The journey to starting your own fashion brand can be a long and tedious one. Just take a look at Eliana Gil Rodriguez, who began working at American Apparel part-time in her hometown of Montreal when she was 15. Rodriguez climbed the corporate ladder of fashion at American Apparel over the course of ten years, eventually becoming the brand's womenswear designer and advertising director.
It's been four years since Rodriguez left American Apparel, and she worked as a model, actress, and consultant eventually using her own money to launch Gil Rodriguez, a small line of locally made L.A. basics. Pieces include a bodysuit, a unitard, a T-shirt, a tank, leggings and a swimsuit.
"I really wanted to make designs that were lasting," Rodriguez said to Fashionista. "It just felt like the fashion industry was really oversaturated with newness all the time and we know more and more about what we're doing to the environment, yet we keep speeding up fashion cycles and producing more and more stuff."
Rodriguez realized there was a hole in the market for elevated basics.
"With the demise of American Apparel, it kind of left this hole where you didn't really know where to find a good basic, and I still felt like the American Apparel basics could be improved upon. I wanted something that was a little more grown up and luxurious and better fabrics and from a more feminine point of view: the point of view of the woman who's actually wearing it," she explained to Fashionista. "This is what I know how to do really well and this is what I actually feel is needed, so that's when it finally clicked for me."
Rodriguez didn't want to set the line at a true luxury price point because she still wanted to make sure it had a level of accessibility to most consumers. She opted for the direct-to-consumer approach to cut out the costs associated with wholesale and the middle man. She's had to turn down offers from retailers and investors in an effort to keep her price point accessible. In many ways it has actually worked out in her favor, because she's admittedly had trouble keeping things in stock.
She's been able to save money on PR and marketing thanks to her strong Instagram presence. Like many brands nowadays, including Public School and Alexander Wang, Rodriguez will be taking a seasonless approach to her collection as she works on expanding to more options like coats and outerwear for fall and even a fragrance.
It's a slow and steady start again from her American Apparel days, but she's on the right track, and her brand is growing at a consistent pace in the right direction.