Interview with Desiree Buchanan of PopLinen

profile of women with curly hair in a white pullover

It’s essential as a brand that you understand what you are offering and take the time to work out what’s your mission, your value proposition, who your customer is, and what story you are trying to tell.

Desiree Buchanan, Founder of PopLinen

PopLinen is all about earth-friendly quality pieces that address a women’s demanding lifestyle needs.

Desiree Buchanan started PopLinen in 2018, creating a sustainable women’s brand that created premium essentials that were made right here in the USA in sizes from XS to 3X. Bold Metrics podcast series BOLD Brands, speaks with Buchanan to find out more about her earth-friendly line that celebrates body diversity while championing comfort and inclusivity, and discover how she meets the challenges of giving women what they want in a piece of clothing.

Desiree Buchanan: I left The Black Tux in 2017 and spent the whole summer just working on my brand and then created a Kickstarter. 

Growing up, I saw a lot of fashion advertising about what to wear and around fashion brands, and I just never really connected with those brands. And I felt that if I was going to do this, I wanted to create a brand that made women feel more than, and not less than, by creating clothing that celebrated women and all their differences as opposed to trying to be or make women try to fit into what the brand offered.

Small-batch production and a proximity to the factories that she works with enable Buchanan to offer quality pieces that meet her exacting standards.

BOLD Brands: You started this initial Kickstarter campaign in 2018, creating clothes for women by women, and you started with five different apparel pieces. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Desiree Buchanan: With our Kickstarter, we started something very simple, just the five different tops that I thought would be tried-and-true styles that are very timeless and that women can enjoy for years to come. It was a great learning experience, one Kickstarter is just a whole ordeal, and it took up so much time even before we launched. Just the planning and creating the video and working through what our values are and what we wanted to share with the world, and once we kicked off, there was just so much great feedback from women, in particular, one of the biggest lessons I have learned from it is that the messaging is great. 

Women love the styles, but one thing that really stuck out is that a lot of women asked, “This great but are you ever going to offer plus sizes?” and that was just a lightbulb moment for me. When I thought, well, why aren’t we offering that? It was definitely important, especially if we were going to talk about this message of inclusivity and sustainability. All women felt connected to this. From this Kickstarter, we were able to use a lot of these resources to get started to create sizes from XS to 3X

If you are going to do a Kickstarter, you have to be ready to commit, and then there’s just so much knowledge you will gain from just people interacting and excitement around what you are offering.

Bold Metrics: You also made a good point when you talked about all the work that goes into creating a Kickstarter campaign. Many people think that they can start a Kickstarter quickly and throw things on but that it’s just not the case. It is a big ordeal from the marketing side to just put all those pieces together. 

Desiree Buchanan: Absolutely! I always advise people to just put a timeline around it and not rush into it and to definitely, if they can, try to get a consultant for help. I think that there are a lot of companies who help new brands or entrepreneurs who are trying to launch something on there and give them feedback and guidance on how to create a successful campaign, so I would recommend really taking the time if you are going that route because you want to make sure that your message is clear and that you can be accessible to people if they reach out around that.

profile of women with curly hair in a white pullover
In addition to offering classics manufactured in the USA using sustainable methods of production, PopLinen also takes pains to work only with factories that pay fair wages.

About manufacturing in LA…

LA has just a great scene for manufacturing and selling and production. It is a little bit fragmented in the sense that it isn’t easy to just Google, for example, ‘best place for production.’ 

You have to do your research, and you have to talk to people in the industry and visit these places. That whole process took about a year for me to really feel grounded with our processes and our patternmaking and production. I had some hard lessons to learn around who I could trust and where (I could find) good production managers who really understood what I wanted to do in finding the places that were paying fair wages.

I can see how some people can do their work (and manufacturing) overseas, but for me being a small independent company and making small-batch production runs, we test them, and if it performs well, we produce more of that item. It just makes a lot of sense to have that close by, where I can keep a good eye on it.

BOLD Brands: You have a background in PR and strategy, and you work with brands like Condé Nast and Warby Parker, and so you have a lot of useful experience working with the press and telling compelling stories. A lot of our listeners are start-ups that are wondering—How do I get my brand out there? How do I get visibility?. What tips would you give to start-ups struggling with getting visibility in a crowded space, especially in the apparel industry, which is already an incredibly crowded space.

Desiree Buchanan: Yes, it is a very crowded space, as you mentioned, I am fortunate that I have experience in PR and in this creative realm where you are continually thinking of the story and needing to connect with others. But I think the advice I would give, especially in regards to PR, is that it is really important that you build more connections and go out of your way to meet with many the editors or bloggers or influences or writers in your community. Being in LA, it is helpful that there are many writers and editors based out here. You want to do your research around who is writing articles about the industry you are in—and reading those articles to understand better what the writer likes to cover and finding their email or reaching out to them on social media and striking up a conversation, or introducing yourself and letting them know what you do. That way, if there’s any story that they have coming up with your product for your idea complements, then you’ll be top of mind. 

Opening up those lines of communication can be helpful. You might not hear back from all of them, but for most, you will, and it’s about the right product at the right time, so I’ve been a big advocate for that.

We try to have that authentic connection by sharing those mutual values, so I think you want to pursue that route rather than cold emailing a ton of editors and not knowing what they cover. That can tend to put the wrong message out about you all that you are doing. It’s really just following the press and media who are covering what you are doing.

It’s essential as a brand that you understand what you are offering and take the time to work out what’s your mission, your value proposition, who your customer is, and what story you are trying to tell—and just staying super consistent with that and in all of your content messaging. We drive home inclusivity and sustainability and offer a premium clothing product, and those are our three pillars, and we tell those messages in different and new ways. By always bringing our audience and customers back to those three pillars, it helps a message to stick.

It’s so easy to try and be everything to everyone, but it doesn’t work, and you know, your audience and your customers are smart, they pick up on authenticity. So really take the time to figure that out and figure out your story and tell that consistently is super important.

Click to find out more about PopLinen

Bold Metrics technology helps PopLinen customers find their best fit, reduces returns, and boosts conversions. To find out how we can help your apparel brand become more sustainable, request a demo now. 

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