SLM is the new LBD
The struggle is real with skinny jeans. We’ve all had to deal with them stretching at the knees, and there seems to be no good alternative to the comfort that leggings provide (even though they should never be worn in public outside of a gym).
Then along came The SLM - they were able to find a happy middle ground. So I went to talk to them about it.
Mira Blumenthal: What inspired you to create pants that are “always skinny, never skin-tight”?
SLM: Our story goes like this: my mom and I (Alana) were in Erika’s room, and Erika walks in wearing the most awful leggings we’d ever seen. I’m talking holes in the crotch and extremely faded. So we ask her, ‘don’t you have a better pair of pants?!’ And then we got to thinking: ‘do any of us?’
Basically, we were fed up. You either get the cheap, ugly, mass- produced leggings, or you get good quality, well cut, designer black skinny pants at an outrageous price point. But there was nothing in between.
SLMs are a hybrid between these 2 extremes: they have the comfort of a legging, with the style of a jean or trouser.
“We never expected them to be so fabulous”
MB: So where did the name come from?
SLM: People ask us all the time if it’s an acronym, and to be honest, it didn’t start out that way. Initially, it was just ‘slim’ and we thought it looked better when we dropped the “i”. Later we realized that it also stands for “small, large, medium” - because SLMs really are for any and every woman of any size.
“Most of the pants that are out there in the designer world are made for models sized 2-4; we’re the universal brand. We want to make pants that every woman feels sexy in.”
MB: Who are these pants intended for? What’s the age-range of your consumers?
SLM: Women aged 18-80 was our target. We didn’t realize how difficult it is to appeal to so many different tastes and fits. We spent 6 months with our pattern maker checking every little thing - from how each design passes the knee, to how they hit the ankle - we knew we needed a superior fit if we were going to sell them. We also knew that they couldn’t be too trendy or too tight for the older crowd, but also couldn’t be too loose for the 20 somethings. We’re real women and we based our patterns off of our own bodies.
MB: How did you guys decide to make this fantastic idea into a reality? What kind of advice to you have for other entrepreneurs and people who want to start their own businesses?
SLM: Draw up a plan and find a mature business mentor - that’s always the starting point.
MB: You definitely are lucky to be working as a family! Let’s dig into that a bit. What’s it like to work with your mom as your boss? Is mom the boss? How about working with together as sisters?
Erika: There’s a lot of FaceTime involved!
Alana: My mom and I go back and forth, we’re each other’s second opinion for everything. We work on the style and business side and we balance each other out. Mom is all business and understands the harsh realities, while I’m a bit more imaginative and idealistic.
Ellen: It’s like any close relationship; there are good moments and bad moments. Erika has quit 2 or 3 times, but I keep telling her, as a partner, she can’t quit! We all have similar personalities, so of course we butt heads, but it also means that we’re on the same page a lot.
Erika: We’ve grown closer through this experience. It’s a lot of fun for Alana and I, but it’s also a learning experience. We’re learning how to become more business oriented. Our mom is empowering us.
Alana: Exactly. Never mind whatever financial success comes out of this, the main thing is that our mom is teaching us that we’re capable and that we can do anything.”
MB: Where do you get your style inspiration from?
Ellen: “We really admire the simplicity of Joe Fresh. It’s not about the avant-garde nature or the edginess of their designs, it’s about the innocence, happiness, and overall attitude of the brand, and we wanted to be able to mimic that.”
Alana: “Athletic wear was another big inspiration for us. We thought about where things are going fashion-wise, and if you follow blogs and the major e-commerce sites, you’ll see more and more sections dedicated to very stylish activewear.”
“Of course we also look at bloggers like Man Repeller and fashion icons like Rita Ora. As much as we want to be crazy and out there like these women with our personal styles, we also understand our market and the type of people who will be buying our product. And they want a great, solid basic.”
“We get our inspiration from interior design and architecture too - we look at it holistically, - we love sleek lines and pairing neutrals.”
MB: Do you have plans to open a larger storefront or expand your e-commerce site from Facebook onto another platform? Or do you think the by-appointment model works best for your audience?
SLM: Right now we use Shopify through Facebook and we plan on integrating our e-commerce onto our website.
"Ultimately we plan to take over the world! We made the conscious decision to control the brand as tightly as possible for the first couple of years but we’d love to have a storefront one day soon."
MB: What’s been your biggest accomplishment thus far with all the successes of SLM?
SLM: There have been two key moments that really stick out. The first one happened right after the runway show that we had at our second launch party. There was just total chaos in our boutique and pairs of SLMs were flying off our shelves. We looked at each other and said” ‘holy crap, people want our stuff!’
The second moment happened a couple of weeks ago when a third of the women at mom’s birthday party showed up wearing SLMs. Not because she asked them to, but because they wanted to. Our pants have become a staple in their wardrobes. It’s interesting see how all these women wore them completely differently, in ways that reflected their own styles.
MB: Do you think you’ll ever offer other colours or is SLM the new LBD?
Ellen: The black is our basic. That’s not going to change. We’ve been working exclusively with a fabric called Ponte so far - it’s a mix of nylon and spandex. It wears well, it washes well, it never fades, and only stretches ever so slightly. So we’ll continue with that and will always be proudly producing SLMs in Toronto.
Erika: We all have a different sense of style, but everyone needs a black pant. Alana wears cool kicks with hers, I wear heels with mine. However, our Spring collection may have a few hints of colour, but you’ll have to wait to find out!
MB: What’s next for you guys?
Our first milestone was our launch party and our second was the release of our new line of SLMs and our “legging graveyard”. We gave a $10 discount to anyone who threw out a pair of leggings in our personal graveyard trashcan before they bought SLMs.
Next we’re moving into menswear, so keep an eye out for that!
If you want to get in touch with the ladies of SLM, you can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook message at www.facebook.com/SLMforall