This is a love letter...
The Tuesday after Labor Day always feels like the start of a new beginning. Today, I can't help but think of what I was doing two years ago on this day - frantically rallying around our newly built team of three to get 1,200 hand-stitched sweaters sent off for our first collection on Net-a-Porter. The journey to that day and the insanity that followed (they sold out in a week and were reordered!) still makes me beam.
Lingua Franca saved my life. I was struggling with debilitating anxiety for months after the birth of my second son, desperately searching for stability and meaning. I started embroidering on my clothes after my therapist recommended doing something with my hands to try to counter the spirals going on in my brain. I had no idea the gift that was to come from that first simple stitch. The fact that, since then, we have built this magical company that has been able to participate in such purposeful conversations and causes has been the dream of a lifetime. And we're not close to being done! I truly feel my soul has found its song in this company and wanted to spend the first day of the "new year" today looking back with joy on the early days. To everyone that helped me find my purpose, this is my love letter to you.... xo Rachelle
1. Dear Sean,
Thank god for you! Thank you for indulging me and my crazy, sometimes manic states. Thank you for driving me to that random craft store on Long Island on our way to Montauk more than two years ago and waiting almost an hour in the car for me to pick embroidery supplies so I could spend the whole weekend embroidering on your expensive PJs while you watched our children. Thank you for spending the entire 4-hour drive home listening to hip hop tunes from your early days in the 90s in LA and subsequently coming up with fun phrases to stitch. Thank you for knowing all of the most important things and then making sure we spend our most valuable time on them. Without you, there'd be no "Lingua Franca" (literally, you helped name us).
These were my very first embroidered pieces. Done in Montauk on Feb 20th, 2016.
2. To my understanding family,
You have always listened to my new ideas with support, if not amusement. You were all game to have your clothes damaged by me that Easter and listened to me jokingly muse "I should make this hobby a little business huh?" with support and encouragement. Thank you for your acceptance and unwavering love. Also, thank you for letting me play around on your clothes before I found my canvas in cashmere.
My nephews William and Henry, my dad, my brother-in-law Phil.
3. To my friends who sent me sweaters to stitch,
You know who you are and you rock. Thank you for taking your chances and putting your beloved sweaters in the mail (the mail!) and sending them to me to embroider. Because of you, I had to hire...
My friends' sweaters started to pile up!
4. To Kate,
When people first meet us and watch us finish each other sentences and cut each other off without thinking about it, they assume we've known each other for years. This is hysterical to us considering we met as strangers on Craigslist and were both worried about the other one being a serial killer. You are the very first person I brought on board to help me stitch my friends' sweaters and now, well we simply wouldn't have a company without you. You are one of the hardest workers I know, but not only that, you CARE deeply about the work you do. You are talented, thoughtful, and creative. You are the yin to my yang, my editor and confidant. You make sure we do all of the right things and lead our team with care. Who knew this random stranger with the famous name would turn out to be one of the coolest human beings I know. I'm so happy we took a chance on each other.
This was literally our first exchange. I had to find it to document it because I'm officially the world's biggest nerd.
5. To my very first fashion supporters,
Claire Olshan (of Fivestory) and Bob Melet (of Melet Mercantile at the Crow's Nest), you took a chance on me before we even had a line! Without you encouraging me to make sweaters for the masses, I wouldn't have given it a thought to start another company. Claire, I will never forget you telling me "That's how things get started, Rachelle!" You put us in your fancy stores and people started taking notice. Even Leo picked up a custom vintage sweater! You guys, (along with T Magazine's Lesley Blume who literally wrote about my little hobby before we even had a name!), put us on the map and forced me to consider starting an actual company and to name it.
Claire Distenfeld and Bob Melet. My fashion fairy godparents.
6. To our big break, aka Sarah Rutson,
Everyone asks how we did it. The honest answer, it just happened. That being said, when I got a DM on instagram from Net-a-Porter's then VP of global buying Sarah Rutson asking to chat, I sort of knew it was going to be the beginning of something. It was July 4th and I was in Malibu when I woke early to answer a call from London. Sarah had seen someone wearing one of our sweaters at a restaurant in NYC, asked about it, and decided she should reach out and try to buy us for fall. I told her I'd have to chat to "my team" back in New York to see if we could do the quantities she was suggesting by September but basically said "I'm in!" I got off of the phone, danced around in my PJs, and then woke up my husband Sean when I realized I didn't make sweaters of my own. I had to get a couple thousand sweaters hand embroidered and shipped in two months. I called Kate (the only member of "my team" lol), and told her that if she found the embroiderers, I'd figure out the cashmere....and the rest, along with a lot of blood sweat and some tears, is history.
Now, I'm not saying you need a Sarah or Net-a-Porter to launch your company, but it sure doesn't hurt! And, shout out to our buyer Clare who spent loads of time helping us pick our first sayings.
These two gems launched our first collection on NAP (that's fashion speak for Net-a-Porter).
7. Finally, to our team,
You guys are the ones who truly know what it takes to build a company from the ground up. You know because you've been by our side on late nights and weekends. You've embroidered so many sweaters that some of you, I'm positive, could do them in your sleep. You've dropped everything to fly to LA on a moments notice, spent weekends sewing on-demand and learned how to do jobs you were not hired for. Many of you came as embroiderers and went on to be our publicists, party planners, stockers and account managers. You inspire me and you make me proud of this work. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Below some more photos from our journey...
Our first tags (L), our fancy tags designed by Watson (R)
Here I am standing next to our first cashmere shipment ever (L), Megan and Kate hard at work on our first batch of sweaters for Net a Porter (R)
We were selling out and freaking out!
My grandma Rita. She taught me how to embroider when I was a little girl. She lived on a farm in Nebraska where she raised her 13 (!) children.
I will leave you with the very first sweater I embroidered. It was a vintage Ralph Lauren Sport sweater that I purchased sophomore year of college at an outlet mall in the midwest:
My first sweater.
We've been able to give a voice to issues we care deeply about and we've managed to meet a lot of cool folks along the way.