Behind the Seams: How My Dream of Creating a Natural Baller Clothing Line Became Reality
As a young girl, I would watch America’s Next Top Model and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, dreaming of one day being like 'those girls.' In my head, I had abs and was strutting the runway in heels and designer clothing. But in reality, by the 5th grade I was too chubby to fit into the Abercrombie kids line, couldn’t walk in heels to save my life, and had never worn even a smidge of makeup. I ended up mostly growing out of this awkward (and funny) phase of my life, but it no doubt had a lasting impact on my perspective. Firstly, this time period introduced me to the unrealistic beauty standards imposed on women, and made me want to do something to challenge them. Secondly, it sparked my love of fashion! Below I take you ‘Behind the Seams’ and give you some insight into my journey creating Natural Baller’s clothing line. While it has been a dream come true, like most things, it has not been all glitz and glamour!
Originally, I thought I could launch a Natural Baller clothing line through a partnership with an already established brand. Truthfully, this idea was enticing because it wouldn’t have mattered that I had no connections with any fabric mills or clothing manufacturers at the time. I started meeting with some clothing brands in New York, and I was so excited to find out people loved my pitch. I was on top of the world, leaving business meetings and strutting the streets of NYC (little Julia would be proud!) as a soon-to-be clothing designer. My dad (who doubles as both my business partner and best friend) flew in to be there with me for support and we began to decide our next steps. But, in all honesty, things were a little too good to be true. The more we talked with brands, the more I realized that partnering with an existing brand would really diminish the creative freedom I would have if I took the leap purely on my own. I didn’t want someone else choosing a fabric that wasn’t eco-friendly to cut costs, or weighing in on what the designs should look like. I had some non-negotiables and I wasn't willing to let them go.
So, in October of 2019 we decided to start from scratch and design my dream capsule collection for Natural Baller. We worked with a company in New Jersey and turned my designs into tech-packs, sourced fabrics that were eco-friendly and insanely soft, found a factory in the U.S. that would manufacture my pieces, developed fit samples and conducted product fittings, and tweaked every little detail until I finally had the perfect pieces. I made every decision from how big an arm hole should be, to what sort of stitching a piece should have, to how low the neckline should be, to designing the hang tags, and everything in between. I flew from Chicago to New York about 20 times in a 6 month period and spent my time meeting with my production team during the week and going to Giants’ games on Sundays. I was insanely busy, but I was having the time of my life. I even served as my own fit model at my first fitting, where I was humbled as I tried on our Self-Love Set for the first time, and what were supposed to be flowy, breezy shorts stuck to my thighs like spandex. My dad and I laughed as we agreed we now understood why people hire fit models, and that while I was making it as a business owner, fit modeling was not in my future career path.
Things were going great and I was planning for a July 2020 clothing launch, until COVID-19 hit. Factories shutdown, production came to a halt, and business was slow. I had a brief period of panic when I dramatically announced to my family that all of my hard work was for nothing and this was never going to work out. “Welcome to the life of an entrepreneur,” my dad said. I gave myself a reality check and realized that it was in moments like these when people either dug their feet in and found a way to make things work, or gave up — and I was not about to give up. I moved meetings around, pushed deadlines, changed all of our launch plans to exclude any sort of in-person or pop-up events, and began working on a digital launch strategy.