Meeting Sheila Nazarian and Laura Darrah, founders and co-designers of the contemporary accessories brand, she + lo, was like discovering a rare gem in a sea of ordinary stones. These women have a spark and their energy, enthusiasm, and goal-oriented personalities have allowed them to successfully launch three handbags line, most recently she + lo. The namesake brand is their most personal to date and so clearly defined that she + lo reflects how far they have come in the industry. Unwilling to compromise on materials, the bags feature thoughtful details that make their customer’s life a little bit easier. she + lo is focused on building collections for their customer, this woman knows what she wants and she + lo is delivering.
How long have you two known each other? Where did you meet?
We both went to University of San Diego where we met through mutual friends – we have been working together since we launched our first handbag line back in 2005! Time flies when you’re doing what you love.
What inspired a working relationship?
Both of us have backgrounds in fashion and business. Sheila grew up in the fashion industry as the daughter of a clothing designer, she went to fashion shows in Paris and learned the in’s and out’s of the industry while growing up in LA. And Laura got her MBA and knew she wanted to start her own business. After a trip around the world, she discovered she wanted to be in the fashion industry. After running into each other at a mutual friend’s wedding, we decided to launch our own handbag company.
She + lo is the third brand you have launched together – can you describe the other two? Do they still exist?
We were founders of a handbag line called Treesje – which we launched in 2005. We then launched Joelle Hawkens as a subsidiary brand. Both lines still exist.
What are you doing with she + lo that is new or more challenging than before?
One of the challenges that we tend to face moving into our second year is really staying true to our brand and the brand integrity. We feel like we really have gotten to know who the she + lo girl is, and we have to make sure to be consistent with our design aesthetic. It is also imperative that we stay on top of seasonal trends and come up with new looks each season.
You obviously spend a lot of time together – what are your favorite things about the other?
It’s really easy to talk to one another and bounce ideas off of each other. We truly have great give-and-take in the relationship. We think it’s really important to share the responsibilities of owning a business – there is no fighting for a higher title or position. We are equal business partners and definitely would recommend this mindset for any friends looking to start a business together.
Sheila, what qualities does Laura have personally and professionally that allow such a successful business relationship?
Laura is more like a sister than a business partner, so there is an unconditional love. There are no boundaries, so I am not scared to talk to her about anything.
Laura, what is most unique about Sheila that without this specific quality she + lo would be impossible?
Sheila has an infinite amount of determination and tenacity, which I admire so much. Even with a full plate, Sheila takes on every challenge head on. She is a dream to have as a business partner!
What do you disagree about?
Not much… where we go to lunch!
How have you learned to resolve conflict?
We know each other so well, we know what boundaries not to cross. We know what the other is more passionate about, so we don’t argue over that subject. We have been very lucky that there isn’t very much we disagree about at all.
Being based in Santa Monica must be wonderful! How is this lifestyle reflected in she + lo?
We absolutely love having our office based in Santa Monica – it is a completely different lifestyle in the coastal cities. Although we are definitely an ‘LA brand’, we are inspired by all parts of LA – from Downtown to Santa Monica. There is such a laid-back, effortless look to the girls out here – and we find ourselves inspired by their style every day.
How is she + lo so perfectly positioned in the marketplace for success?
she + lo has definitely been lucky to find a niche in the market. The edgy design and great price points have helped us stand out against our competition. We have also been really fortunate to be sold in our top target retailers including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor.
We’ve also had a lot of success with fashion bloggers and celebrities wearing our bags. Celebrities like Kate Bosworth, Olivia Munn and Emmy Rossum have been recently spotted in our bags as well as top bloggers like Chriselle Lim, Rocky Barnes and Jenn Im.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years? 10 years?
We see she + lo moving into the direction of a full fashion lifestyle brand. Footwear and jewelry would be next, then expanding into clothing and beyond!