Leota New Year Letter

I read that in 2020, nearly one-third of all NYC’s small businesses closed permanently, and the closures will continue well into 2021 - especially in arts, entertainment, travel, and apparel. This comes as no surprise given that during 2020, Leota has been in survival mode for what feels like a lifetime.

The truth is that this year was a nightmare for many small businesses, including mine. As a self-made entrepreneur, I have gotten very familiar with facing the unknown and making the best decision I can with the information available. But this year’s uncertainty, economic freefall, and facing the possibility of having to close this business has been the toughest for me, my current and former staff, and my suppliers. No matter how noble my ideals, or how hard I worked, I could not protect my company from the devastation of COVID. It was indiscriminate.

However, through the grit and quick thinking of my team, and the loyalty of our customers, Leota survived. Thank you so much for sticking with us.   

This year, I thought we’d be talking about our milestone of 10 years in business. What started as an idea and 5 dresses I made on my home sewing machine in 2010 grew into a multi-million dollar company under my leadership. But instead, we didn’t talk about that at all. It was a time for survival and a time for listening and reflecting.

One thing I love about fashion design is that you always have a chance to be even better next season. It’s iterative. Thankfully, and with a bit of survivor’s guilt, I have another chance when many other small businesses won’t. We asked ourselves at Leota, what are we going to do with this chance? It feels much more consequential this time.

Here’s what we’re up to in 2021:

Comfort, fit, and ease

I want you to be able to move. That’s why our products are so comfortable and stretchy.  Our clothes are made to move with you - whatever you’re doing. We will continue to design into our 4 core fabrics that are made for comfort and fit: 

  • Our tried and true Essential Jersey with that soft drape
  • Our thicker textured Luxe Jacquard with power stretch for a bit more comfortable structure
  • A relaxed soft jersey for those super casual days (NEW! Excited for this one)
  • A ribbed knit solid jersey that flatters every shape

Each fabric is wash and wear - no iron and no dry clean - ALWAYS.

Sustainability and Value

Sustainable is the buzz word of the retail industry right now - and for good reason.  The fashion industry has been kicked into motion to find ways of being eco-friendly, from recycled polyester to organic fabrics. But our research shows that this isn’t enough to move the needle. It’s all about consumption and wear.

After all of the research we’ve poured into product development, one sustainable rule rings true for us at Leota: we all need to buy less stuff in general, and the stuff we do buy should last. 

Our mission this year is to ensure that all our styles be so durable that they last through 50+ washes and still look the same as the day you bought it. We will take you through our sustainability challenge of 50 washes and together, we’ll help  this planet live a little bit longer.

Diversity, Inclusivity

Leota stands for body-positivity — we have been size-inclusive since day one, even when it was unpopular and I received a lot of blowback from agencies and photographers for featuring models of all sizes. We’re going to stretch even more into inclusive representation in all that we do. 

Leota is a 100% women and minority owned and operated business (this is super rare and I’m really proud of it). It is a safe space free of harassment. In an industry that is chronically discriminatory (you’ve read all the news), that’s a really big deal.It’s particularly important to me that we represent diverse voices and women of color especially, and we will continue to do so. 

Speak up

Maybe caring a lot about an authentic mission and making systemic change in the fashion business couldn’t protect us from the crises of 2020, but it sure keeps me motivated after 10 years in the business. So we’re going to shout about it. Being an independent company that is not investor-backed, that I started with my own meager savings 10 years ago, that survived Amazon, Covid, and the retail apocalypse, that donates excess inventory to women in need, that is uncompromisingly empowering to our customers of all genders and bodies - these are just some of the things make Leota different. 

I’m big on goal setting and accountability, but my approach is more generous this year. 2020 taught me that some stuff is out of my control. My 2020 goals I set last January were rendered irrelevant 7 weeks later when we went into an economic freefall that decimated my business. Just making it through seemed good enough. Through the grit and quick thinking of my team, and the loyalty of our customers, Leota survived. Thank you so much for sticking with us.  

Please stay safe and healthy as you ring in the new year, and let’s look forward to a brighter 2021–together.

Love, Sarah

January 04, 2021 — sarah carson

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.