Lingua Franca is adding new categories, eyeing opening more stores and ramping up for more philanthropic collaborations and community-driven events.
Launched in 2016, the cause-driven company initially specialized in hand-embroidered cashmere sweaters. In June, in addition to a just-launched, ready-to-wear assortment, swimwear and home decor will also be shown to buyers and press. While traditional business models “haven’t been completely thrown out the window,” most companies are rethinking how they do business, which makes for “a very exciting time for brands” like Lingua Franca, according to founder Rachelle Hruska said. “We don’t have the burden of a history of having to produce and then selling to this cycle. We’re throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.”
Through its “Give a Damn” selection, Lingua Franca has raised more than $1.2 million for various philanthropic efforts, primarily through the sales of its sweaters, but also through collaborations. Shoppers are able to see online in real time where portions of the proceeds are going. A collaboration with Birkenstock benefited the Central Food Bank Kitchen, while another with MZ Wallace helped the organization She Should Run.
“In short, we’re a brand. The longer answer is we’re a brand that’s growing that is concerned with making beautiful things, but also telling stories, engaging with our community and giving back to the world,” Hruska said.
Lingua Franca plans to continue this work by beginning to donate proceeds from some non-sweater items, such as T-shirt drops or products outside of ready-to-wear. Hruska says that, “We are very much committed to philanthropic work. More than anything, it allows us to meet really interesting people, engage with our community and tell really cool stories.”
The founder is hoping for a 20 to 25 percent gain in sales from the first drop of ready-to-wear, called the “Yes Collection.”
The first ready-to-wear assortment debuted Tuesday and features a button-down shirt with hand-embroidered edging; a polo; a tie-neck top; two jackets; a cardigan and other styles. Lingua Franca offers items in biodegradable Ramie, which is made of natural fibers, leftover cashmere, and Corroso buttons. In the following month, a silk print collection will debut and then swimwear a month later, which will also include a few coverups and a pouch.
Lingua Franca reduced the size of the first ready-to-wear collection due to the pandemic and an effort to be more sustainable. In September, the New York-based company will be showing a presentation for spring 2022.
Pleased with sales in its Palm Beach location, which opened last fall, Lingua Franca is planning to open two more this year. Boston, San Francisco and Dallas are being considered. Designed to be more than places to shop, the company is hoping to create a sense of community by hosting events and book launches once the pandemic winds down. “Hopefully in September we’ll be doing a lot more interesting things that involve bringing our brand to life and growing and engaging our consumer [base] independent of selling product,” said Hruska, declining to be more specific.