INTERVIEW: HALEY SOLAR
For our readers who don’t know, give us a little rundown of what you do.
I own and design a boutique clothing company based in highland park, a little neighborhood a few minutes from DTLA. We make every piece for each customer who orders, making what we do 100% couture, at a contemporary price point. There is a 2-6 week waiting list on our pieces so we don’t fit in with other brands, but our loyal customers absolutely love how unique our items are. Everything has a little special touch, whether it’s hand dyed silk, reclaimed fabric in limited quantities or embellishments that aren’t available in the mass market.
Junim LA wasn’t your first foray in fashion. You actually owned and managed a brick and mortar clothing store in Orange County in your early twenties. Were you at all nervous about taking such a bold step at such a young age?
Starting your first business is easy! You’re full of optimism and energy. It’s starting the second that’s scary! After taking a lot of beatings in business it can become downright terrifying.
What advice do you have for young women that find themselves in leadership positions like that?
Be organized, do your research and ask for help.
Unfortunately, your business felt the effects of the 2008 economic crash quite hard. Can you tell us about your experience having to close down your own business?
Entrepreneurship is an interesting profession, it’s not something you just “do” to get by, or something you can quit when you get burned out. It’s a part of you in a very profound way and the most difficult thing to do is to separate your business successes and failures from your character. Leaving my first business was like losing a piece of myself. I had to fill that in with a new identity so to speak.
After that experience, you started working at the clothing store Anthropologie. You mentioned how surprised you were at how much there was to learn, even though you had owned your own store before. Can you tell us a little about this revelation?
I had worked every angle of the fashion business at that point (wholesale, retail, buying, design , production) so running a department at a retail store seemed like a breeze. It wasn’t, I met some of the most creative and hard working people who I’m still close with today, who still act as mentors to me. I learned that I knew a little about everything and nothing about working as a team to grow a business at that level.
I’m so interested in the story about running into one of your former customers while working at Anthropologie. Can you tell our readers what happened?
I’ll just say this: the people you want to impress in life are the ones who respect you for picking yourself up when you fall… Not the ones who laugh when you trip.
What advice do you have for keeping your head up when you feel like you’re being pushed down like that?
I happen to be a very sensitive person, so I am very picky about the people I let into my life. I don’t know if that’s the healthiest way to handle it but it keeps me grounded.
So when and how did the idea for Junim LA come about?
I fell in love. I met this amazing guy, who believed in me, pushed me to take another risk and helped me get the business started. We ultimately didn’t work as a couple but through years of his support I was able to get the brand off the ground.
Once you officially decided to go for it, what were the first action steps you took?
I worked like a freight train. I bought fabric, made samples, started selling, never stopped.
Can you think back to a particular setback, mistake, or mental block you had to overcome?
Every. single. day. This company doesn’t function like other fashion companies. I don’t have investors or partners, I barely have employees. There are mistakes every day and I just try to remind myself that this is all a game. Adjust your strategy and keep playing.
Katie Dean, of Katie Dean Jewelry, said of running your own business: “You find out what you’re made off.” Can you tell us about a time you surprised yourself in finding out what you were made of?
After my breakup, I had to support myself with my business alone. Between the heartbreak, the loss, the relocation, the fear… I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through it. I just kept moving and I did.
What advice do you have for first-time business owners or artists who are wondering how to create a following and name for their brands from nothing?
Don’t try to tell the world about your brand in the beginning… it’s a big world. Find your customers and tell them, they will spread the word along side of you.
You really emphasize authenticity when it comes to your company brand and social media presence. With the online world all about looking as polished as possible, do you ever feel pressure to conform to more “trendy” brands or social media fads?
All of the time. I take intermediate breaks from social media (because I’m busy making your clothes!!) and I get worried that I can’t keep up with other companies… But it’s not really my business model to be one of them.
What Junim LA moment are you most proud of so far?
Popping up in Elle Magazine! I don’t gift or do PR so when my clothing gets featured in a magazine or a blog, it’s totally organic and I just dieeee.
Lastly, you have a very specific end-of-day routine that I had the pleasure of previewing! Could you tell us what that is and why is it so important for you and your employees to end your day like this?
At the end of each day, I turn the lights down and put on a record. One of the most incredible record collectors in the world built me a custom stereo and these girls don’t get to hear music like that. (Most of us don’t.) So I’ll play something that’s so emotional, so clean, so beautiful and we’ll close our eyes and just let the craziness of the day melt off of us. It’s a little reminder that there’s so much magic in the world that we need to slow down to enjoy. It’s not just a fast-fashion world.
L.A. LADY CULTURE.
Favorite area of L.A.? I love Beverly Hills! My Dad was raised there in the 60s and my Grandmother made so many things special to me about that neighborhood. I get flooded with memories of her fabulousness every time I’m there.
Favorite eatery in L.A.? Alimento in Silver Lake. Original, focused menu, great service, brilliant wine list… Yes, please.
Menu item we must order there? The farro salad.
Favorite happy hour? Gyu-Kaku in Beverly Hills
Favorite weekend activities in the city? Dog park, family visits, road trips
Audio of choice when sitting in traffic? The PUMPED Podcast
Place or thing you want to do most in L.A., but haven’t yet? I haven’t been to The Broad yet!
Biggest L.A. guilty pleasure? Ricky’s fish tacos in Los Feliz
-Haley Solar, of Junim LA