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Designer Rachel Pally on Fashion for Every Stage and Size

Designer Rachel Pally on Fashion for Every Stage and Size

For Rachel Pally, fashion is a family business in more ways than one. She does it all in her hometown of Los Angeles, making clothes from ethically sourced fabrics, designing styles for women of every age, shape, and size. It’s a warm, welcoming approach to womenswear that’s still pretty rare. We sat down with the inclusive designer to discuss how she does it all.

Rip & Tan: You started your eponymous clothing brand when you were fresh out of college. What was the experience like of starting a company at such a young age?
Rachel Pally: I was so young and fearless! Although I didn’t have any real job experience (other than babysitting and one shift as a waitress), I think it was actually great for me—I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what was and wasn’t possible, so I just put myself out there. I wasn’t afraid to fail. I figured that if this didn’t work out, I had plenty of time to come up with a plan B!
Rip & Tan: Part of your brand’s mission is to make clothing for “women of all shapes, sizes, and stages of life”—is this challenging to do? Why don’t you think this is the norm across the industry (yet)?
Rachel Pally: When I launched my plus line in 2007, I was definitely an outlier. It is totally absurd, considering the average size of the American woman. In my opinion, it is no more challenging than designing for any other size or shape—you just have to be mindful of drape and fit. We all want and deserve great-fitting clothing. The industry is catching up, but not nearly fast enough, in my opinion!
Rip & Tan: Another admirable mission of your brand is to give back to the local economy by producing everything locally and ethically. Can you speak to some of the reasons you committed to doing this, and what it’s been like to pull it off?
Rachel Pally: As a native Angeleno, it never even occurred to me to produce my brand elsewhere. This is the city where I’m from and where I’m raising my children, and putting that money back into my city is very important to me. I didn’t choose to do this to make a statement; it’s just the way I have always done it and always will. 

Being mindful in business may be a new catch phrase, but many local brands have operated that way since their origins. It’s less about a business ethos and more about a personal choice that has trickled into my business.
Rip & Tan: You’ve described your team as your second family. What are other benefits of keeping the production process of your clothes completely local—from collaborating with a family-owned sewing workshop, to working with the same designers and patternmakers over the years?
Rachel Pally: We spend so much of our lives at our jobs—making your coworkers feel like family sure makes it easier and more enjoyable! Plus, the most important thing in business is relationships. With stores, with vendors, with your own teammates. It helps us to work smoothly and seamlessly. We all support each other to get our jobs done, and it shows!
Rip & Tan: How has your style—and the brand’s—changed or evolved over the course of the 17 years since you created it?
Rachel Pally: It’s night and day. I started out in 2002, so if you think about what you wore at that time and compare it to what you wear now, we have all stylistically evolved! I started out using only jersey fabric and became known for maxi dresses and flowy pants, which were the trendy styles at the time. Over the years I was losing creative steam, just making what the stores requested and expected of me, and I was falling out of love with my work. I wasn’t even wearing my own clothes! About 4 years ago I made a decision that I wasn’t going to design for anyone else anymore, that in order to be successful and happy, I had to be authentic in my design process. So now I make clothes for ME, clothes that I want to live in, that my friends want to wear. And it’s so exciting! Even though a rebuild doesn’t happen overnight and can be very scary, I’m so glad I took that risk! Now we are known for knits and linens and gauze—so many gorgeous fabrications that we didn’t use in the beginning—and we have a new customer base that didn’t know the brand in its earlier configuration so they aren’t comparing it to times past. I’m so happy to bring my company alongside me during my own personal evolution as a woman and as a mother—it’s really a reflection of my journey!
Rip & Tan: What does living well mean to you?
Rachel Pally: Living well means being able to enjoy all facets of life—family, relationships, work. It means carving out time for creativity and self care, and for time in nature. It means eating good food, traveling, spending time with friends, and lounging around on a Sunday doing nothing.
Rip & Tan: What has been the greatest challenge in creating your brand? What has been the highlight?
Rachel Pally: The biggest challenge has been in reinventing my brand over these past few years. It took a lot of guts and a lot of passion for my work and I’m so glad I stayed true to myself and made the changes that were necessary! But it has also been the highlight, as I feel more creative and more myself than I have in years. Building my business as a mother has added an additional layer of depth—I am proud to model to my boys my drive and my commitment and my creativity, although they only care that I have a forklift at work right now.

"I'm so happy to bring my company alongside me during my own personal evolution as a woman and as a mother—it’s really a reflection of my journey."

Rip & Tan: What has been the greatest challenge in creating your brand? What has been the highlight?
Rachel Pally: The biggest challenge has been in reinventing my brand over these past few years. It took a lot of guts and a lot of passion for my work and I’m so glad I stayed true to myself and made the changes that were necessary! But it has also been the highlight, as I feel more creative and more myself than I have in years. Building my business as a mother has added an additional layer of depth—I am proud to model to my boys my drive and my commitment and my creativity, although they only care that I have a forklift at work right now.
Rip & Tan: If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice about starting your business, what would it be?
Rachel Pally: Don’t freak out about things that are out of your control—focus on the things that are. Small steps in the right direction are big wins. When you think you are at your max, you have more. You’ve got this.
Rip & Tan: What’s next for Rachel Pally—the brand and the woman behind it?
Rachel Pally: I’m excited about building my web business even more—I love that I have creative control over what items we offer, how we style them, the models we choose. I want to expand my plus size offerings to cover more of the full collection. I want to do more give-back programs and raise more money for causes I believe in. I want to collaborate with other women. I want to build a community around my brand. I want to continue to be even more mindful and even less wasteful—there is always room for improvement. I feel like I’m just hitting my second wave, and I’m all in!
Photos by Nicki Sebastian