Weekends at Little High Little Low
By Amanda Harth
Photos by Felton Kizer
Rebecca Ravenna is cool as hell. As the founder of the women’s clothing company Little High Little Low (LHLL), she has a clear vision of what she wants for the brand and she just completed building it’s foundation. During a rainy day on a Sunday afternoon in Chicago, we visited the LHLL shop to talk speak with Rebecca. I met Rebecca through RWA content manager Felton Kizer during a silent auction at The Museum of Contemporary Art. I thought her t-shirt was dope and she liked my leather jacket. We talked for an hour about fashion, the museum, LHLL, and other topics related to the arts. I emailed her after to arrange an interview, she agreed, and invited us to her shop to chat.
“We opened end of November so just a few months, but the concept of Little High Little Low started about a year ago. So we started as a vintage concert t-shirt pop up. My business partner and I felt there wasn’t a place where you could get a highly concentrated curation of great vintage band tees. We wanted to test the market to see if there was a buyer and clientele for that and there was.”
The LHLL shop has this lofty appeal with its high ceilings and brick walls. The walls are white and throughout the space are touches of color, art, and a wall of garments from LHLL and other designers .
“We did a pop up at Supply Locale and we built an e-commerce as well. Very barebones through pictures of the t-shirts up on Instagram. I sold all of the t-shirts on Instagram basically.”
AH: For the past few years that has been another platform used for selling products. Do you think without a website you would’ve been fine selling only through Instagram?
RR: We took the website down for a minute because it became more engaging to be talking with the client one on one. They would be looking for a concert t-shirt and I would source and do this personal shopping component of it. Then we developed our next piece we were selling, which is now called our the “Vintage LHLL Crew”. It’s these vintage raglan sweatshirts that have our LHLL logo on the back and the demand for them and the man power selling through Instagram became too much to handle and I didn’t have the bandwidth. So we redeveloped the e-commerce and we outgrew working out of my living room so we needed an office and a warehouse. We figured “well we have this space so why don’t we turn it into a store?”. That’s how the brick and mortar came about, but the brick and mortar was secondary to the e-commerce. We’re open to the public on the weekends and by appointment during the week.
AH: There aren’t many women with Streetwear brands.
RR: No. There aren’t too many women that deal in Vintage either. So we are this interesting hybrid of the two. I think of us more as street style than streetwear so we’re curating this ultimate cool girl aesthetic that highlights the way people are dressing right now and we’re seeing more and more business is becoming casual. First you were able to wear black denim to work then you could start wearing lighter wash denim to work. Now, people are wearing sweatpants to work.The pendulum swung with athleisure and people wearing full out workout gear and I feel like it kind of settled into this hypercasual, but still really pulled together and styled aesthetic. I’m looking at the streetstyle in New York and London these cool urban centers of fashion. You see these girls wearing their sweat pants and these oversized hoodies with Chanel bags and $1500 sneakers or a Doc Marten combat boot. Everybody looks really really cool, comfortable, and themselves. That’s who we’re marketing towards.
AH: So what was the first piece you designed for LHLL?
RR: Our crop sweatpants. Our crop sweats are customized to be really perfect fitting super soft. The black doesn’t fade, the gray doesn’t fade they look pulled together. You definitely don’t look like you just rolled out of bed or you’re lounging around or this is what you wear when you come home. This is the shit that you wear out to live your life in. I always say I will wear the seat pants with heels, a leather jacket, and a cool t-shirt then I’ll sleep in it and the next day I’ll throw on a pair of sneakers and a cool hoodie, take my kids to school, and run my errands, then come to work. It fits into your life.
AH: Do you have a background in design?
RR: No. My background is in writing. It’s extremely helpful from a marketing perspective. My background is in working in consuming fashion. I worked at a number of Chicago boutiques that are no longer in existence and I was in Barney’s for a bit. Then I left to join my family business right after I got married, I was able to stay home with my kids more. Once they started school I had more time and it was time to get back into the stuff I loved to do. I was always styling on the side and helping people find things, but I got my opportunity to get back into the world I liked being in.
AH: Growing up were you always interested in fashion?
RR: Oh, since I was little I would dress myself. I would cut my clothes and I always knew what I wanted to wear.
AH: Where are you from originally?
RR: I grew up in Chicago suburbs, but I live in Chicago now.
AH: I know you’re still in the beginning of developing your brand and, as a small business owner, what has not worked for what you’re doing right now?
RR: Over buying. Investing too much into one thing. There is this want to really push my agenda on to my customer but you also have to listen to what they want. So if something is really new and up and coming that may not be what everybody is willing to invest in. So you have to earn your customer’s trust. You can’t expect somebody to blindly follow you. I have always felt the story behind the piece or the designer or the brand is what draws me in and you become invested that way. It’s important to educate your customer about that as well.
AH: What are three things you’ve used to market your brand so far?
RR: I go with my gut. If something is exciting to me I share it. Being really honest, and focusing on quality above all else. When you really start looking you see a lot of people who cut corners. You see a lot of luxury designers and emerging designers who are getting the attention of Vogue who are cutting corners, you know. And it’s hard to unsee it and you ask “How are you making these choices”?
AH: I recently realized I had an issue with asking for help when it comes to running my business. Have you struggled with that?
RR: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. It’s not even being afraid to ask for help. It’s not wanting to give up control for me. I think by the time I explain how I want it done I could’ve just done it myself, but that’s not sustainable if you’re plan is to grow. That limits you to opening up to someone else’s perspective and somebody getting the job done that might have been different from how I was going to do it and it might be better or more efficient. It’s an idea I haven’t thought of and collaborating is really important in a small business when you’re starting out.
The hardest thing for me right now is having someone else do writing for me. I hired a marketing agency to come in and help me build this and grow. One of the things they asked me was, “Why aren’t you doing biweekly newsletters? You’ve had people sign up on your website asking for information, why aren’t you giving them information?” I don’t have time! So they said, “We’re going to take that off your plate and write the copy for it.” I’m thinking Oh God. I think my voice and my logo are two of the most important marketing components to my brand. That’s a weird thing to let go of, but they are deferring to people who do know better than me.
AH: What’s next for LHLL?
RR: We are scaling. We’re continuing to improve cut and quality. Going with my gut and the things that I want. Those pieces don’t exist in the perfect way, I’m making them hoping other people have been missing them too. Our cut and sew pieces will be geared more towards a female buyer and we’re very excited about the products that will be launching for Fall. We want to show you what this idealized wardrobe will look like. The majority of our sales are made up of LHLL, but we’re showing our customer “Hey you trusted us with this, now trust us with that.”