Leland Drummond and Michele Thomas have been working in the retail and fashion spaces for at least 11 years, since they founded their own public relations agency, Azione, which has worked with a number of activewear and innerwear brands, including Bandier, Outdoor Voices, ThirdLove, Lively and Hoka.
Now the pair is starting their own brand, LDMA, which stands for “Life Deserves More Action,” an underwear brand that can be worn for both exercising and everyday life.
“A lot of what we’ve done for the last 11 years has prepared us perfectly for this role,” Michele Thomas, cofounder and president of Azione, as well as cofounder of LDMA, told WWD. “At Azione, we are the creative agency for a lot of these brands, both emerging and legacy brands. A lot of times these brands come to use without a roadmap and we create them. So applying that to our own brand is really exciting.”
Leland Drummond, cofounder and president of Azione, and also cofounder of LDMA, added: “We have always been at the forefront of understanding how consumers respond to different categories and collaborations, different expansions, especially within women’s activewear. So, being on the communications side of it, we’ve really been able to bridge the gap between how the consumer perceives this landscape as it evolves. There was a lot of companies that we worked with that helped us understand how we want to connect with customers [in our own brand]. For us, it’s been key that we tell our own story and that it is really unique and individualized and that there’s nothing out there that has the same mission in mind.”
That story began from Drummond’s own experiences. As “someone who really loves fitness” she couldn’t find any underwear that would quite literally carry her from the gym to the office to a night out.
“I was living in New York and living that crazy New York lifestyle, running from thing to thing,” she explained. “I was working out every day and going from work to an event and workout and trying to cram everything in. And I realized that there wasn’t really a pair of underwear that was as near and dear to my heart as my leggings, or my sneakers. I called Michele and asked her what she likes to work out in, but she didn’t really have a good answer either. We realized there was a whitespace in the market.”
More than three years later, the duo has launched LDMA this month, a direct-to-consumer underwear brand consisting of four styles: seamless high-rise thongs and briefs, and low-rise thongs and briefs, all priced at $26 apiece. The underwear also includes sweat-wicking, compression technology and odor-resistant properties.
“What we see if you look across the lion’s share of the activewear and intimates markets is that underwear is usually an afterthought for companies,” Drummond said. “One of the things that we felt was true across the activewear market was that no one was really focusing on this space. There’s a lot of men’s brands that are geared toward active male workouts, specifically for underwear only. But there was really nothing for women. And there are a lot of activewear brands — from Lululemon to Alo [Yoga] — that have a couple pairs of underwear within their skus, but really not a dedication to the category. I think we can carve out a place for this in retail where there’s not right now.”
Products can be found at ldmabrand.com. The founders are also in talks to move into wholesale in the future, possibly in the brand’s third quarter, but for now are focused on gathering consumer data by way of e-commerce. In addition, the twosome said they plan on expanding LDMA’s size range and colorways over time.
“Our plan is to really continue with underwear as our core category,” Drummond said. “We really wanted to launch with a single product and brand category — underwear — because there are already so many good sports bras and so many leggings brands across categories. And then test the market and understand what people love and what they’re looking for throughout the different lines. We want to expand based on what our consumer tells us.
“One of the consumer behaviors that we see in the activewear and innerwear space is that when consumers find a brand and a product [they like], they buy in multiples; when people find their favorite leggings, they want it in every single color,” she continued. “So, having a real core line that doesn’t change is truly important. We want to create that same narrative for LDMA, where there’s a core product selection. When another color drops, everyone will still want it because it’s their favorite pair. And then, we want to create unique collaborations and innovations for the product and the collection. That will be something that will drive additional brand loyalty and awareness and everything. So we do have plans in a couple different categories already. But, really, the core of our business will be in underwear.”
LDMA isn’t shopping around for outside investors either, something both Drummond and Thomas are steadfast about.
“It was really important for us that we could both incubate our own company, via the other business, Azione, and then, also, prove the concept and make it really strong,” Drummond said. “Working with brands across several spaces, looking at sort of the venture capital-backed brands and having a lot of pressure from investors, that was one of the key learnings for us that really pushed us to really avoid investment and to go for a self-funded company. It’s an extreme amount of pressure to expand and develop multiple categories and just grow, grow, grow [when you have outside investors]. That’s one of the most fundamental things that this brand is built on: sort of scaling smartly and understanding consumers and being able to carve our own niche without having the pressures of a lot of capital to become a billion-dollar brand, or a unicorn, in like, three years or less, or five years or less, or whatever those timelines look like. Nobody knows what the future holds, but being a self-funded business, we felt it was the strongest way to prove our model. So for now, we’re going to stick to our guns on this one.
“And we’re continuing to grow,” she continued. “Azione is a huge part of our life. And that’s really not changing. It’s interesting to have a brand and an agency that you’re building alongside one another. To be able to put our energy into our own brand and tell our story is really exciting.”