It’s clear who wears the pants in the Knoepfle family.
Tween sisters Lila and Georgia are launching LilaPants, an online boutique for their line of formalwear, in September.
The seeds of the idea were planted after Lila’s kindergarten graduation, when she decided she was done with dresses because they were itchy and tight.
“The boys’ suits were boring and there was nothing formal enough to replace a dress,” Lila said.
The girls’ mom, Jenny, supported the decision as long as Lila was dressed appropriately.
“Obviously, she couldn’t wear jeans and a hoodie to a wedding or funeral,” Jenny said.
Lila wanted to feel pretty, comfortable and confident, but nothing in the marketplace appealed to her.
A few years later while fishing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the girls’ father, Matt, posted a question to then 10-year-old Lila and 8-year-old Georgia. He asked, “If you could start any business, what would it be?”
Lila declared that she would make suits for girls who don’t like dresses. Georgia shared her enthusiasm for the idea, and the family started brainstorming ideas that day, deciding their suits would feature a detachable lapel.
LilaPants will sell suit colorways in ruby, peacock, black and floral. Optional lapels will come in ruby sequin, peacock sequin, black sequin and floral satin.
“You can put the floral [lapel] on one of the solid suits, so you can mix and match,” Jenny said. “So, if you invest in a suit, you’re going to get multiple looks. As opposed to having a closet full of dresses like [Georgia], you can have maybe one or two suits and wear the living heck out of them.”
The family is custom-making the fabric because they wanted to make the suit they would want to buy.
“I wanted, as a mom, something where if there was a rogue chicken nugget, I could throw it in the washing machine instead of having to take it to the cleaners,” Jenny said, “because taking a 6-year-old’s clothes to the cleaners seems ridiculous. So, we wanted it to be stretchy and comfortable, stain-resistant, wrinkle-resistant. It’s very forgiving.”
Before creating their products, the family consulted Debbi Schultz, the co-owner of a Bethesda-based specialty boutique called Lilac, which caters to girls ages 8 to 14.
Schultz told the girls there is a big need for the kind of formalwear they are making.
“When we started, we noticed there was tremendous difficulty in finding outfits that girls felt stylish in but that their moms also found age appropriate,” Schultz said. “We had been looking, looking and looking to find another option.”
Schultz is “really, really excited” to see how the LilaPants suits look, especially because they potentially fit into a “niche market that tends to be forgotten,” between young girls and teens.
As they continue to forge those business partnerships, the girls have been enjoying their journey.
“I learned the process of creating a complete new thing because we did a sewing camp for a little bit and we learned to make pants and socks,” Georgia said. “Those things we learned in a week because there were so many patterns for those, but for a girls’ suit, there was nothing. So, it was like starting from scratch. It took a long time, but I’m very happy with how it turned out.”
The Knoepfles cycled through eight prototypes.
“It’s the size tags, the care-content labels, where is it being placed,” Jenny said. “We don’t want the tags to be itchy, so do we make them so they can be torn off, because little kids don’t like things that bug them, so we can eliminate that. Do we want a grommet on the tag? Do we want it glossy or mat?”
As for the goal, Lila said, “Maybe having girls be able to wear what they want to wear instead of just fitting to the closest alternative. They get the freedom of wearing pants instead of a skirt.”
Georgia wants to empower girls by giving them options.
“Maybe I want to wear a dress or maybe I want to wear a suit,” she said. “Just having the option there and not like, ‘I want to wear pants. Why can’t I find any?’”
While the process was not always easy, the family is proud of the outcome and every “no” they heard from manufacturers along the way.
“Even with every no, you learn something,” Jenny said. “Even if it was telling us no, it motivated us to get that yes because we believe this is something that is long overdue in the market.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here