thought?
I've never really found it "tough." It's certainly competitive. You need to make sure you're studying up and taking responsibilities for your own learning. The people that get ahead are the ones who are doing some research and continuing to study outside of the job. Stay updated on current news through trade publications for your own industries, taking additional classes, and staying informed.
What do you like most about your line?
I love that it is pretty and feminine and modern all at the same time. It has a strong contemporary influence and is something that hip mom's can feel proud to have their children wear. Quality is also very important to me. With a background in product development, one of the key elements of design for me is that every detail is scrutinized. All of my woven garment have clean finished and/or bound inner seams. This detail gives the garments a better aesthetic, increased durability at the seams and comfort in wearing. My garments are made well made both inside and out.
How do you feel you can make runway-inspired children's wearmarketable in the current economic crisis?
Market research has proven that today’s urban parents, ”Grups” seek out fashionable clothing for their children and are willing to pay a premium to give their children a bit of unique style.Saurettegives them that alternative.
Did you foresee these conditions before you launched the line and would you still havelaunched it regardless?
I did a lot of market research when I started Saurette. This was only back in March of this year, so market conditions were already looking somewhat bleak. I knew Saurette offered something different and therefore was a viable brand, but I also tried to be conscious of retail prices and making sure that I didn't price myself out of the game which can be challenging when you put as much detail into the product as I did. Embroidery, beading, novelty ribbons along with quality fabrics can add to the costs very quickly. I set out knowing that the first few seasons would be small due to the economy but it was more important for me to establish my brand and create interest in Saurette.
Saurette is inspired by contemporary design; which aspects of it? Which aspects of contemporary design are appropriate for achildren’s' line and how is that distinction made?
My desire was to offer unique designs for children that weren’t really present in the current market. I saw an opportunity to create a ‘mini me’ collection that was inspired by mom’s own wardrobe. I think modern parents want their children to look as good as they do. By offering little girl’s an opportunity to dress more like mom, it offers a fresh approach to dressing little girls. I used influences from what’s happening in the contemporary market such as exploded/large florals, empire waistlines, blouson sleeves, while keeping childlike styling in mind.
I read that you have two sons and that shopping for them inspiredthe start of Saurette; but currently the collection is only girls. Do you see an expansion to boys in the future?
I was definitely inspired by the lack of hip clothing for boys while shopping for my two young sons. I originally set out to design the collection for them, but based on the state of the economy and market research telling me it was easier to launch a brand for girls, I figured I would start there. Parents tend to spend more on dressing little girls than they do for little boys, thus creating more opportunities to launch a new brand. I would love to branch out into boys once my label takes off!