Fittingly, it was a business school interview that inspired Eunice Cho to create Aella, the Los Angeles-based women’s wear brand of comfortable, confidence-boosting and easy-care clothing with a specific focus on pants.
After getting her gray wool Theory suit soaked in a rainstorm en route to that interview, Cho said, “I was so sick of worrying about my clothes and I needed the apparel industry to do better.”
With a business-casual dress code at school, “all I wanted was a great pair of black pants that looked like serious trousers but felt like yoga pants.” Before the ath-leisure boom, that was nearly impossible to find.
“We thought we could add a huge amount of value by filling this real need. We want to take on this very unglamorous and difficult category so women can have comfortable and practical pants that are also stylish,” said Cho.
The product: machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant, fade-resistant clothing that is fit for the office and elsewhere. Cho, whose family is in the textile business, sourced four-way stretch fabric from Japan, Turkey and Italy, with some made in L.A.
The Aella customer isn’t looking for trends or seasonal fashions, so Cho developed five styles that work for a range of body types and dress codes: a skinny, a trouser, a flare and so forth. Retail price points are $125 to $200 for pants; $40 to $130 for tops.
As for service, Aella customers can try on a second size for free and return one in a pre-paid envelope included in the $5 flat rate shipping fee. New customers can also fill out a questionnaire for stylists to aid them in finding the right size and style.
Cho said her customers fall into two groups: Millennials coming to them one time for a specific office dress code and slightly older return shoppers with higher professional positions and travel-heavy lifestyles.
Moving forward, Aella plans to deepen the product offering in pants and jackets, expanding options in each fabric; combine try-on and stylist services to make user experience more seamless, and add content to provide more comprehensive styling help and ideas.
After pop-up stores in New York and L.A., the company is now testing secondary markets. “We move around so much because we are still a new brand that’s essentials-oriented, so we want to be in touch with new audiences versus putting down roots in a specific market,” she said. “It’s hard for customers to come back the next week, so we focus on moving around and getting exposure in markets.”