Aella Founder Eunice Cho on Building a Business on Comfortable Yet Polished Pants
There’s no hotter fashion trend of the moment than “athleisure”—after all, what’s not to love about brightly colored cut-out mesh leggings and graphic collegiate-lettered crop tops? One particular new brand has caught our attention: Aella takes inspiration from the comfort-and-style ethos, but applies it to the everyday professional, starting with a perfect classic black pant. The collection is comfortable, tailored, and flattering. Most importantly, all the items are machine-washable and don’t lose shape. We sat down with founder Eunice Cho at her downtown LA studio loft to find out more.
How did the Aella concept become a reality?
Aella was created from personal experience and necessity. Back when I interviewed to get into grad school, I had to buy my first suit, and it was just a horrible experience. Everything was so expensive, boring, and uncomfortable. I had to wear a lot of suits during business school at UCLA, and my discomfort with suits only grew. Having to spend so much money on something I hated wearing was the worst
My family is in textiles, so I figured it was worth trying something new. When I saw a friend’s mom wear Lululemon tights to work and make it look fashionable, I took this idea and researched fabrics. I prototyped a new product—a black pant—and learned the whole process on my own while I was in school. The following year, Aella was born.
What brands would you compare Aella to?
Aesthetic wise, Azzedine Alaia makes fully knitted clothes that are so feminine, luxurious, and very flattering. It’s comfortable because it’s knit. Alaia is a strong brand because people are getting so much quality for their buck.
What differentiates Aella from other fashion brands?
Aella products feel comfortable, like you’re wearing yoga pants, without sacrificing polish. They have a lasting factor while being machine washable.
Aella is available only online. Do you plan on ever opening up a brick and mortar?
By next year we want to invest into some kind of brick and mortar location that becomes our flagship and home. It’s important to have an in-person interaction with this type of product.
Who are your favorite fashion designers or brands?
I like Theory and Alaia, but love Dior—and love, love, love Raf Simmons. I also tend to frequent my friend’s Instagram feeds, because I find it much more interesting to see what real people need and are interacting with. Brands on Instagram are forcefully producing content and are at times too mindful.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
There’s a constant drive to prove those who have doubted me wrong. My professors back in business school, for example, weren’t the most optimistic or supportive about my plans for Aella. But I just used it as motivation to continue my vision.
What fashion trends do you wish you saw more or less of today?
I’d like to see more pants, obviously. I don’t like the diaper shorts trend; some girls can pull it off, but for the most part, not so much. Another trend I dislike is led by Nasty Gal, where provocative fashion is now becoming mainstream—that’s not okay.
Where do you shop in LA? Any must visits?
Malia Mills, Topshop, and Reformation.
Which style is your absolute favorite out of the Aella collection?
I wear the Skinnies style every day.
Where do you see Aella in 10 years?
For now, we want to focus on pants, because it’s essentially the DNA of Aella and it’s the category I really want to own. Eventually, we want to produce a lot of different categories: shirts, sweaters, and any layering pieces you can think of. I also hope to have brick and mortar locations internationally and evolve it into a full lifestyle business. Beyond retail, I make sure to contribute to the female community—like getting involved with the non-profit Dress for Success, which provides businesswear for low-income women—because Aella was really created to help women feel confident and comfortable.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs out there?
You have to focus on what works for you and stick to your guns. When you start thinking about what everyone else is doing, you lose your differentiation. For me, I have to think big and small—and also think about what my audience wants—to make this business worthwhile. At the end of the day, I focus on my customers, why they are buying, and how to make that process better.