Paridaez | Be Malleable
Meet Allison - Former Director of Corporate Partnerships at Karmaloop and now CEO/Founder of her own clothing line, Paridaez, Allison is also a non-practicing lawyer, certified yoga instructor and fashion merchandising professor. She stays pretty busy.
Graduating from Suffolk University with a degree in English and Philosophy, Allison was uncertain of her career path. Having so many interests, she had her hand in many different things - one being her very own jewelry line. She loved to dance, specializing in a specific style of urban dance called “popping” but was also interested in practicing law. Wanting to get out of Boston, she decided to move to LA on a whim - without an apartment, a vehicle, or a job - and gave herself two weeks to figure everything out. Allison went back and forth for a very long time between pursuing a more artistic path in fashion, dance or writing versus a more conservative one in law. After three years of reflection, she decided to go to law school at the University of San Diego. While in law school, she started practicing yoga and loved it so much, she decided to get her certification. Partway through law school, Allison realized she didn’t want to pursue the traditional lawyer path.
She thought about how all these disparate pieces of her current degree and past ventures could come together. "Many things are all about perspective. You have to look at it and say ‘here are my strengths.’ I started thinking about apparel. I always had an interest, in fact when I was younger I would make my own clothes and at that time I thought I would be a fashion designer. Fast forward to my post-graduate life, I was finding it difficult to transition between the different roles I was playing throughout the day. Trying to transition from more conservative settings to a yoga class and later meeting up with friends became a challenge. I didn’t have clothes that could function in all settings.” She found no other transformative clothing line out there resulting in the formation of her own, Paridaez.
When you thought of this idea, what was your first step?
I started interviewing designers to work with because I didn’t have a fashion background. But the convertible nature of the pieces was a challenge for traditional designers so I ended up designing the pieces myself. Then I did a bit of research and spoke with a couple designer friends and began drafting designs.
How did you learn the technical aspects of fashion design?
Well I started sketching. A friend who was a fashion designer told me about Croquis. They provide the form of the body and then you can draw the clothing on top of it. I also had a dress form which I could drape fabric over. Then I hired a really talented pattern maker because pattern making is very important. Since it’s a bit more technical, I did not want to attempt to do that myself so I hired a woman that ended up helping me a lot in the development process. Then the rest of the chain is also very involved and took a ton of research.
How did you know what to do, without having a business/entrepreneurship background?
I had to learn a lot. I taught myself everything and talked to a lot of people. From living here and having done so many things over the years, I had created this network of talented people that all specialize in different areas. So one of my closest friends who has an MBA from Babson, a business background and works as a consultant, helped me with the financial projections for Paridaez. I learn well from looking at examples of other business models rather than being told how to do something.
What's your inspiration?
I often look to classic pieces that have withstood the test of time. I like to take such concepts and incorporate a contemporary look with added functionality. I don't rely on fads which have a short lifespan. The main elements of Paridaez are classics with added functionality. They are mainly essentialist pieces.
After I had already launched the brand, I discovered this guy - Dieder Ram - who is an industrial designer. He came up with a list of elements of good design and reading those after my creative process, I was amazed to see how much I had incorporated these concepts into my own design process. Usually when you are thinking of a minimalist philosophy, it's the idea that less is more and Ram came up with the phrase - "less but better" and that's what I'm going for.
What is Paridaez made out of?
Poly/spandex blend that’s brushed, so it feels really soft. It was important to me that it felt like a cotton but had the tech aspect of a synthetic where it can wick sweat away. It’s incredibly functional and comfortable and you never want to take the pieces off! :) Most customers say they live in their Paridaez gear.
Being an early stage startup, what does success mean to you?
Staying true to the brand and helping people. One of the major goals with Paridaez is to make the lives of women easier, in the sense that we play many roles and sometimes it can be hard transitioning between environments. As women, I think we already have enough to worry about and I’d like Paridaez to actually empower women and allow them to take advantage of any opportunities that arise. One of the things I hear women say is, "I get so many compliments when I'm wearing your pieces!" I love hearing that women feel comfortable and confident in Paridaez! Confidence can take you far!
What is your biggest obstacle?
The production process is really challenging, which is why a lot of people quit early on. The apparel industry is also a very competitive market. It’s a huge obstacle - creating a quality product that people actually want.
How do you determine your next piece?
I look at the market and predict what is a need that has not been met, yet I have to keep in mind good design and intuitive added functionality. After coming up with a new design, I like to have gatherings with different people mostly to receive feedback on the product and get opinions of others. I’ve found that people will share more information when they are in a group.
Do you have any advice for younger women who want to start their own thing?
A lot of people within the apparel industry will often say "Don't Do it!" because it can be very stressful. You have to be very malleable at times especially when things don't work out the way you want them to. This can be challenging especially when you have a very structured idea of what you want.
It takes a certain type of person to start a company. When you start something on your own, it's almost like, treading water without a float - like you can sink at any time. And that can be very unnerving for a lot of people. You just have to really believe in what you’re doing to continue moving forward. Surround yourself by people that will help you get there. Sometimes the people that might care about you most, can often have a negative perspective. You need to tap into what your path entails without being distracted by the story others might write for you.