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Veronica Marrinan of Litany: “Figure out when you do your best work”

A lot of retail response to the Pandemic has been centered around survival- and understandably so. Rent the Runway cut 51% of their expenses and closed all their stores, and a lot of companies seem to have followed suit. What has been interesting to see is that the most simple changes seem to have the […]

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A lot of retail response to the Pandemic has been centered around survival- and understandably so. Rent the Runway cut 51% of their expenses and closed all their stores, and a lot of companies seem to have followed suit. What has been interesting to see is that the most simple changes seem to have the most impact. Target’s expanding curbside pickup has really helped make up for their loss, and some retailers have carved out specific hours for at-risk customers as locations have reopened. I think the most exciting response I’ve seen has got to be Levi’s creation of 3D rendering of samples, which they’re thinking of going forward with post-pandemic as well. It allows for less wastage being made before the garments even get into customers’ hands, and I think that’s something that we can expect to see more of even after the Pandemic. I really hope that all of the changes we’ve had to make in retail this past year shows us that it’s possible to make a lot of big changes to how we do things and come out the other side with an even better, more sustainable way of creating.


As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Veronica Marrinan. She graduated from FIT with degrees in fashion design, entrepreneurship, and a penchant for historical garments. Prior to founding Litany she worked as an assistant designer, freelance photographer, and assistant stylist for brand look books and editorial shoots. In January of 2020 she and her partner Olivia Swinford started Litany to create a space in the fashion industry that was inclusive of not only everybody’s body, but also everyone in the supply chain. Her hope is that by creating garments with depth she can encourage others to think constructively about how fashion can be a source of healing for ourselves and the world around us. She loves her faith, Renaissance depictions of Judith and Holofernes, and a well-crafted period drama meme.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

This would probably be how we started Litany! My co-founder Olivia and I were both working other jobs, myself as a freelance stylist and photographer, and her as a production assistant for another designer. We both knew we weren’t doing what we truly wanted to do, but we felt like this was the first and natural step. Suddenly, the company she was working for shut down right before Christmas, so I got out the business plan we’d made together in college, made some adjustments, and printed us each a copy. We decided we’d think and pray about it over Christmas, and then decide together when we got back to Manhattan whether we were going to do it. We both had a moment that my mom describes having when my dad proposed to her, which was “what are we waiting for?” Olivia was planning to join a religious community as a nun (and did this past October!), so we knew we had a small window of time to get this off the ground together. Sometimes our biggest dreams happen earlier than we feel we’re ready for, and that’s something that can be scary- but also exhilarating. I’ve found that when I don’t feel ready for something I really want to do, the best way to gain confidence is by doing it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

A few years ago I was assisting on set for an editorial shoot and had my first “Devil Wears Prada” moment, as I like to call it. The creative director on set gave us her coffee order, and when I came back with it I was told we needed to hide it and go back out again, because she refused to drink coffee from the place we had ordered. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of that tongue-lashing! I remember thinking how stressful her daily life must be, that the one thing she had to really look forward to was a specific cup of coffee. I began to walk on set expecting this kind of environment so that I could respond to it professionally, but on our first photoshoot for Litany I realized how different it could be. We had hired a hair and makeup artist named Cherry Le (whom I recommend to the highest degree). As she and I were working alongside each other, she commented on how our joyful dispositions as a team made her so happy. She and I got to talking and she shared how much our mission meant to her and we shared some very personal, prayerful conversation that I had entirely not expected to find on set. I’ve noticed that the attentiveness I bring to an environment completely changes not only the space and attitudes there but the work itself. I find that to pay attention is to love everything, and any kind of creative work flourishes in a place where the creators feel loved.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

