ll archives: AELLA's Eunice Cho
In business school, LA-based fashion designer Eunice Cho found herself a mission – where would she find something both comfy and suitable to wear for the interviews she went on? The answer? Make it. Eunice is the mastermind behind AELLA, a fashion brand that prides itself on creating the ultimate pair of black pants – appropriate for running to a meeting and equally appropriate for running to catch a cab to an art opening.
Name: Eunice Cho
Current location: Los Angeles
Where are you from? California
Education: Yale, BA; UCLA Anderson, MBA
Business & Formal Title: Founder of AELLA!
Tell us about AELLA. How did it come to be? I started AELLA because I hated having to wear suits and slacks to my business school interviews. They were cramping my style.
In art school, something you talk about a lot is substrate specificity (like, what material you’re using and why). I thought if I could just find or create the perfect material, I could create the kind of flattering and comfortable pants I could wear everywhere.
I kind of dived into developing prototypes right away. I knew how tricky it was to design and produce pants as a category but in my naivete, I thought, if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing. The development process ended up being so much more complicated than I could have ever dreamed, but AELLA has now developed into this concept that creates super comfortable and super flattering “uniforms” for modern women.
What is your company slogan/mission? Empowering women through clothes that don’t compromise! That’s not the official slogan but it’s our mission.
What did you do before launching AELLA? At what point did you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur instead? I worked for a luxury lifestyle and lingerie company called Kiki de Montparnasse. It’s what got me interested in the business side of things, so I decided to go to business school. That’s when I had the idea of creating AELLA so I started doing that on the side while going to school.
Whenever you decided that you were ready to take the leap, what were your next steps? It was kind of an organic process, so a single dramatic leap never happened. The tougher part was sticking through the most grueling and difficult process of getting the business initially off the ground and building relationships with the right suppliers who delivered the right quality products. Sometimes all of your problems happen all at once and it’s hard not to feel like quitting.
How long has it been since you first launched AELLA? What is different now versus the very beginning? Has anything become easier to manage? What has become harder? The problems just change! In the beginning, it was figuring out the right direction and vision of the company as well as building a product that I was proud of. Now we have different problems – like keeping the right products in stock.
What was the biggest thing you overcame launching AELLA? I faced a lot of doubters. On the industry side, whenever I talked about creating these new pants, people always told me, “Pants are the toughest things to make.” Even in business school, some professors would advise me that retail is a cutthroat business and very difficult to succeed in. They were looking out for me, but still the implicit message was always, “Quit while you can.”
It was frustrating but this only drove me to feel stronger about my mission and say, “I’ll show YOU!”
Would you describe AELLA as your “dream job”? Why or why not? What constitutes a dream job for you? Absolutely. At the core, AELLA is about solving a problem that women face everyday and I’m trying to create a solution I can share. It never really gets easy, but I love every moment.
Entrepreneurs live and breathe their businesses. How do you balance work and life? Do you think that’s even possible? At this point, not really, but I’ve always believed in work hard play hard.
What does your daily routine consist of? Wake up, get ready under a minute, run out the door. I check emails, review customer service issues that might have come up, get on calls with contractors, and visit my factories or sample makers. I always carve out time for new product development. It’s kind of a blur. I do try to squeeze in 3 work-outs a week.
You have to do it and you hate it – what is your least favorite task to do at AELLA? Calling shipping couriers to negotiate fees and dealing with the credit card processing companies. Yes, it’s as drab as it sounds.
You're on the verge of a business-lady-breakdowns. How do you unwind? To be honest, through alcoholic beverages, and calling my bf. I’m very lucky to have a best friend (and a boyfriend) who are both very successful in what they do so they always give me the best life/work advice.
What did you think you’d be doing now at age 10? I always knew I’d be making things – like tangible stuff you can hold in your hands (or eat).
Tell us 3 of your cannot-live-without ladypreneur apps. Classpass. Audible (indispensable if you live in LA and need to drive and waste a bunch of time in the car). NYT app, which I read when I’m standing in lines, waiting for people, etc.
Top 5 favorite cities? My answers are all based on food choices available at said cities, except for Paris. Paris Bologna New Orleans New York LA
Red, White, Sparkling or stronger? Stronger...but I do love a full bodied red.
Tell us the best place to eat in LA. If it’s your kitchen, share your best recipe. Mori Sushi
Words to live by: Don’t take yourself so seriously, seriously!
In 3 years you’ll be: Have grown AELLA to a much bigger, super awesome company and hopefully gotten a bigger derriere through diligently doing lunges.
What advice would you give to budding ladypreneurs interested in fashion design/retail? Work hard, don’t get discouraged (it’s really not an easy industry), stay focused on your product and not on vanity metrics.