Naked Undies’ founders Molly Shaheen and Rachel Zimmerman are re-branding their loungewear company as a lifestyle brand called State & Manor.
In their third year of business, the two Los Angelenos have a celebrity following but are more concerned with keeping jobs and creative control Stateside. Although innerwear was the focus early on, the brand developed into more of a lifestyle label. With distribution in 65 specialty stores, hotel and resorts and all production based in the U.S., the name change is meant to be a reference to the company’s U.S. manufacturing.
All of the apparel including the fabric is made in downtown Los Angeles factories where the founders visit three or four days each week. “We check on the product, meet with the people who are working it, go through the sample-making process, check the fabric before its cut — all those things that we wouldn’t be able to do if we made product overseas. As a smaller company, it’s a win-win — our minimums are lower, we get to make product in America and employ people here. We understand how important that is to the economy,” Shaheen said. “We’ve had major hotel chains drop other brands and pick us up simply because we’re made in America and they appreciate what that takes.”
The pair met BET cofounder and serial entrepreneur Sheila Johnson, after Naked Undies ranked on Oprah’s Favorite Things for Holiday 2014 and that led to Salamander hotel and spa staff wearing State & Manor for their uniforms. (Johnson and Oprah Winfrey are friends, Zimmerman explained.)
A dynamic duo that relies on independent contractors, Shaheen and Zimmerman each hail from self-made families. Shaheen’s mother Jeanne is the first American woman to serve as a U.S. governor and senator — New Hampshire — and her father, a former U.S. attorney and judge, who now has a law firm, has also seen success, steering a smattering of family businesses including jewelry stores and restaurants in New England. “My cousin is a gemologist. My family’s a lot like ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ — except we’re Lebanese, with all the different businesses; everybody’s kind of involved and around. Everyone lives on the same street. Zimmerman’s father started the retail chain Office Products Nationwide from the ground-up by selling office supplies from the trunk of his car. “Both Molly’s family and mine really started from nothing. It was the American dream — hard work, never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself — so we have quite a few common threads.”
Having seen how the “Oprah effect” jolted online and retail sales by 300 percent, Shaheen and Zimmerman said they expect this spring’s re-branding to increase annual sales by 100 percent. As a Los Angeles-based company with a good number of local accounts including the Portofino airbrush tanning salon in Beverly Hills, they have noticed a number of celebrities have taken to the collection without gifting. Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Aniston, Monique Lhuillier, Kim Kardashian and Courteney Cox are among the VIPs who have been spotted wearing their designs. “We’ve see the photos. But you know how that works — it’s always confidential. I saw her buy something from your line, but I can’t tell you when or where or how,” Zimmerman said.
Friends from the University of San Diego, Shaheen and Zimmerman fell out of touch while pursuing other goals. After working on her mother’s first senatorial campaign, Shaheen took a job at Endeavor — before it was acquired by William Morris — and Three Arts Entertainment. She married “Pretty Little Liars” actor Huw Collins last year. Zimmerman started out at the Nouveau model and talent agency, the La Jolla hub for Janice Dickinson’s reality show and later opened her own image-consulting company in Portland, Ore., and Beverly Hills. Zimmerman said she often found herself having to remove drawstrings and customize her clients’ apparel to make it loungewear.
The pair reconnected in 2013, when Shaheen phoned her about launching a business together, knowing they had a similar moral compass and were intent in avoiding “all the horrible working conditions [that had been documented] in Bangladesh” and other parts of the world. State & Manor is now sold in 65 specialty stores, resorts such as the Montage spa and high-end athletic clubs like Equinox and barre3. Children’s wear is expected to be added in the next six months and customized throw blankets, along with a few men’s items.
Pop-up shops will bow at select Salamander and Montage resorts for Mother’s Day weekend. With wholesale prices of $53, $67 and $108, respectively, current bestsellers are the Billy long-sleeve shirt, Chandler jogging pant and a Whitney coat, a blazer that is meant to feel like a sweatshirt. Each item has self-styling features and is meant to fit a range of body types. “The Ashton sweatshirt is named for the [campus] building we lived down the hall from each other in. And the Billy sweatshirt is named for my Dad because I like to say, ‘He brings me good luck.’ And I must say it’s working — the company is doing so well.’”