While sewing the samples for our first collection, I sewed the sleeves on our Massabielle Coat backwards! We’d spent two weeks looking at this coat and how it was hanging on the mannequin, trying so hard to figure out what was up with it and why it looked off. It wasn’t until 3am the night before the photoshoot, while sewing buttons on various garments and finishing up hems, that I looked at it and went, “Wait a minute!” We ultimately decided to leave the sleeves the way they were since other design elements had been added, and work with the model to make it look as natural as possible. In our fit notes from the collection we added “Sew sleeves on correct sides” as a joke. It came out great in the end, and it really taught me to place my energy on the big picture and not be too hard on myself. As a business owner you have a finite amount of energy that you can give to each mistake you make. You need to ask yourself, where does this energy best serve the big picture of what I’m hoping to accomplish? That question has always helped me be a better boss, a better designer, and a truly present business owner.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re currently getting more involved with fabric recycling programs to pitch in around our community and get creative with our design process. When I’m designing garments for our next two collections, I’m thinking of ways we can elevate the designs by adding in elements of pre-loved garments- some buttons here, a panel there. We really want to remind people that clothing’s life cycle doesn’t end when you donate it or toss it. Often by the time we donate something, some part of the fabric or seams isn’t usable anymore. That doesn’t mean that the whole garment isn’t, though! Our hope is that not only can we make a small difference by re-using garments, but we can also give customers one-of-a-kind clothing that challenges us all to give new life to things that are tired and worn.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Figure out when you do your best work. I think so often we fight how we are productive because what works for us doesn’t look the way we think it should. I used to get so down on myself for getting my most creative moments in the evening, but since I’ve learned to work with my energy levels as they come I feel a lot more available to myself outside of work. Continuing to remember why you started what you’re doing is probably the most helpful advice I could give. Filling yourself with things that bolster that purpose can help settle your work into the rest of your life in a way that feels holistic and true to yourself, whether it’s a talk, a book group, or some art that is special to you.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Absolutely- once again, my co-founder Olivia. She knew that she would only be able to start Litany with me for about a year. Her application to her community was already sent in when we decided to take the leap, and she was preparing to leave literally everything behind. But we both still saw all the good that we could do together, and she decided to give it her best shot before the big life change. I am so grateful to her for this, because even though it was a bit chaotic (her whole life was in boxes in my apartment for a bit while she transitioned from being a business owner to taking a vow of poverty!), it was so rewarding because I was able to share my dream with someone who understood me as a friend and also shared my vision for the world. We both saw that the fashion industry had such a capacity for beauty and healing, and getting to launch Litany together was so formative. It showed me how to create something truly worthwhile that can instigate lasting change.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I firmly believe that goodness flourishes when people are seen, known, and loved. Litany provides something that hasn’t been seen since before the industrial revolution- garments that are made for each person and are accessible to the everyday woman. The fashion industry has become a place where the dignity of each person is often forgotten- the workers are often paid unfairly, the environment they live in suffers and perpetuates a cycle of poverty, and the customers who wear the garments don’t feel comfortable in their clothes. What we’re doing with pattern making technology and laser cutting not only creates a doorway in the market for each woman to have a quality garment that fits her well, but it also allows for less waste and more care for each person in the supply chain. We want everyone who is involved in creating our garment, from the people who make the fabric all the way to the people who wear it, to know that they are important and that who they are is good and sacred.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

A lot of retail response to the Pandemic has been centered around survival- and understandably so. Rent the Runway cut 51% of their expenses and closed all their stores, and a lot of companies seem to have followed suit. What has been interesting to see is that the most simple changes seem to have the most impact. Target’s expanding curbside pickup has really helped make up for their loss, and some retailers have carved out specific hours for at-risk customers as locations have reopened. I think the most exciting response I’ve seen has got to be Levi’s creation of 3D rendering of samples, which they’re thinking of going forward with post-pandemic as well. It allows for less wastage being made before the garments even get into customers’ hands, and I think that’s something that we can expect to see more of even after the Pandemic. I really hope that all of the changes we’ve had to make in retail this past year shows us that it’s possible to make a lot of big changes to how we do things and come out the other side with an even better, more sustainable way of creating.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

I think we often misconstrue the use of malls and shopping centers. They’re a necessary evil for families with young kids or busy professionals who would prefer ordering online. But for retirees or teenagers, they serve as a space to get away from daily life for a bit and entertain oneself. I think they’ll still continue to exist for the convenience of the customer who enjoys ambling through a shopping experience, who really enjoys it. Today’s retail customers are looking for an experience that is holistic, and I think that physical retail spaces can be one way to provide that if they really go after it.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

These retailers have provided something more than a product: they’ve created an experience or a community that is more valuable to their customers than online shopping. People want to feel special. At Lululemon, they get the joy of positioning themselves within a certain community of like-minded shoppers and a small sense of prestige and community. Costco makes grocery shopping feel like an accomplishment: customers consistently feel like they’ve found a good deal for themselves and are bringing home something that their family will enjoy. Kroger has nostalgia behind them, and has also partnered with MIcrosoft to make their stores more easily navigated. I think that the best changes are the ones that make long lasting solutions to problems that went unnoticed before the pandemic. What kind of experience is your target customer looking for? How can you provide it in a way that makes a positive impact in not only their lives, but the people who create it and the environment we live in?

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

I think the key here is to compete not with the cheap prices, which are simply unsustainable while taking care of our environment and everyone in the supply chain, but competing with these companies’ weak points: creating a quality product and experience for their customers that align with their values and will last. These brands’ only value proposition is the low price of their products, and once customers discover the true cost of those prices they won’t want them anymore. Our main goal at Litany is to provide an alternative to this, and doing so would be the advice I’d give to anyone else.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. 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. 🙂

Litany! My goal and hope is that by creating a framework for a compassionate supply chain and accessible made-to-measure garments, we can help all kinds of companies within the fashion industry understand the myriad of ways that we can bring healing to peoples’ body image and have a positive social and environmental impact.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can follow along on instagram, @litany.nyc, or on facebook at Litany NYC. We also have a blog on our website where we share our story as it unfolds!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


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