From bestsellers like the cozy Matterhorn coat to the perfect Shimmer tweed dress, female-empowering fashion line Luba offers a sartorial dream of feminine pieces with a philanthropic twist. Proceeds from the entire collection goes directly to the LOVE Foundation, which supports national women’s shelters and helps us take a step forward in ending the cycle of domestic violence.
While doing research for a project, Hannah was disturbed to find out that there were more animal shelters than women’s shelters in the US. After interning at Vogue and graduating Parsons, Hannah decided to take matters to her own hands and created a business where she can pursue her love for fashion, but also give back and empower women – and that’s how Luba was born!
Hannah was also a speaker at the Stay Boutique Leadership panel, which boasts a roster of notable speakers including Ariana Huffington, Christopher Norton (President of Equinox), and Tony Kurz (Head of Karl Lagerfield Hotels).
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
As an entrepreneur, making mistakes is part of the journey, big or small, these mistakes can really impact your business. Personally they made me stronger, and a savvier businesswoman. I believe one needs to have strength in order to lead, but they also need to have great passion and drive for what they are doing. This is my calling in life and because of that, I exude passion for my business and especially passion for making women feel and look their best. Within my team, there are great wins but we also have had disappointments and that is when I feel my true leadership shines. I need to remain positive and encouraging. When that is my attitude, it becomes my team’s attitude as well. Being passionate about ShopLuba and our company’s mission is contagious to our team, and our team performs at its best when everyone feels that same passion and drive.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
One of my first jobs in fashion was an internship at Vogue. This truly showed me the amount of time, energy, and hard work that needs to be put into a fashion business in order for it to be successful. Our hours were long, but all the interns were so excited to be there and felt inspired by all the amazing garments around us. It also taught me to be flexible and adaptive. Within the fashion industry things can change within five minutes and you need to be flexible, adaptive, and think quickly. At Luba, I do all the designing and production, as well as other tasks, and frequently during production I will get a call about an issue they are facing. For example, a few months ago, I received zippers that were the incorrect color. I had ordered a blue/gray and they came in bright turquoise. The only quick solution I could think of was to try and dye the zippers myself. Luckily they turned out!
The other job that really helped shape my current role was as a Fashion Design Intern at Naeem Khan. I was amazed at how small and intimate the company is, especially because they are so well known within the evening gown market. I really learned a lot about the way a design house is run and had the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the company. A lot of what I learned at Naeem Khan in terms of sampling, production, and design are still my main practices at Luba today.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
The highlight of my career thus far has been seeing a woman wearing Luba on the street. It felt like such a surreal moment. I was able to watch her get complimented on the shorts she was wearing and the smile she had on her face from that compliment. She felt proud of her outfit and felt confident. I loved being able to witness that moment! Another career high for me has been designing dresses that women wear during a very special moment in their life. One of our dresses was worn for a Bride’s rehearsal dinner; that dress will forever hold a place in her heart and she will cherish that dress and even pass it on. I love that! I have also created a few custom rehearsal dinner dresses, as well as Mother of the Bride Dresses. It is the same concept: That dress holds a very special memory for the mother and I absolutely love that Luba was a part of it.
A challenge we have experienced was actually a disappointment. We received a very large order from an international retailer and when it came to ship their order, they pulled out. They wanted us to send the order as consignment. As much as we wanted to send it, our lawyer advised against it because, internationally speaking, there would be no legal way to retrieve payment if they chose not to pay. We were extremely disappointed and faced a very large challenge of being stuck with a lot of inventory. Thankfully we were able to host trunk shows and pop up shops to sell that inventory. Although we were disappointed, it ended up being a great opportunity for us to introduce Luba to more United States customers through those events.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
When I was attending Parsons School Of Design in NYC, we had a speaker from LVMH come speak to the class about our future endeavors. The best piece of advice I have ever heard was from him; “Stay True to yourself and you will be successful.” As soon as I start changing things to fit what other people want, the brand Luba, becomes a different brand. For example, a couple of times that we have been requested to change something by a buyer, the next season that same buyer might call it too common. I know we have a quality brand that makes women feel amazing and one of the biggest challenges is to constantly remind myself of that. Stay true to Luba. So the best advice I could ever give someone, who wants to start his or her own fashion label, would be to always stay true to yourself and work extremely hard!
