After launching and selling her eponymous maternity clothing brand, Liz Lange began yearning for her days as an entrepreneur.
To that end, she bought New York-based luxury women’s brand Figue, acquiring the 10-year-old brand in 2021 from founder Stephanie Von Watzdorf. Lange is currently CEO.
“I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t want to be the advisor or the investor,” Lange said on the latest episode of the Glossy Podcast.
Lange learned that Figue was available for sale after spending years wearing and admiring the brand’s clothes. “I knew [Figue] had 10 years of reputation building [under its belt], which is very difficult to achieve. So I thought, ‘Aha, maybe this is my next moment that’s supposed to be,'” she said.
In addition to its direct-to-consumer e-commerce site, the brand now sells at more than 50 outlets, including Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Lange classifies the brand as accessible and affordable luxury – its prices range from $73 to $1,572.
“I knew the brand was much more than a summer and vacation brand, and that we could achieve this by making more than dresses,” Lange said. She said Figue plans to increase sales by expanding into product categories such as swimwear, footwear and accessories.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
From brand fan to CEO
“I was living in Palm Beach during the pandemic and spending an awful lot of time outdoors. I found myself wearing Figue all the time. I had no affiliation with the brand [at the time]. It was just my personal choice. [Figue’s] fit resonated with me and I thought it would resonate with many of my friends. I knew [Figue] already had a lot of fans. I got to know their team and I love their team. I know how hard it is to build a team from scratch so the fact that there were already 10 fabulous women working for Figue and the brand already had a wholesale strategy [meant] there were a lot of things I was able to capitalize on. It was my firm belief that coming out of the pandemic, this is how women were going to dress. We were going to want to start looking good. At least for me, I didn’t want to be in a tight bandage dress and buy stilettos. I didn’t know if I could really come back to that. So it felt like the right brand was at the right time.
“I took over the existing [Figue] team, then I immediately hired someone to focus on e-commerce to build our new website and make it as friendly and user-friendly as possible. I had never found Figue’s website user-friendly enough for shopping. I immediately hired a merchant leader, [since] they had none. The design team remained intact, but I threw myself into it. I am [now] the creative director. I have a good understanding of how women want to be, more from a taste point of view, [even though] I don’t have a degree in fashion design. I hired a new wholesale manager because I wanted to be very aggressive on both wholesale and direct-to-consumer. [sales] simultaneously. That’s what we almost did [from] the first minute.
The store experience
“I love specialty stores. It’s in my roots. When I started in fashion in the early 1990s, specialty stores were so important. They were operated by their owner. I can’t stand how far we’ve moved away from owner-managed businesses these days. No one will care about their customer or their employees like an owner. There are still many great “mini empires” [that are] owner-operated specialty stores with 3-5 locations. The owner is always involved in the purchase. We will see the owner; they will personally come to our appointments. And they’ll say things like, ‘Mrs. So-and-so would like this dress. They know their customers and live for it. I live for it too. You have to love your customer and know your customer. I feel like it’s sad, especially in big stores, [where] it is an important chain of people. Does someone buying even make it to the sales floor or care who that customer is and what they want? I’m not so sure. I love specialty stores. America’s business is small business, and I love small business.