Get to Know Nettle Founders: Lili & Alex 🌟
Q: What was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Lili: Alex and I started Nettle Studios back in 2016 while we were working in the fashion industry and found that we missed the truly creative process we had in art school. We missed the physical sourcing of fabric, the draping of garments on form, and we just missed the freedom of creating what we wanted, when we wanted. At the time we were both gravitating towards linen clothing and the feel of linen against our skin, but we couldn’t find many options locally that gave us the right “fit experience”. The easiest way we saw to get what we wanted, was to make it ourselves.
Q: How does your business help the community or the world?
Alex: We’ve grown a lot over the last few years, and we like to think that we’re adding a bit of joy into the world. We focus primarily on fun, bright, comfortable fabric in fun, comfortable, and cool shapes that work on every single body type. We want Nettle to be an unapologetic option for those who feel their tastes and body types are not represented at other brands. Based on the positive feedback that we get from our customers, we feel like we’re achieving our mission thus far.
Q: How do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your
Lili: I love this question, and I ask myself this often in my career and business. I love risk, and I like to lean into the uncomfortable to make it comfortable. In a way, this is how trends work in the cycle of fashion, and we, as small business owners, have to think on our feet and be willing to adapt when we get challenged. I
believe that my approach to risk taking and perspective on growth has proven to
positively influence everything that I do. Nettle has grown to where it is because
of risk and how we have embraced it over the years!
Q: What is the most important factor behind your success/the success of your brand?
Alex: Fun prints and great fabrics aside, the thing that really makes us different is our
size inclusivity and how our clothing fits on the body. We really push the limit on
what is “possible” or “traditional” to do what’s right for us and our customers. If
we had listened to everyone who told us that what we were doing didn’t make
sense or didn’t follow the rules, we wouldn’t be as successful or as popular as we
are amongst our fan base. We can only hope to continue the trajectory that
we’re on with our new and upcoming styles.
Q: How has your balance changed over time? How do you think about
Lili: Work/life balance is a very big topic of discussion for us and we are always evolving our relationship to it. In our younger years, we prioritized work above many things and clocked countless long hours working to achieve our goals. As I’m aging and growing, I’ve found that I’m starting to prioritize peace above all
else. What that means for us as business owners is figuring out how to delegate
sustainably and how to work with small family owned manufacturers to help us
balance the day to day work of making and creating clothing. We’re so thrilled
that we’re able to grow and maintain relationships with the small businesses and
craftspeople in our area to help us keep the labor local and in turn, helps us to
balance our contributions to the business so we can continue focusing on how to
Q: What makes you happy? Why?
Lili: Ha! Right now it’s making butter. I find it really satisfying to turn cream into delicious butter and buttermilk. I really love French grey salt and butter butter (iykyk) so learning how to make it and getting to enjoy it on hot bread is just pure happiness, to me.
Alex: I moved recently so on my days off I've been going on walks and taking a new route each time so that I don't miss anything. One day I took a turn and found myself at the top of San Bruno Mountain 2 hours later, ha! Being outside is happiness to me right now, and i’m taking every chance I can to be out there and enjoy our San Francisco summer. I’ve also recently rejoined the library and have checked out several books on birds (i’m turning into my parents, ha!) and vegetable gardening so who knows where that will take me! ;) The winter months are hard for me mentally and creatively so I'm banking all the sun I can right now!
Q: Why did you pursue an artistic or creative career?
Lili: For me there was no other option. As a child I was too creative and too headstrong for there to be any other way forward, and I was lucky enough to have parents and family who (begrudgingly) supported my choices and recognized that I would do what I wanted, regardless of what they wanted. For my immigrant parents, pursuing art/creativity was very risky and they were really very nervous about what that might mean for my success in life. Luckily, my choices have lead me to where I am and my family is proud of my success and the success of Nettle Studios.
Alex: I never really thought about doing anything else, actually! My mom was a kindergarten teacher growing up, and I was even homeschooled for a few years before our family moved to Washington State. Growing up with a creative mom who taught my sister and I through art, diy’s, and movement in those first few years really showed me that learning is circular. I do have to give some credit to my dad as well! He owned an auto body business when I was young and I loved visiting him at work where I would watch him paint and pinstripe flames on cars for hours. He always told me that no matter what I wanted to do when I was older, always work for yourself! I eventually found my way to an art high school where I majored in dance– and it was my whole life! I’m a kinesthetic learner, so I learn by doing. Finding a highschool that celebrated art as a way to learn ( sometimes humanities homework looked like choreographing a dance about a book), and taught me that you can pursue art as a career after high school and that it isn't just an elective you take once a day was what ultimately inspired me to pursue fashion. My parents were even supportive of me going to fashion school even though I graduated during the recession, and everyone was telling them they were crazy for not sending me to a traditional 4 year college ;)
Q: How do you define success?
Lili: Great question! I feel like it’s easy to say ‘oh we’ll be successful if this launch sells out or we reach a certain monetary goal’—the reality of success is a lot more vague than that to me, and I feel like it’s that vagueness that keeps me motivated to continue setting goals and goalposts. Success to me, is the continued positive reception of the pieces and clothing that we design. In this economy, the continuation of our brand feels like success. As long as people keep finding joy in it, we’ll keep making it.