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
One of the most important lessons that I have learned is to be open to any opportunity because you never know where it might lead. I had the opportunity to speak at a Boutique Hotel Conference and I remember thinking to myself ‘What does Luba and my experience have anything to do with the hospitality industry.’ The woman that interviewed me had a great collaboration idea on why Luba is relevant to Hotels and implementing the ‘boutique experience”. By working with designers, hotels can host pop-up shops at their hotels. Shortly after the speaking engagement, we received an email from a hotel group that was very interested in hosting pop-ups in their hotel lobbies. We have hosted 4 pop-up events, in the last two weeks, with this hotel group and it was 100% from this wonderful opportunity where I didn’t even see how Luba would be a fit. When making decisions I still do a lot of research on the opportunities presented to me, but at the same time, I choose to say yes to most opportunities because I never know where they might lead.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Having a good work/life balance is one of the most challenging things that I face on a daily basis. A year and a month, almost to the day, after I launched Luba, I gave birth to a little girl 8 weeks premature. This was the first time that I really had to make a choice between work and family. I ended up slowing things down with Luba for about 6-12 months to focus on having a healthy child. Now that we are back to full speed again, I always like to say I have two children; I have my daughter who is two and Luba. What has worked best for me, is to work from 8-6 Monday through Thursday in the office, and then after family dinner and night time routines, I work from home until I finish what I needed to get done that day. Most nights I go to bed at 2:30 am. I take Fridays off to spend with my daughter and only work during nap times. For me, I need to have boundaries with my work and make sure that when I am with my daughter I am present in that moment. It is really hard to have it all at the same time but I have an amazing support system around me that makes everything possible. Without the support of my Husband and my extended family, helping in every way possible, I would not be able to fulfill my passion.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I truly think one of the biggest issues for women in the workplace is separating family from work. It is very rare that someone would ask a man how his family is going to affect his work, but on the other hand it is very common for women to be looked down upon if they have children or if they plan on having a family. People assume it will negatively affect their work.
Another challenge women in the workplace face is the judgment from stay at home moms. I believe we are in such an amazing time for change. I hope, as women and mothers, both working inside and outside the home we can support one another. I was extremely lucky to be raised by a women who chose to stay at home but also encouraged me to be whatever I wanted. When women support each other in all choices we can achieve amazing things!
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
The best way to encourage women to start their own business is to encourage them to pursue their dreams and never give up. Most businesses fail in the first year, so it is extremely important to set yourself up for success. It is easy to get caught up in small details and yes the small details are important, but always try to focus on the big picture and your end goal whatever that may be. Gather a support system around you that also believes in your dream. Be smart in the decisions you are making and do everything in your power to make it happen!
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has made a huge difference in both my personal and professional life. I am blessed that I have had such an amazing and supportive family. I touched on this a little bit earlier, but I was raised to be humble, kind, extremely hardworking, and most importantly to believe that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. At the age of ten, I whole-heartedly believed I would be the 1st women president. Today, two people who have 30-years experience running a successful business mentor me. They have given me so much advice on leadership, making smart business decisions, and honestly amplified my drive to make Luba successful.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are so many strong women that I admire in my life. On a personal level, I admire my mother as a strong leader as well as every other stay-at-home mom and mother in general. These women work a thankless job, and truly they are raising the next generation of change-makers and strong leaders who can really make a difference in our world.
In my professional life, a very strong female leader I admire is Carolina Herrera. Not only are her designs immaculate, but also her staying power in the ever-changing fashion industry is an inspiration. One of the challenges designers face is to follow current trends and to copy them. Herrera has been very conscious throughout her career of the changing trends and adapting accordingly without ever changing the brands point of view. This consistency is the reason she has been in business for over 35 years.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
Over the last two years it has been amazing to watch and be a part of Luba’s growth! Our store list is doubling each season, and we really want to achieve our goal of having Luba in more boutiques and a large retailer or department store by the end of 2018. It feels as if our company is sky rocketing, and I personally I am so excited to see this growth over this next year.
I am very goal oriented and it is important to have my seasonal goals, my yearly goals, and my lifetime goals. Every sale from Luba goes back to support women’s domestic violence shelters through the LOVE Foundation. So, one of these goals is to open Luba’s Love Shelters. The main reason there are so few transitional shelters for the victims of domestic violence is because they do not have funding. I dream about the day Luba is successful enough to open and financially support long-term shelters.
What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
Jump In: The first tip I would offer to an entrepreneur starting out would be to do your homework and just jump in. One of the hardest parts of starting a business is the feeling that everything has to be perfect before the launch, but it will never be perfect. There will always be lessons to learn and hurdles to overcome. I have learned so much from the day-to-day tasks in my business, and there is no way I could have adequately prepared for some of these challenges.
Stay True To Your Brand and Yourself: The most well received and successful designers, and companies for that matter, are those that stay true to their brand. I have had people throughout my career suggest styles that resemble other brands and these styles are the ones that are the least successful. It is definitely challenging to follow this tip in the growing years, and especially when ‘free advice’ is given by almost everyone, but being consistent with your brand image is the most important thing, and it is the reason your brand will stand out.
Be Your Own Cheerleader: It is very easy to become discouraged and disappointed when starting a business, especially if it is not as successful in the beginning as you had hoped. For me, it is crucial that I stay positive! I wake up every morning and tell myself, it is going to be a great day! I need to encourage myself because as soon as I start being negative, my team will become negative. There is such a power in positivity. At Luba we have had our most success when we all have a positive attitude.