Since the pandemic began, the fashion industry has stalled. Collections have been delayed as factories closed, design teams have had to work on upcoming lines remotely, and fashion shows have been replaced by virtual presentations and films. And while New York’s LaPointe (formerly known as Sally LaPointe) has likewise faced setbacks like this, the fashion brand has also stayed busier than ever since the quarantine began.
“Similar to most independent designers, retail sales have been stalled as a result of COVID-19, but we have managed to maintain a positive momentum,” says creative director and designer Sally LaPointe. That momentum includes a rebrand (and the aforementioned name change) and an overhauled e-commerce site — updates that were in the works prior to the pandemic, and, in what can only be considered fortunate timing, launched last month, allowing shoppers to buy direct-to-consumer.
Since the ready-to-wear brand came onto the scene 10 years ago, the designer has become known for the type of monochromatic separates that land a punch, with colours ranging from an electric orange and a neon-adjacent chartreuse to ocean deep blues and perfect shades of reds. Now LaPointe is extending that approach to the new website, with looks organised by colour rather than product type.
“Over the years we have learned a lot about our customer, and we have realised she shops in full looks, and also by colour, so that was the main inspiration for the site,” LaPointe says. “I have always believed in identifying what is working for [the customer] and running with it.”
Those customers include women who like clean lines, versatile pieces, impeccable tailoring, and aren’t afraid of the spotlight. It makes sense that A-listers like Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Chrissy Teigen, Hailey Bieber, Kate Bosworth, Kylie Jenner, and Kerry Washington have all worn LaPointe’s looks to events ranging from the red carpet (Bosworth) to Oprah’s wellness tour (Lopez). Despite the change in name, LaPointe is clear that the brand will continue producing the type of in-your-face clothing it has become known for over the years: “Although the name has changed, the product vision and brand promise remain the same — making a statement through bold monochromatic palettes and head-to-toe sets that are easy, intuitive, and comfortable.”
Like most designers creating in the pandemic, LaPointe had to digitally adapt the design process and find solutions to unexpected complications. “So far everything has been over Zoom. I think it has been challenging because I really love the team aspect of working on a collection together. I include my team in a lot of my process, so I have missed that part,” she says. Because of the factory closures, LaPointe’s Pre-Fall 2020 collection, which was expected to be available in late May, was delayed until this month. “The pre-orders that you see on the site now were not a planned business decision for the launch,” she says. “Although it was not the ideal launch experience, it was the best business decision we could make with the cards we were dealt during the pandemic.”
According to her, the last four months have had their share of upsides, too, successful relaunch aside. “I have enjoyed a bit more time, things have obviously slowed down and the demand is less, which I think is a benefit because your product can have the time to fully develop and not be rushed due to the demand of the traditional fashion calendar,” she says. This extra time has also led to LaPointe communicating with the customer more: “I was so excited by the positive response to the relaunched site and those first orders. I decided I wanted to send handwritten thank-you notes to those first customers because I appreciate them so much!”
It has also led her to think more about the brand’s place in the fashion industry following the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of the police. “We’ve had a lot of internal discussion about how we wanted to support a more diverse and inclusive fashion community,” she says. The brand has since released a three-step plan of action, which includes a mentorship program. “Following our Instagram post, we have already received interest, which is really exciting,” she says. “The formal program is still a work-in-progress, but we have connected directly with interested individuals to see how we can support until the formal program launches,” she says.
While, according to LaPointe, the pandemic hasn’t influenced a change in her forthcoming collection per se, she says that she is more “focused on simplifying and scaling back.” She adds, “I have always had a message about being direct and to the point, and now more than ever this is important, I think, in all aspects of life.” She is, for instance, very direct in saying that, while the retail model has served the brand well in the past, it’s not entirely working in its current state — something that many independent designers in the industry have expressed prior to the pandemic but even more so during it. “This is obviously a complex issue affecting all sides of the industry. We wouldn’t be where we are without our retail partners, but everyone acknowledges that some things need to change,” she says. “On our side, we’ve been really focused on looking closely at the delivery calendar and designing collections to better align with the actual season and what customers need at that moment.”
As an independent designer, she hopes there will be more of a focus on brands that don’t have the marketing resources of a corporation in the future. “Because of access through social media and the internet, savvy consumers are more educated and in tune with the industry than ever before, but there is a lot of noise to break through as an independent business. The industry as a whole can help create additional platforms that highlight independent businesses and elevate visibility,” she says. “I hope that there is more room and visibility for smaller brands, I hope people are more conscious with their decisions and practices, I hope quality over quantity becomes a reality, and I hope there is a new wave of real raw creation and inspiration.”
Now that’s an image as bright as LaPointe’s shade of chartreuse.