Today we’d like to introduce you to Lela Orr.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Lela. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Growing up in the suburbs of Dallas, my idea of fashion was what I saw in department store windows, but that soon changed. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my grandmother introduced me to French and American Vogue and from then on I was completely enamored of high fashion. Unlike everyday clothing, the garments featured in editorials were true art – they told a story and captured the reader’s attention. From early childhood on I designed my own collections and kept up with trends.
In my teens, I definitely dreamt of becoming a designer, but it didn’t seem like an attainable or practical path. I loved school and was very involved in cheerleading, debate team, and soccer, which didn’t leave much time for designing. Also, like many 18-year-olds, I truly didn’t know what I wanted to do or be, so when I received a scholarship to Tulane University, I decided to pursue a degree in Business and International Development. Once I graduated, I moved to one of my favorite cities, NYC, where I worked as a Sales Associate for an accessory manufacturer. It was there that I was able to work with their in-house accessory design team and I realized my calling was to be a fashion designer.
At 23 I got into Parsons The New School for Design’s Associate in Fashion Design Program with a partial scholarship. Once I was accepted to Parsons, I decided to fully commit to staying in New York to pursue fashion design – I sold my car to pay off the remaining balance of tuition and school materials and began interning with emerging fashion designer Charles Harbison and worked as a production intern at The Row.
After graduating in 2015 and completing my internships, I approached Fashion X about debuting my expanded graduate collection at Dallas Fashion Week, or Fashion X Dallas. While this was a big risk, as I was fresh out of school and would be showing to the Dallas fashion-elite, I decided to take the risk, and it paid off. I received my first custom orders after my show and decided to relocate to Dallas and start my own eco-luxury womenswear brand, Ferrah.
Since my first show in 2015, I’ve created three additional collections and shown at Fashion X Dallas, Fashion X Austin, and Southern Design Week in New Orleans. In 2016, I won the Bernina Fashion Fund Award from Fashion X and met my business partner Lea Nyland. We have since collaborated with other brands, photographers, models, and dancers and have been featured in Austere Magazine, Ugly Fat Magazine (Denmark) and Flanelle Magazine (Canada).
My goal for last year was to become a completely sustainable and ethical fashion brand. While working for others in the fashion industry, I noticed an extreme amount of waste and lack of eco and ethical awareness. As a business owner, I wanted to do my part in helping the environment and reduce Ferrah’s carbon footprint. As of 2017, Ferrah is completely zero-waste and we use all-natural dyes and fabric. We also no longer use any animal products and are a completely cruelty-free brand. Last, we also exclusively work with factories that share our ethical labor standards.
There are many more exciting projects on the horizon, both personally and professionally. I’m very excited for what’s to come in 2018.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The path to my present wasn’t an easy road, but chasing your dreams and achieving big goals is never simple. When I was young, my family did not have a lot, but this challenged me to be more creative and use my imagination. As my parents became more successful, they instilled within me the value of hard work and I learned never to take things for granted, because everything is temporary.
Fashion is a very demanding industry and is not as glamorous as the glossy pages of Vogue would lead you to believe, but I believe it’s my work ethic and determination that got me to where I am. As an intern, I worked crazy hours and now as a business owner, you really are always on the clock, but it’s so worth it.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Ferrah – what should we know?
My business, Ferrah is an eco-luxury womenswear brand – we are high-fashion with a low carbon footprint. We specialize in creating luxury apparel made from natural materials and dyes. As of 2017, we are zero-waste, so nothing is thrown out, everything is either recycled or reused in the form of new textiles of accessories. We also reduce waste by incorporating zero-waste cutting techniques and patterning so that almost 100% of our materials are used in the creation process. Also, I’m proud to say that this year we are no longer working with animal-based products and will be a completely cruelty-free luxury brand.
Aside from our ability to be “green” and high-end, I think what sets the brand apart from others is our team dynamic. Ferrah is now operated by myself and my business partner Lea Nyland. I, being from Texas and studying design in NYC, have a very different take on design and just on life in general compared to my partner Lea, who is from Denmark and studied fashion design in Barcelona. As soon as I met Lea, I knew she was a very special person and talented designer and I think we both really elevate each other’s aesthetics and push each other to be better designers – I think you see this in our collections (Collection III and IV). There aren’t ant Southern/Scandinavian design duos out there (at least that I know of), which I think lends to our very unique design philosophy and sets us apart from other Dallas designers.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My parents – Laurie and Lex deserve a big shout out. They have been my biggest supporters since day one. Starting your own company is tough, and without their support, I most definitely would not have been able to make Ferrah a reality.
I would also like to mention my mentor, Ann Kasper. After winning the Bernina Fashion Fund in 2016, Matt Swinney, the founder of Fashion X, introduced me to Ann. Ann is an impressive Senior Executive and Business Consultant in both retail and wholesale sides of the business. She helped me to realize Ferrah’s potential, improved our marketing and branding strategy, and encouraged us to boost sales and take the company to where it is today – selling both on our own website and on other retailer’s e-commerce platforms.
Thank you to so many more of my mentors, friends, family members and followers. I so appreciate your support!
- Website: www.ferrah.co
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: ferrahofficial
- Facebook: ferrahofficial
Marshall David, Nick Arnold, Haley Halter, Mikayla Harmon, Kalli Keith (all with Kim Dawson Agency), Jacie Scott, Jessica Henry, Lacey Salas, Lea Nyland