May 18, 2016 05:36 PM

After defining the aesthetic of the turn of the twenty-first century with the invention of Juicy Couture’s now iconic tracksuits (which according to Vogue are still the chicest athleisure trend going), Lisa Shaller-Goldberg turned her eye towards the world of knitwear, launching her luxury cashmere line Minnie Rose. Over the past decade, what started as a pet project has blossomed into a booming business, becoming an instant celebrity favorite, spotted on everyone from Charlize Theron to Duchess Kate to Oprah Winfrey, pioneering sweater trends and slowly evolving into a fully realized lifestyle brand. We talked to the woman behind Minnie Rose about how she shaped the sartorial aesthetic of the decade and what exactly she has up her cashmere knit sleeve next.

AKM-GSI

How did you get started in fashion?

“At 28, I opened a showroom called Simply Chic here in New York and then I went out to L.A. and quickly became known for representing emerging designers from the West Coast. This was in the ’90s when all those brands came on the scene, like Frankie B, Earl Jean, True Religion, but my biggest claim to fame is Juicy Couture. I went to a showroom and noticed a cute little rack of t-shirts in the back, so I called Pam [Skaist-Levy] and Gela [Nash-Taylor] [the founders of Juicy] and was like, ‘Hi, I want to represent your line.’ At the time, the only t-shirt that was happening was Michael Stars, and he had been in business for about 8 months. So I got all my stores to try it and that became the birth of the t-shirt as an item. Then, I sat down with the girls and said, ‘Everybody’s on our tail, we need to come up with the next hot thing,’ and I came up with the idea of a track suit.”

So tell me exactly how that came about.

“I said to the girls, ‘Listen, we took the t-shirt and we made it really sexy and fitted, lets take a sweat suit and do the same thing.’ So, the next season comes and all of these boxes are in my office and I run around opening up every box and there is the sexy, tight little fitted, zipped terry track jacket and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, they did it! They listened!’ I had my track suit and it was like reinventing the world. That was the birth of the track suit.”

Planet Blue

And it became like the look of the millennium. That is what everyone thinks of when they think of that decade.

“Exactly, that was that business for 18 years of my life until they sold it to Liz Claiborne. My husband had to talk me out of jumping out the window. But what happened is I introduced Juicy to the factory that made their cashmere in China. Well, once they sold to Liz Claiborne, that factory approached me because they were afraid they were going to lose a lot of business. They asked me to start my own line of cashmere sweaters, whatever I wanted to make. They said pick a name and we’ll invest, you just design it and sell it. That’s how Minnie Rose was born.”

What pieces did you launch with?

“It started with six basic styles. Flying out to LA for a Juicy meeting, it was freezing and I didn’t have a sweater. So I went to Fred Segal and I bought this cashmere duster and paid $1,000 for it, but I never took that sweater off my body, ever. So when I was approached to go into my own brand that was the first sweater I did and, again, the entire industry copied it. It’s been one of my core items on the line ever since. 10 years ago, there was no such thing as a cashmere duster. Now, I’ve built a 20 million dollar business and it’s still my number one style. It’s hard to reinvent when my biggest problem is being too ahead, it’s just as bad as not being on trend.”

How would you describe your customer?

“Our customer, basically, is the Juicy customer who grew up and now has homes all over and her daughter is stealing our stuff out of her closet. It’s a generational thing because a lot of our pieces are one size fits all, so it doesn’t discriminate against size or age.”

Alan Carsen/Whitehotpix/ZUMA

 

What are some of your favorite celebrity Minnie Rose moments?

Jessica Alba lives in our boyfriend sweater and requests it in all different colors, as does Charlize Theron and Alessandra Ambrosio. Kate Middleton was wearing us the week she got married, pushing a shopping cart in our ruffle shawl. I couldn’t afford a PR firm at the time, so a lot of the press we got was completely organic. Somebody said to me, did you see the 
Sex In The City
 movie yet? Samantha is wearing our hooded duster when she’s running on the beach.”

It seems like you’re really good at pinpointing these niches in the market, could you tell us what you see as the next big thing?

“You want the next big item? I would tell you, but then I’d have to eat you. I don’t want to say kill you, but I’d have to eat you. I will tell you, though, what is going to be a huge item is fur pom-poms. I just did a cashmere slipper with a fur pom-pom on it and I’ve already sold over 1,000 pairs. People are obsessed with fur pom-poms. For Christmas, I think everything is going to have pom-poms all over it.”

You’ve already accomplished so much, where do you hope to see your business go in the future?

“We currently sell in over 800 really high-end stores and we just opened our first in-house shop at Bloomingdales. People have also been approaching me about licensing deals as far as handbags and shoes and Minnie Rose home, the opportunities for licensing are endless. It’s a really strong label, and we’re looking to make it a household brand.”

It’s nice you have the freedom to take whatever opportunity comes your way.

“It’s like being a kid in a candy store! Whenever I meet somebody that knows how to make something, that’s the next thing I’m making. It’s fun to see how well this brand has been received throughout three different generations. I don’t know many people that can do that.”

WENN Ltd / Alamy

And that’s what luxury is supposed to be, something that is generational, something you can pass down, and endures.

“Exactly. I’m pretty sure that Kate Middleton got her shawl out of the Queen’s closet, just to wear it to go to the supermarket like, ‘Oh, this old thing!’ When I got a phone call that she was wearing it, I nearly died.”

That’s definitely one way to make sure you always look regal and pretty much the best PR you can ask for.

“Well, one of the best was — I know I’m not supposed to mention this name, but it is a true story — when Britney Spears came through LAX she had a Minnie Rose ruffle shawl over her head hiding from the paparazzi, you could see the label right on her forehead! My father called me and was like, ‘Lisa What are you doing in LAX?’ I told him, dad, that’s Britney Spears! But the bad part was I didn’t have a PR firm at the time to do anything with that photo, can you imagine? There she was, the night before had been her big VMA performance with the snake, and the next day she has my shawl on her forehead. I was like, ‘Who do I call? What do I do? I couldn’t do anything, but it was pretty cool.”

What’s your favorite Juicy tracksuit or cashmere sweater moment? What’s your favorite sweater style?

–Emily Kirkpatrick

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