Getting started in the fashion industry is a daunting experience, one that many fresh graduates fear to pursue. It can be a lucrative business, but making that first step towards establishing your own brand will always prove a formidable threshold needed to be crossed. We recently sat down with the founder of Ego Soleil, Del Addison (MBA ’15), to discuss his recent successes and his troubled road there. Now an internationally regarded fashion label, Ego Soleil has blossomed as a brand with a unique mission, philanthropic passion, and pioneering designs.
Daniel Preston: Would you mind telling me a little bit about your brand, Ego Soleil?
Del Addison: We started Ego Soleil back in 2012 and my initial goal was to create a brand that would disrupt the way fashion is approached. Our first collection was relatively small and centered around the core elements of the brand: unique colors, innovative fabrics, and a relatively relaxed fit. Our 2012 Spring/Summer collection didn't take off as well as we were expecting as we were a new brand and we were still learning. Because of that, we decided to take a break for Fall/Winter of that year and launched a much stronger collection for Spring/Summer 2013. That is when we started to get more attention and more traction — but still not enough to propel the brand where we needed it to be. As we began to try new things and explore new designs in the following collections, we needed to find our place — to find our voice so to speak. But, at that point we were focusing on the designs too much and not enough on our marketing strategy which set us back once again. After we took a year off to regroup, we have relaunched the brand completely and are much better positioned then we were several years prior. We are doing much better in terms of marketing while still staying true to what the core of the brand is.
DP: What is the significance of the name Ego Soleil?
DA: Growing up in New York and being around the big city, I wanted to position the brand as something big and grand. That’s how “ego” was born. It alluded the darker side of the brand — the bolder colors, the deeper hues. This is balanced by a lighter, brighter side — the “soleil" side. Soleil is French for sun, the biggest star in our universe, relating it back to the ego. But the sun is still bright, reflecting our vibrant patterns and invigorating color palettes.
DP: Your brand is split between New York, Los Angeles, and London—how has each place and culture inspired your collections?
DA: New York is home. LA is a city I frequent. When I want to slow down or have a little bit of Hollywood, I spend some time in LA and when I want to get dapper, I head to London for a little bit more sophistication. Right now, we have a designer in LA, who designs the full range. We also have a designer in London who advises on what trends are being seen in Europe. We try to fuse these inspirations together to create something very unique and very different. The majority of our production is in LA at the moment, however we’ve recently been looking at places in New York. This is not only because real estate has gone down, but because our connections to better fabrics have become more prevalent. Meanwhile, most of the collaborations for our brand will be stemming out of London. We just did a collaboration with Samantha Warren, who is based out of London, and already has a well established brand.
DP: How did that collaboration with Samantha Warren come together? How did you find her?
DA: Our designer in London used to work with Samantha. When she showed me her portfolio, I was wildly impressed. I liked her style, I liked her aesthetic, and I felt that she could do something great for us.
DP: On a similar note of collaboration, your recent launch of the Spring/Summer 2017 collection at the New York Soho House partnered with Style Saves. How did you come across this philanthropy and what drove your decision to partner with them?
DA: I’ve known Rachel Russell, who runs Style Saves for a number of years, and I’ve always wanted to do a collaboration with her. I didn’t want to build a brand just to sell it. I wanted to give the brand a mission. I want to position the brand in order to make a difference.
DP: In an age of fast fast fashion, do you think there is a social responsibility for the fashion industry as a whole to give back to local communities?
DA: I believe that in every business there needs to be some sort of responsibility for a number of things. In the fashion industry, sometimes it is difficult to attribute an entire garment based on what you see on the label. Yes, the garment might be made in the United States but where does the fabric come from? The thread? It is things like that which make identifying a sustainable brand challenging. But the short answer to that is yes, we should be concerned with fair treatment across the spectrum. That is why we believe in our made in New York brand. Yes, prices might be higher but you know the people you're working with and they aren't working in deplorable conditions or they are protected by fair laws. What is really painful is when people are oblivious to working conditions and are solely in pursuit for the lowest priced product.
DP: Building off of that, how do you, as a brand, successfully manage a hybrid of affordability and quality?
DA: As a brand, we’ve been paying close attention to our product choices and the mills we work with. We believe there’s a number of ways that you can maintain quality and still provide a good product at a reasonable price. It’s about not trying to do too much. Sometimes you don't need to go with 100% silk, but with a better alternative. For us, quality is always at the forefront and something we will not compromise on.