Q&A with our Brand Founder & President, Caren Lettiere
The theme of Women’s History Month for 2023 is "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” It only seems fitting that our Brand Founder & President, Caren Lettiere, would share her “herstory.”
Caren, what do you attribute your success to?
I consider myself to be intuitive and believe that’s an essential element to my success as a brand leader. It’s as if I have an ear to the ground and I’m a conduit, using my personal experience to understand the needs of what the consumer wants and how to interpret that through product. Because the foundation of my fashion career began in sales, I also have the ability to analyze our sales performance, interpret what that potential means on a larger scale, and distribute it as a creative product into multiple channels of the consumer retail space. The ability to integrate gut instinct about how women feel and merge that with style accessibility, and the resonant messaging to convey it all, is a unique skill set. All these practices that I utilize in the workspace are also critical to my success in life in general. I believe you must be able to embrace what’s out there. You have to enhance what life presents to you. You want to elevate all that’s in your path. If you can’t continue to pay attention, evolve, and grow, then you’re stagnant. There’s no such thing as perfection or arriving at your destination. If we don’t improve, change, modify and adapt, the journey is over. I think that stamina, the desire, and willingness to constantly self-reflect and to acquire other skill sets, has enabled me to navigate in the world with passion and purpose. These practices have enabled me to thrive as an individual, mother, wife, friend, and founder of a truly unique and successful brand.
Can you tell us about Democracy Clothing being a female-led brand?
I have a wonderful work family and am grateful for their support and contributions to the brand's growth. credit them for our ongoing success, and for helping me to shape and refine my vision over the years.
Starting a brand from a small seed of an idea can be a challenging and rewarding experience, and it's amazing to see how many people came together to help me shape and mold my vision into something so impactful. The Democracy team has supported me in staying true to the original brand message while adding so much value and love along the way.
It's important to recognize and appreciate the people who have helped you to achieve your goals and to continue to foster that sense of oneness within a work family. As a female-led brand, Democracy Clothing emphasizes inclusivity and empowerment for all women.
Who are some influential female figures who inspire you the most?
I am so fortunate to have an inspirational role model in my own mother. She has always had incredible joie de vivre that continues today. Her love for culture, theatre, travel, education, and reading is infectious and she taught me to appreciate those things from an early age. She raised three daughters and had the ability to always make us all feel unconditionally loved, embraced us for our uniqueness, as well as encouraged and supported each of us to chase our dreams. Having that as a foundation gave me the courage to take leaps of faith and trust in my instincts. Most importantly, I learned that being present and involved with my family while pursuing my career goals is integral to my own fulfillment.
Besides my mother, I'd have to say that Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey have had a tremendous impact on how I view the power of women and how much they can accomplish. Martha Stewart was really the first female entrepreneur who took "homemaking" to another level. She was able to parlay her expertise in cooking, cleaning, gardening, and decorating and made it accessible, exciting, and aspirational. Watching her become a mogul with a magazine, product lines, and retail partners while following her passions was inspirational.
And, of course, there is Oprah. Besides her incredible life journey, Oprah has demonstrated that it is possible to be your true, authentic self, connect meaningfully with your fans, and inspire millions with an honest message. She is a philanthropic powerhouse and a visionary. I love that she has traveled her path to success with the support of an incredible team, including her bestie by her side.
What career or life advice do you have for young women in business?
Follow your passion and believe in your ability to do whatever you set your mind to. Success is the intersection of passion, tenacity, and work ethic. It is a true collaboration of timing and faith. I find success to be the most fulfilling when it is achieved as a result of a shared experience. Like our families at home, the work-family helps to shape your future and give purpose and joy to what you do.
What is the story behind how the brand came to be?
When I launched Democracy, real women and real bodies weren’t a mainstream focus of the industry, and brands only cared about the idealized 25-year-old women. Democracy Clothing was created in response to the void I identified with personally as a woman and as a representative of my peer group… women who grew up with fashion but then got busy with life. I was living in my post-baby body, and I realized that once you have a kid you’re forever. Living in that post-baby body. Multitasking women like myself have so much on their plate…from working to making time for exercise and eating healthy to being a present and loving wife, mother, and friend. It is such a struggle to juggle all these roles and responsibilities, without losing our identity as a person.
I was fortunate to already be working in the fashion industry when I came up with the idea and purpose for launching Democracy. At that time, I was responsible for a brand that was geared towards a young contemporary customer. I knew what all the current fashion trends were but couldn’t find anything that was appropriate or accessible to me, that fits both my body and my wallet. I had no prior experience in the Denim Casual Lifestyle space, but I was certain of what I wanted and needed and was convinced that other women were feeling the same way.
I don’t believe there should be an expiration date on fashion—style is a forever thing. Women are vital and as long as they have the desire to look modern and current there should be a brand that they can trust to guide them. Democracy is the brand that sees them, identifies with them, supports them, and gives them access to fashion. As a woman, I know that trying on a pair of jeans can be the most terrifying, ego-deflating experience, and we wanted to change that. So, we set out to create a luxurious and comfortable jean by fusing together style and technology, and the “Ab”solution fit technology was born.
Please explain the meaning behind “Democracy Clothing is built on the principle of Curve Equality so that women of all shapes and sizes can look good and feel good while doing good in our world.”
Democracy was founded on the principle of "Curve Equality." We have never assigned a value to size, only to a woman's right to be able to access good-fitting, fashionable clothes. Fashion is ageless and finding confidence-building clothes – especially jeans – has been life-changing.
We are one of the originators in the space of size inclusivity, instilling confidence in women of all shapes and sizes with jeans and clothing designed to embrace, enhance, and flatter while showcasing a woman’s natural shape. The anchor to Democracy is not only the fit technology, but also the amazing fabrics that are soft and stretchy, and fit every single type of shape. This was the greatest catalyst for the brand and once women started to identify the difference in our jeans, it became life-changing for them. When women find Democracy they become devoted advocates for the brand. That is beyond gratifying to me, and when I hear how Democracy jeans have changed their denim struggles, it is the ultimate compliment.
Can you tell us more about the confidence boost that “Ab”solution jeans provide?
Twelve years ago, we were the brand that stepped out and said that we want to represent inclusivity for women, and we understand that it’s more than just the size. To me, it is about acceptance and feeling relevant. This is the most validating feeling. Inclusivity can’t just be a new tagline or marketing slogan. It is about caring about the challenges ALL women have. We all have different types of body shapes, and we all need to be empowered and have confidence. My goal is that Democracy continues to be the go-to brand that women trust to introduce them to fashion that empowers them to feel good while looking good.
Portions of this article were first published on shoutoutla.com