Gaux Girl - Lele Sadoughi2019-04-27
Fabulous style extends from head to toe - And while we have the latter covered, we love looking to Texas-born Lele Sadoughi for the former. She honed her eye as a young designer at Rebecca Taylor, focusing on intricate details and trims (like buttons and ribbons). From there, she segued into jewelry and helped set the standard at powerhouses like Tory Burch and J.Crew.
Vibrant, feminine, and energetic, her namesake label combines audacious color combinations, playful details, and interesting constructions to create looks that are unmistakably Lele. Peruse her earrings, bracelets, and knotted headbands and you’ll come to understand the dilemma we face: Is this right for vacation or real life? The very good news is that the sublimely stylish accessories work for both.
We talked to Lele about her career progression and the business of building a brand, plus the uniform she’s been living in.
In your career you worked for some industry giants before striking out on your own. What are the biggest differences and the surprising similarities between both types of jobs?
I have been fortunate to learn from great companies - J. Crew. Tory Burch, and Rebecca Taylor. I walked in as a designer but gained valuable insight into merchandising, planning, styling, and producing. Running my own company, I have evolved from a myopic view into a strategic view, and am able to think about how design, pricing, and marketing all work together. The education I received at these large corporations became so valuable for me when I started my business. I might work longer hours now, but they are on my own terms and I can leave midday to pick up my kids from school.
You went from working at a large company to wearing all the hats when launching your own label. Now that the brand has matured a bit, how have you learned to delegate? Was there a particular hire that was a game-changer for you?
This year has been a big growth year for us and we have hired some key players. Having an operations manager and in-house marketing team has really grown the business and enable me to focus on category expansions. We are debuting sunglasses, more hair products, and have some great collaborations in the works. We have also just moved our fulfillment to a bigger warehouse which will enable us to scale at a greater pace.
From building your own brand to developing jewelry for another brand like J.Crew, how do you internalize and conceptualize a brand’s identity or style DNA?
I have worked at companies where I understand their DNA. I am drawn to colorful, fun, oversized, and statement worthy pieces. J. Crew was a unique experience because I was able to launch a category by creating the DNA of their jewelry aesthetic. I like to start with a mood board and collect paintings, images, vintage pieces, color swatches, and anything that helps me build a story. I use this proactively every season when conceptualizing a theme.
What were some of the most valuable things you did when growing your company?
I was very conscious of growing in a profitable manner without expanding too quickly. I was the design director at Tory Burch my first year of starting Lele Sadoughi, and this gave me a good cash flow to run my business. Also, I believe it is important to hire the right team.
When developing a new category or product line, how do you balance trusting your gut versus paying attention to shopping data and/or proven trends?
All gut. My business is in accessories, which is not a necessity when getting dressed. It is often an emotional buy and I make what I like. A couple years ago, I had 2 kids under 3 and I had no time to get ready. I love to dress up and started wearing my daughters headband to give myself a polished look. I could not find what I wanted, so I made jeweled headbands. I did not see it in the marketplace, but felt there was as opportunity. And, I had a good design idea.
Texas, London, NYC: You must have so many global style influences! What are some of the best style lessons you've learned from women abroad?
Growing up in Texas, I was surrounded by women in color, big silhouettes, and fun clothing. Fashion should be fun. I love to get up every morning and pair together items in a new way. It is like making a mood board for how I feel each morning.
What’s your sartorial uniform at the moment?
Anything with color. I love a monochrome look. Today, I am wearing all pink and yesterday I wore a red suit. Oh, and of course a big pair of flower earrings, a jeweled headband, and cateye sunglasses.
What does being a girl on the gaux mean to you?
Someone that loves style and quality. I love the pointed flats from Margaux. They are classic, comfortable, and the perfect shade to match all my brights.
Photos by Kirsten Francis for Margaux