The ideals of female empowerment, sisterhood, and inclusivity are sometimes hard to find in the world we live in, and sadly, they can be difficult to achieve in the fashion industry as well. Fortunately, there are businesses that make it their mission to promote these ideas and infuse them into the core of their brand. One such brand whose core mission is to spread female empowerment and inclusivity is the lifestyle brand Karen Michelle, based in Los Angeles.
Karen Michelle was created in 2011 by its namesake, owner Karen Michelle. She started the company to provide stylish clothing that was fashionable and allowed everyone, regardless of size, age, and background, to have access to modern, modest clothing. Since then, Karen Michelle has expanded to include Destiny Candle, massage oil candles that, once melted, can be massaged into your skin, as well as Love Your Body Events, red carpet fashion shows featuring modest clothing and designs. These shows include vendor shopping where guests can purchase products from other clothing, beauty, and lifestyle brands.
Michelle is now glad to announce that she is embarking on a new journey – to not only continue to host and promote these fabulous shows, but to also provide a shareable space for other brands to house their products. The shareable space will be in the company’s Los Angeles location, and will house other brands’ pop-up shops. Owners and designers won’t even have to be present to sell or promote their products – the Karen Michelle team will take care of those details.
You can browse a bevy of modest clothing options, the newly added mask collection, the candle collection, and past Love Your Body Events at www.karenmichelle.com. You can also go to @karenmichelleLA to peruse Michelle’s line and to see her updates on upcoming fashion runway events. For business inquiries, contact Michelle at 310-890-1969.
Michal Goldfein: What inspired you to start your business?
Karen Michelle: I sold my other company after more than two decades, and my son was going off to college. I was at a crossroads and knew that I wanted to embark on something new. After exploring my ideas, I realized I loved people and the retail industry. I opened my store three weeks later, in 2011, and have been providing fabulous contemporary women’s and girls’ clothes for the last nine years.
What inspired you to carry modest clothing?
I’ve always listened to my community’s needs and what the people wanted. When I first started the business, I saw that there was a need for stylish modest clothing. At first, we carried items that could be styled modestly; for example, we had cap-sleeve dresses that required a shell underneath. One day a young girl came in and fell in love with one of our cap-sleeve dresses but because she knew she wouldn’t be able to wear it without altering it or adding a shell, she became emotional. Out of that moment came my epiphany that I had to embark on the journey to make the KM Collection, which features modern modest clothes. I literally ran to the pattern maker with two dresses taped together and asked him to make the pattern for the dress.
What are your most popular dresses that you’ve designed?
I would say the Anna and the Cocoon dress which are both part of our KM Collection.
I love how versatile the Anna and Cocoon dresses are! You can style them multiple ways and you will always look put together.
Yes, that has always been my mission for my store and brand. I wanted to speak to the everyday woman and provide her with casual contemporary clothing and basics. I sell a lot of clothing to women, teens, and kids. Teens flock to my store for camp essentials, and if they attend a school that requires a dress code, we are their one-stop shop. I also saw the need for plus-size clothes as a plus-size woman. It was hard to find basics such as skirts and I felt I had very limited clothing options in plus-size brands. I myself needed a new wardrobe – so I made it! I decided that I wanted to have a brand that was all-inclusive and that included plus-size clothing.
You have created a true lifestyle brand. What are some of the other components of your business?
We have the Destiny Candle collection, which is comprised of massage oil candles that melt into a warm, luxurious massage and body oil when lit. In fact, each 4- and 8-oz. candle reveals a surprise piece of jewelry. I also have Love Your Body Events, which are events that I plan, host, and organize with a fabulous team.
Can you tell me more about Love Your Body Events?
Absolutely! I started years ago when I thought about how great it would be for women and girls to be part of a runway show while still holding true to their level of modesty. I believed that the fashion industry needed to be more inclusive, and that regardless of background, any woman or girl should be able to walk the red carpet. I’ve had such amazing feedback about each of my shows. We’ve had models of all abilities come down the runway, and it is imperative that these shows are inclusive of women with all abilities, sizes, and ages. In September 2019, we collaborated with an amazing sponsor, a non-profit organization called Artists for Trauma. We held a wedding-themed runway show and it was well received by all.
How are female empowerment and sisterhood key to Love Your Body Events?
I designed LYB Events to bring women and girls together. I believe that all women are beautiful inside and out. I brought this event to life to give each and every one of them the confidence they need to achieve all that they dare to dream. A place where you can enjoy a red-carpet event, watch or star in a fashion show, get some shopping done, and make new friends. LYB is an event that empowers women and girls to be who they want to be.
Many businesses are experiencing a major upheaval since the outbreak of COVID-19. How have you chosen to change the trajectory of your brand?
We have definitely needed to pivot in a new direction and have changed the business model of our brand. I am excited for this new path in which Karen Michelle will be focusing on Love Your Body events. We have an upcoming show that is occurring on August 16, 2020 (provided the city allows) and we’ve already sold 1,400 tickets to the show. We will also segue into using our store space for vendor space, where vendors from around the country can have rack or shelf space in our store. We plan on enabling vendors to sell their brands, including but not limited to clothing, beauty products, and other lifestyle products. Brands can be involved with us and we would sell their products, using our space as a pop-up shop. We would have the employees and be in charge of the promotion of the pop-up shops as well.
You also carry beautiful masks that are made in the USA and come in both adult and kids’ sizes. I personally love your floral face mask, the desert face mask (orange and brown tie-dye), snakeskin face mask, and your masks that say, “DAD,” “MOM,” and “MR.” and “MRS.”
I am glad to give our customers washable reusable, fashion-friendly masks that are also functional. Our commitment to our customers is to offer these masks at a low price in a very short order-to-ship timeframe. Our masks are made of U.S.-sourced fabrics that are cut and sewn in Los Angeles.
What are your goals for the future of your company?
My goals are to partner with women and girls to have more events that encourage business, self-esteem, and self-empowerment. I have appreciated the women and girls who have followed me on my journey thus far and hope to have them continue with me into the future.