LOS ANGELES — Eliana Gil Rodriguez is taking a very measured approach to her new fashion label in a bid to perhaps counter social media’s impact on the industry.
Gil Rodriguez, a former American Apparel designer, earlier this year launched her namesake line with an eye on closet essentials, focusing on an edited release for the market. A one-piece swimsuit, retailing for $250, is her top-selling item at the moment.
“I’ve been designing for a really long time,” she said. “I was at American Apparel for almost a decade. Basics was in my blood, you could say. I really grew up around it. I’d been wanting to start a line for a few years but was feeling absolutely disenchanted about what was going on in fashion. We were learning so much about our impact on the environment, but fashion was getting faster and faster and faster to keep up with the cadence of social media. So I took a break to work on other projects and did some consulting.”
That time away, she said, made her realize what was missing in the marketplace.
“I kind of realized with American Apparel’s decline and just the marketplace in general I was having a hard time finding basics,” she said. “I wanted something more elevated and good, flattering designs that I would still want to wear in two, three, four, five years.”
She enters a competitive landscape of large and small firms. American Apparel, now under parent Gildan Activewear, has been back in the marketplace for some time. There’s also the basics offering of American Apparel founder Dov Charney with his venture Los Angeles Apparel, in addition to the number of smaller brands in just the Los Angeles marketplace alone to compete for customers’ attention.
Gil Rodriguez seems to venture down a different path with a made in Los Angeles lineup and fabrics also knit in L.A., commanding a heftier price tag than some of the aforementioned brands and certainly anything from a fast-fashion label.
The company’s Via Olympia unitard is $98, Benton legging is $65, Bellevue T-shirt is $48 and El Tigre scoopneck bodysuit is $68.
“That’s the starting point of my line,” the designer said. “I’ll be adding a silk dress. Everything is in the spirit of what is essential.”
To that point, the line is self-funded, something that’s important to Gil Rodriguez given the type of brand she aims to build without the pressure of having to hit financial targets created by an outside investor within a set timeframe.
“I think I have a really good product and people really like it. I put a lot of thought into what I make,” she said. “I don’t make anything that I don’t feel is perfect and essential. If you think about it, I’ve been working on this for a really, really long time. The swimsuit I designed four years ago.”
Gil Rodriguez said in the near term, despite demand from retailers, she’s keeping the brand direct to consumer to, as she put it, “keep it really simple.”
“I want to keep my prices fair, but I want to keep my margins high enough because I want to keep growing organically,” she added.
The designer said she’ll likely add anywhere from four to five styles for winter and accessories will then follow.
“At this point, I’m just taking things day by day. I’m not a streetwear brand,” she said. “I’m not trying to have something to drop and then sell out of right away.”