The decision to start Paper Crown wasn’t entirely a business move. While it’s an important addition to my overall brand, Paper Crown is actually more of a passion project—an opportunity to make beautiful clothing on my own financial and creative terms.
To bring Paper Crown to life, I hired my long-time friend, Maura McManus. Her hands-on experience with another contemporary brand and understanding of everything from customer relations to the design process was vital to launching Paper Crown. Maura runs the daily business side of the company, while I oversee the creative and financial verticals. Together, we have crafted a clothing line I’m very proud of.
Transforming Paper Crown from an idea into a company was a challenging process. Last April, Maura and I mapped out everything we wanted to accomplish and focused on what it would take to achieve those goals while sustaining a profitable business. I was confident the line would do well based on the success of LC Lauren Conrad collection for Kohl’s and my best-selling book, Lauren Conrad STYLE.
We immersed ourselves in research, studying other contemporary clothing companies such as Elizabeth & James, Vince, and Rebecca Minkoff to name a few. We reviewed everything from how and where they manufactured their product to social media methods and sales strategy. We also met with top names in the garment industry to ask about everything from big-picture matters such as production logistics down to the nitty-gritty details like distribution methods and thread counts. With the information from these consultations along with my own research and experience in the industry, we were able to set forth a detailed plan to direct, grow and nurture Paper Crown under a merchant business model.
Having strong business sense is helpful, but designing clothes and researching trends is where I thrive most. Enlisting a team of trusted and experienced professionals to bring my designs to life is tremendously important. After months of research and face-to-face meetings, I decided to work with a full-service apparel company based in Los Angeles to head the manufacturing process of our garments. I also recruited veteran pattern makers who were able to fashion pieces worthy of hanging beside other distinguished contemporary lines.
As with all new frontiers, you are bound to hit bumps in the road. One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome was finding a balance between making design decisions based on profitability and maintaining design credibility. Pricing a garment can sometimes stifle the creative process since it’s important to hit a target price in order to ultimately turn a profit. Let’s say I want to use a $4.50 trim, but I can only afford to use a similar, yet less lovely, $1.23 trim in order to hit my target price. At this point, I can decide to use that higher quality trim, but I’ll be taking a hit from the inflated price. Occasionally, I will make this call if I think a piece is particularly important to the collection.
Making the final decision is important to me because I am personally backing the line—one of the main reasons I created Paper Crown. In the past, I wasn’t the one financing the line, so the decision to use higher quality trim would not have been mine. While I understand a clothing line is a business, I find it disconcerting when quality is compromised for the sake of profit. Things like fabric quality, consistent sizing and good construction are all factors that can build or break the relationship with a customer. In the end it’s all about consumer satisfaction.
I’m proud of what Paper Crown is today. It’s a collection of polished pieces with a charming and youthful vibe—the look and feel of the line is clean, cool and feminine. It’ll be available at many top tier boutiques and retailers, including Planet Blue and Nordstrom (the first season arrives in stores August 1st).
Looking ahead, I hope to see Paper Crown grow while still maintaining its specialty feel. By investing in quality and design, Paper Crown lends credibility to my name as a designer. The fact that it has evolved into a prosperous business is just icing on the cake.