The athleisure trend was too casual for Eunice Cho’s taste, so she designed a pant that works in a business setting but feels like a activewear.
Anderson School of Management alumna Cho founded AELLA, a fashion company that creates professional clothing for women made out of activewear-inspired material, primarily focusing on pants. Cho said she hopes to offer a solution for women who struggle to find well-fitting, flattering pants.
“(There’s) this very feminist, underlying mission for our brand,” Cho said. “It’s very important for me that … when people wear our clothing, they feel like they’re very in control and confident.”
Cho started working on AELLA in 2013 while enrolled in Anderson School of Management. She said she had a hard time adapting to Anderson’s business-casual dress code at first because she used to work at a small luxury fashion brand that lacked an office dress code. Cho said she disliked wearing typical business-casual clothes because she felt they were often frumpy or unflattering.
“I found them to be very uncomfortable and not really confidence-boosting,” Cho said. “The most important part of your professional image (is) not your clothing, but your level of confidence.”
So Cho decided to create versatile black pants that could be appropriate in or outside the office. She had very specific improvements in mind, the most important of which were comfort, machine washability and a flattering style. She also wanted to make sure that the black color wouldn’t fade or become baggy with regular use.
Her vision materialized in the AELLA pant, which are made with stretchy, form-fitting materials similar to activewear clothing. The pants come in a range of styles, including high-wasted silhouettes as well as flare- and cigarette-style legs.
Focusing primarily on pants comes with a host of problems, Cho said. Women often have negative experiences while shopping for pants because their body shapes often differ from how pants are usually cut.
Cho said creating pants also requires multiple manipulations and high-quality fabrics to ensure a desired fit, which can greatly add to the cost and time invested in making them. On top of manufacturing challenges, pants are difficult to market because they are not as exciting as other pieces of clothing, such as dresses of statement jackets, she said.
“A lot of people from the designer perspective find it to be a boring product that they don’t really want to deal with, and then from the marketing perspective it’s a very complicated and expensive product,” Cho said. “You really have to be serious about it to want to do it.”
Cho said it is also difficult to work in fashion in general because trends change quickly and often.
Jeff Scheinrock, the faculty director of the Applied Marketing Research Program at Anderson who worked with Cho when she was a student, said the fast-paced industry poses a constantly changing challenge for startup fashion companies. He added he thinks Cho’s skill in forecasting trends is useful in navigating the fashion startup world.
“Besides being a good businessperson, you need to have the ability to be able to determine what are the trends,” Scheinrock said. “(Cho) had an uncanny ability to do that.”
Cho said while focusing a fashion line on pants leads to some difficulties, it also allows the company to be more knowledgeable about the pants they are creating because of the extended focus and attention to detail while creating specialized pants.
Mallun Yen, co-founder and CEO of chIPS Network, has been an AELLA customer for a year. Yen said she thinks the pants are practical because they balance a formal style with comfort.
Cho said one of her favorite parts about developing the company is helping women with fashion and confidence issues.
“I started (AELLA) because I wanted to feel confident in what I was wearing to these high-stress, high-stakes situations,” Cho said. “Hearing (positive) feedback and seeing how the products have solved a pain point for women is the most exciting part.”