Written by The Strategy
It’s time for the world to realize that the future is female. There are so many female entrepreneurs who inspire us and we wanted to know more about how they got their companies off the ground. Welcome to our series: The Future Is Female, where we sit down with inspiring female entrepreneurs and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how their companies operate.
In this edition of The Future is Female, we’d like for you to meet a fellow Toronto local, Tahnee Lloyd-Smith. She’s a stylist-turned-designer who founded the luxury denim brand, PRETTY DENIM, with her husband, Bob Froese. Using her stylist background, Tahnee, who rarely used to wear denim, created a brand of elevated denim basics that focuses on finishings, fabrics and the perfect fit. The PRETTY DENIM brand was launched in 2018, and is proudly made in Toronto.
What made you start PRETTY DENIM?
It was a bit of a round-about way. I did not come from a production side of fashion, and I just happened to be helping, as a stylist, a friend of my husbands who was looking to launch some sort of fashion business. She didn’t know what exactly she wanted to do, so together we started strategizing what the business could look like and figuring where the holes in the market were. She was a CEO and a business woman, so we settled on a workwear line to rival a Theory or a Smythe brand.
Through the process, unfortunately, our relationship did not survive, and I left feeling very deflated. As I was ‘boo-hoo’ing’, I realized I learnt so much in the process; it was a hard-core business school on how to launch a fashion brand – I didn’t want that to go to waste. Because I am not a traditional designer, I lead business-first, I looked into the market place to discover holes and where it would make actual sense to create a product and what is a product I can produce here that is cost effective. What I landed on was jeans.
What was ironic, was I actually didn’t own jeans. I used to wear jeans as a kid. I came from a sort of wasp-y family, and that’s where the idea of creating a denim brand that was totally elevated came from. My husband is in advertising, so I bounced the idea off him. Immediately, he said ‘the world doesn’t need another denim brand,” but I explained to him that people are spending more money on their jeans now than they ever have historically. Also, denim has stood the test of time and will always be something people will buy, especially when adding this twist of being this a truly elevated and tailored brand around denim could be a truly unique in for us.
PRETTY DENIM was born.
How did you come up with the name?
It literally was literal. It was the idea of pretty denim. But as I loved the name for it’s simplicity, I got really fascinated with the word “pretty” and what it actually means. As I did research, I found that the Latin word for pretty was so different than what we actually use now. The word is: satis, which means cunning, skillful, wiley, artful and astute. That to me really embodied actually how I felt about wanting to put the brand into the world. I fell in deeper love with the word ‘pretty’. The picking of the name started off as really basic, but it turned out to be really powerful, and a powerful drive as to what the brand is actually about.
What is funny to me is that as young girls, ‘pretty’ is thrown out as such a basic sentiment, which is fine, but if the world new more deeply some of these powerful words that make up what ‘pretty’ meant in the Latin term, it would be fucking amazing.
What did your career look like before PRETTY DENIM, and how did you get here today?
I started off in performing arts, but ultimately, it wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career. I got into hostessing at restaurants, and that trickled into event planning. I was that person who saw an opportunity or met someone who could take me to another direction, who was lucky enough to not have to worry about paying rent, so I would often volunteer or intern for anything. At one point hostessing, I met someone who worked at a huge nightlife conglomerate working in the PR department, and I literally shifted over to that. That trickled into me focusing on the fashion side of events, and I fell in love with fashion. I loved clothes and fashion, so I started working with a stylist and focused on becoming a stylist. I worked with women initially, and then my styling career ended working with men as a personal stylist for more corporate clientele.
Because of the opportunity to work with the friend of my husbands, the skills that I learned and my passion for people, I believed I could make a brand that was human focused, and created garments.
What was the biggest struggle or hurdle?
The biggest hurdle would be getting eyes on the brand. We’re an incredibly small team, and as an independent brand, you have to be pretty lean with your budget. One of the places that’s really hard is how to get people to notice the brand so that enough people can then buy the product. We do really well and we have a consumer that comes back and shops repeatedly, but trying to break through to more eyes, like many brands, is a huge struggle.
Has there been a moment when you’ve realized you were making it?
We’re very lucky that every week something small happens that a nice pat on our backs, but I would say a big moment is that we are now on an Oprah show. About 4 months ago, someone reached out to us from a production company who was working on a show called, Kings of Napa. It is on the OWN network and it’s about an all-Black wine dynasty family. Our skirts from the collection that we just closed out are going to be the uniforms for the staff in the tasting room. I think everyone else was originally more excited than I was, because the reality of making that happen in a short period of time was a lot. But, it was great because somehow we broke through all the noise and someone heard of us and loved us.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
You can get everything you want, you just have to manage the expectation of your timeline. If your goal is to achieve, produce or invent something or make something of yourself, let that be the goal, not the time it takes to get there. We get caught up in giving ourselves an expectation of when things happen, when they really just need to actually happen, regardless of when.