Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lela Rose: an insider's look at fashion careers

Lela Rose Spring 2010 Ready-to-Wear; photo by Caitlin Donnelly

Thanks to Betsy Killough and Lela Rose for making me feel right at home in New York City.

On Tuesday night I made my way uptown to visit the corporate offices of Lela Rose, where Betsy Killough, former Lawrencian and Free-State High School Graduate works as Head of Sales.
The elevator dropped me off at the 13th floor, and as soon as the doors opened I felt right at home. The office of Lela Rose was emanating with those good ol’ hometown, sweet Kansas vibes.
Betsy gave me a tour of the studio, where I checked out the show room, pattern table, sewing station, storage closet, sample collections, wedding collections, inspiration board, and Lela Rose’s workspace.
Then I got to play dress-up! I tried on the new collection—pieces that had just brushed the runways at Bryant Park last Sunday!
The collection is already a hit—some dresses are pre-ordered for the Emmys! Betsy gave me some insight regarding such immediate reception: “Lela’s Spring 2010 Ready-to-Wear Collection is our best yet. It is modern and fashion forward. It’s a bit of a daring departure from Lela’s previous designs, yet the pieces are fresh and still remain true to who the Lela Rose customer is—that is me and you, your mother, your sister, your aunts, your girlfriends, your grandmother.” As I looked at the colorful knits, gorgeous linens, loose-fit blazers, and amazing chiffon blouses, I did imagine each of my friends and my own mother wearing the timelessly constructed pieces by Lela Rose.
Betsy explained, “The fit, form and upbeat colors of Lela Rose’s new line offer a pristine start for the new year. Simple adaptations have created a cohesive collection—experimental pleats, unique silhouettes, fun pocket-details, and a twist or shift of shapes offer an understandable sense of individuality that is definitely not boring.”
While Betsy was chatting with me, I recognized the twinkle of passion in her eye. She stands behind the clothing designed by Lela Rose, and she loves what she does. Betsy is humble; she recognizes that most women her age are not running an entire sales gamut for a major fashion firm in New York City: “When I was a sophomore in college I called up Ken Downing, the Fashion Director at Neiman Marcus, and I asked him for an internship. His secretary told me, ‘Mr. Downing doesn’t normally take interns,’ but I was persistent and got a spot. I was young and took chances—I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t Ken Downing give me a job?’ Now I’m in New York working for Lela Rose.”
Betsy gave me brilliant advice: “Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Don’t think too much, just do it.”
As I unzipped the beautiful colorblock linen skirt and pulled off the highlighter gauze tiered tank, I felt a confident fulfillment. I said farewell to the spring collection, and Betsy walked me down the street to the subway. In the night air of the big city, the two of us parted. “See you next time you’re home,” I said to Betsy.
“Yes,” she replied, “I’ll meet you in Lawrence.”

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