Pacific Palisades, California
Founder of Stacia Inc.
Years in Business: 22 years (est. 1998)
What inspired you to start Stacia Inc? After getting my BFA degree in Fashion Design from Parson’s School of Design in NYC, my plan was to work on Seventh Avenue for a few years, than start my own line. After working for Calvin Klein, J. Crew, and Cynthia Rowley and gaining valuable experience, I launched my own brand, Stacia, in 1998 from my Brooklyn apartment. Rather than going the traditional route of wholesaling a collection to department stores, I opted for a more homespun approach and opened a small boutique in an up and coming neighborhood in Brooklyn. With an atelier in back of the shop, every piece I sold in the store was handmade by four seamstresses and myself. I wanted to interact with my customer on a daily basis & make purposeful clothing rather than design for the masses. My upbringing in Hawaii as a kid greatly influenced my designs. My shop with stocked with reverse aloha printed dresses and beach-ready separates in the middle of Brooklyn! I was dreaming of one day living that beach lifestyle myself once again.
What’s the story behind your name? I wanted my line to be derived by my name, but not my actual name on the label so I chose Stacia, which could stand on its own but is still somewhat personal.
What is Stacia Inc.’s mission statement? From day one, my brand has always been about designing & producing thoughtful products in small batches. Being small & nimble has allowed me to sustain the ups and downs of retail. Using dead-stock fabrics, manufacturing limited edition products, and making less, not more continues to be my motto since 1998. Growing slow & steady allows me to keep doing what I love.
What are some challenges you have overcome in starting this business? The retail environment is constantly changing and trying to adapt is always a challenge. In the early days in NYC, having a shop less than 5 miles from Ground Zero on 9/11 & then having my insurance dropped was a struggle for sure. Going through the dotcom bust in NYC and later again in the 2008 recession, dealing with many of my wholesale retailers going out of business has certainly been a challenge. But being small and having less exposure to those ups and downs of the market has been beneficial. Having an online business in a now very crowded cyber space it’s difficult to get your voice heard. Back when I launched my online store in 1999, it was much easier to stand out! And today with other platforms for selling, such as Instagram, trying to draw customers back to your web site is a constant challenge. Sometimes all I want to do is just design & make my products, so having to pull my energy elsewhere to deal with marketing & posting can be a grind.
How does your relationship to the ocean inspire you in creating your business? Moving to California in 2004 was my way of shifting my lifestyle towards the ocean. After being in NYC for 15 years and craving the ocean on a daily basis, my husband & I chucked it all and moved West with nothing but our 4-month old baby to start anew. I closed my Brooklyn store & he quit is steady job at CNN so we could raise our child near the ocean. When I re-launched my business out West, the ocean greatly inspired my designs. I created a custom space-dyed bamboo yarn and designed 70’s beach-inspired hoodies & dresses for the quintessential beach lifestyle. I eventually sold these designs in over 300 boutiques nationwide & launched an Eco Knits collection using yarns made from seaweed, tencel, bamboo, and soybean.
How does your business influence your life? The first 15 years of my business where chaotic and stressful, energizing and rewarding. But building and sustaining a fashion business left little me-time in the ocean. Plus having 3 kids left even less time for surfing. But in the last 5 years, stepping back from the rigors of the fashion business has allowed me more flexible time to surf & enjoy the beautiful California coastline. Shifting my priorities has reignited my creativity. And now that my kids are older and surf with me, it’s easier to sneak off and enjoy the ocean in between work.
In what ways are you striving to be a more ocean-friendly company? Everyday I’m learning new ways I can shift my business to be more sustainable. I continued to use dead stock fabrics and make small batches to order to reduce producing unwanted stock. I’ve started using compostable packaging for shipping orders and have eliminated use of plastic in my packaging. My Bungalow perfume is poured to order to eliminate waste. I’m a member of The Surfrider Foundation and Heal the Bay and continue to support with donations & through volunteering. There’s still much more I can do, and I’m always looking to make positive changes and minimize my carbon footprint while running a small business.
What have been your main obstacles in running an ocean-friendly company? Sometimes being sustainable costs more and it’s difficult to pass that onto the customer. Finding a balance of making those sustainable choices and keeping costs down is the greatest challenge. When you are a bigger company it’s easier to make a financial impact (donating more of your proceeds for example) or having access to better resources (meeting sustainable fabric minimums.) Getting stuff made in the USA is more expensive and minimums are higher for more sustainable materials, so it can be challenging for a smaller designer.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of your business? I love having my own business, pursuing my own passions, setting my own hours, having the flexibility to work from home. There’s nothing better than being your own boss!
As both ocean lovers and consumers, what do you think our main priorities should be? Protecting the ocean and reducing plastic use is huge. Every time I’m out surfing I see plastic floating around and it disgusts me. The fact that our recycling system is broken makes it even more imperative that we reduce our use of plastic. It’s trying as a consumer when you see the dysfunctional system. You order a milkshake in Malibu with a paper straw only to find that the lid and container are still plastic – ugh! Or when you go to CVS and they try to give you a so-called “reusable” plastic bag even though plastic bags are suppose to be banned. So frustrating.
What is your big vision for the future? I’m hoping I can continue to design & produce my line while making a viable, sustainable income. Continuing to push the envelope when it comes to making my business more environmentally friendly and making products for the more conscious consumer. At the same time, remembering to balance work and personal life. Making myself paddle out as often as possible to enjoy the ocean, which always reinvigorates my creativity.
I am always trying to find new inspiration, and to share my passion for design with the next generation of female entrepreneurs. That’s the them behind my illustrated children’s fashion book, Mabel the Fashion Muse (@mabelthefashionmuse),will be published later this year. My goal is to inspire future designers, specifically girls, to consider fashion as a career and present to them the possibilities of female entrepreneurship. With the book and my online fashion portal, mabelthefashionmuse.com, I hope to encourage young girls to have their own fashion business someday by sharing with them my own journey to fashion entrepreneurship.