…Ability to take constructive criticism — We are all passionate about what we create and hope that our customers love it as much as we do, but sometimes things don’t turn out as well as we all hope. And the key to getting better is to be able to listen to what your customers tell you isn’t great! We always ask our customers to give us feedback on items that they purchased and then returned because we want to know why they were interested in buying the item, but then didn’t keep it.
As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Rosenthal and Alli Black are owners and founders of Amalli Talli, a clothing company devoted to inspiring confidence & body positivity for tall women. At 6’4” & 5’10” respectively, they have experienced first-hand the challenges that tall girls and women face and firmly believe that when style and fit come together, it is truly life changing.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thanks so much for having us!! Our story starts out just because of our own personal needs! We are both tall women, but tall in different ways. So we have similar yet different challenges when shopping. Many times, shopping for tall items is still frustrating because there’s a one-size fits all tall approach. And with almost 6 inches in height difference between even us, that just doesn’t work. One day we were complaining about it to our dad at lunch, and he just point-blank said, “Well why don’t you guys do something about it?!” And that is what jump-started it all for us! We spent a few years slowly researching and gaining insight into the industry and how things were being done because we wanted to be really intentional about the approach we were going to bring.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
We were approached about interviewing/auditioning for a reality TV show! This was back when My Giant Life was airing on TLC, and another production company from Los Angeles reached out to us and said they were considering another type of show about tall women. They really liked that we were both sisters and had a business focused on tall girls, too, so they arranged a Skype interview to discuss further! Ultimately they didn’t move forward with the concept, but it was a fascinating thing to be involved with for a minute!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we first launched our business (and before we started manufacturing our own line), we were buying wholesale from other brands. So we would travel to various apparel markets, find items that were made with a little extra length and then put in an order for them. But what we didn’t realize at the time was that often wholesale lines would take feedback from customers at these markets and then make changes to garments based on what they were hearing before they did their final production run. So we would have boxes of clothing show up that was hilariously short and small! We learned that the best way to resolve it was just to take control from beginning to end, and to have things turn out the way we wanted them, was to just manufacture items ourselves!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We believe there are a few things that make us stand out. First, we are the only company who believes that there’s not one size to tall garments. It’s not uncommon for companies to offer jeans or pants in multiple inseams, but to date we are the only company who offers maxi dresses and jumpsuits in multiple lengths as well. But we are ourselves are the perfect reason for why we think that’s necessary. With nearly 6” in between us, what works best for Amy would be way too long for Alli. So for items were a general fit doesn’t suit us both, we always provide two different fits.
The other thing that we are very proud of is our tall body positive message. When we first started out, any other tall retailers used a “tall girl problem” type messaging to connect with their customers. We were the first ones to say, “Okay enough of focusing on the hard side of being tall, let’s focus on why being a tall woman is actually GREAT.” But that’s a mission that is very near and dear to our hearts because we know first-hand how hard it can be to embrace your height. And we felt like the answer to helping people wasn’t to harp on the bad, but highlight the good!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
We really believe that you have to be attached to a mission that’s larger than yourself. If you are focused on truly and genuinely solving a need or a problem for someone, and you have feedback from your customers that you are making a difference, that is what will push you through the bad days. If you are solely focused on your own accomplishments or needs, then when it’s really easy to get burned out or even totally defeated.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Last year during the holidays, we asked our customers to nominate a person who was going through a rough patch, whether it was a health struggle, emotional challenges, financially-based, etc. And we selected someone who we thought could use some extra holiday cheer and surprised them a huge care package of items from our line. That’s a new tradition we plan on continuing again year after year!
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Our favorite quote is “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always”
This so beautifully articulates the experience that many tall women have because so often people make comments or give strong reactions to a woman about her height. And the unfortunate part about it is that they don’t know it’s actually a huge source of insecurity for that person. So their attempt to be funny usually triggers a lot of bad or shameful feelings.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
There’s so much that is ever changing in the fashion industry, but we think it’s a great time to be an emerging business and start-up! Customers today seem more excited about fresh brands and supporting small business versus only shopping with the big box retailers. It’s also exciting the number of female business owners who are making real waves in the industry! We are certainly motivated and inspired by many of them ourselves (hence who we named our first pair of jeans and our first jean jacket after).
Another trend we see happening is diminishing lead times for production, due to better technology and logistics! As a result, we don’t have to work a year or so ahead, like we had to do in the beginning. That allows us to better adapt in real time to customer feedback and deliver styles that customers want to see.
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.
1 — Uniqueness — Too many brands or lines try to replicate what another brand is already doing and it’s incredibly difficult to stand out. Especially in a day and age where it’s so easy to put together a website and sell online. If you don’t have a very clear differentiating value, it’s nearly impossible to gain traction. There are many retailers who claim to offer “tall” sizes, but we are approaching it in a unique way with both how we approach tall sizing and the styles we produce.
2. Ability to take constructive criticism — We are all passionate about what we create and hope that our customers love it as much as we do, but sometimes things don’t turn out as well as we all hope. And the key to getting better is to be able to listen to what your customers tell you isn’t great! We always ask our customers to give us feedback on items that they purchased and then returned because we want to know why they were interested in buying the item, but then didn’t keep it.
3. Unwavering Belief — There are tough days for everyone. Especially in the beginning. If you don’t have the unwavering belief that you have a concept that is needed by consumers AND the mindset that you can figure out the challenges, it’s hard to make it through the tough times. We knew absolutely nothing about either manufacturing or eCommerce when we started, but we had an unwavering belief that we can figure out any challenges and that our concept is necessary for our customers!
4. Well-rounded skill set — We connect with a lot of business owners who start in the fashion industry because they just love clothing and getting dressed. But truthfully, that’s not enough to succeed. In today’s era, you have to be well versed on all components of business. In addition to having the creative eye, you have to be able to also understand finances, modern marketing, website & eCommerce tactics, manufacturing & production, etc etc. It takes a full skill set to push your business forward.
5. Resources — This is just being brutally honest, but you have to have the ability to gain access to resources & capital to make it out of the gate. Most people underestimate the amount of capital it takes to start and grow a business. The best advice that we received was to determine how much money and resources it would take to survive for five years without ever making a dollar. And that is so true because most people plan for a year or so and then assume their business will start generating profits after that to carry them onward. Unfortunately that isn’t often the case.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
The fashion industry is certainly not without its faults, but we think it’s extremely encouraging that they are making real strides to be more body inclusive AND focus on better manufacturing processes. There has been a real effort to improve factory conditions, work with sustainable fabrics and create less waste. Don’t get us wrong, it’s far from perfect yet, but we hope it keeps moving in the right direction.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Last year we actually launched an initiative called More Than My Height. The purpose of it is two-fold:
- To educate our society on the negative impacts their comments and questions about height has for many tall girls and women, influencing healthier interactions.
- To encourage and empower women to love their height while also recognizing the many talents they also possess.
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