06 Nov Elevating Lafayette 148 to Iconic Status
The empowering process of helping Lafayette 148 women feel their power so they can build their worlds
Pre-Covid 2019, I was living and working on the Upper East Side, grateful for my cozy pre-war Park Avenue apartment and blissfully unaware of any impending crisis. One day I got a call from Travis Stratford, an old friend at CASE Agency and fellow post-Mormon and BYU alum. Travis told me about an interesting new CASE client, a women-run, Brooklyn-based fashion brand called Lafayette 148.
“We’re in over our heads! We need to bring someone in to lead strategy,” he said, “Can you come to a meeting in Brooklyn this week to meet the team?”
It was a no-brainer. I told Travis to count me in, and a few days later I was in a car headed towards the Lafayette 148 headquarters in the Brooklyn Naval Yard.
Getting acquainted with a women-led brand’s leadership and storied history
Inside, I was introduced to founder Deirdre Quinn. As we looked out her office window at the jaw-dropping views of Brooklyn and Manhattan across the East River, we talked about the fashion industry and the rich history of Lafayette 148. Quinn started the brand in 1996 with Ida and Shun Yen Siu, a husband and wife team with fashion manufacturing experience. From a lone desk on a Chinese factory floor, she had laid the foundation for what was now an internationally respected women’s luxury label.
In that moment, I remembered visiting my aunt in Brooklyn Heights when I was twelve. I spent the trip daydreaming of being a fashion designer or an international marketing executive living in New York. Now I was looking out across Brooklyn, in admiration of Deirdre and what she had built, about to embark on a dream assignment of my own. It felt like a premonition realized.
That afternoon we gathered in a conference room for a credentials presentation. This initial meeting consisted of the core Lafayette 148 team, Playbook Studio, and Travis and CASE Agency. It was truly a collaborative dream team, with each agency bringing a unique perspective and skillset to the table. In the meeting, team members introduced themselves and voiced their ambitions and unrealized dreams for the brand. I brought up Dove’s groundbreaking “Campaign for Real Beauty” I had been a part of 13 years ago at Ogilvy, and we talked about the urgent need to continue leading and changing the cultural conversation around women and women’s issues.
Hearing Oglivy, someone in the room interjected. “Do you know Carol Schuster?” they asked and called her into the meeting. I did know Carol! The two of us had worked together on several global businesses at Oglivy and since fallen out of touch. It was great to have a familiar face on the team.
An ambitious team seeks to unlock the brand’s resonance, convey its relevance
In the following weeks, I conducted interviews with key stakeholders in design, marketing, and retail. Everyone described a directionless lack of alignment across channels and a lack of clarity about who the Lafayette 148 customer was. With its vertically integrated supply chain allowing for on-demand garment production, the company had long catered to the needs of department store clients. In the process, the designers had lost their point of view.
Having left the corporate space, it was inspiring to hear these women discuss the challenges of innovating and building something bigger than themselves. As a woman thinking about what I’ve accomplished and what I still want to achieve, many of the ideas and ambitions they shared resonated with me on a personal level. Here was a women-run brand, eager to dress and represent women entrepreneurs and business leaders like myself. But browsing the garments, Lafayette 148’s problem was plain to see. While I felt a connection with the brand’s story and leading women, the clothing felt outdated, irrelevant, and unfocused.
Meanwhile, the dream team was working hard trying to define the Lafayette 148 customer and crystalize her values. Chelsea Shields, a CASE research partner and professor of Social Science, gathered valuable qualitative insight through a series of focus groups held in showrooms and prospective customers’ homes. Back in brand strategy workshops at Lafayette 148’s Brooklyn HQ, Shields’ ethnographic data and Playbook’s interview transcripts provided the source material needed to craft and refine customer profiles and personas.
Collective reflections and analyses get at the heart of the Lafayette customer
Our work reached its apex during a Playbook-led cross-functional work session with Lafayette 148’s leadership, design, and social teams, CASE, and veteran design firm Select Worldwide. Drawing on months of cultural and competitive analysis, we sought to understand the ideal Lafayette 148 customer, articulate the brand’s core purpose, and tie everything together with a single sentence. In a transformative conversation, we were discussing the ethos of architecture and its relationship to the brand. I was sitting next to Hans Dorsinville, a Select partner. At one point, I glanced at Hans’ notes, looked back to my own, and saw that we had both scrawled the words, “build something.”
Out of that aha moment came a guiding narrative and a slogan, “Help Women Feel Their Power To Build Their Worlds,” succinctly summarized as “Keep Building.” Simon Douaire, Hans, and the rest of the Select Worldwide team translated these ideas into a brand book and cohesive visual code spanning product photography, store experience, and pattern design. The new icon, dubbed the “L Beam” after the steel “I” or “H-Beams” used in building structures, provided a sleek all-purpose symbol for garment details.