November 28, 2017
Students in the Premier Fashion Design Group were treated to a guest visit from Sarah Elharrar and Chaya Israily, co-founders of fashion label Solika. They shared with the students how they got their start and some lessons learned along the way. Named after a powerful woman in the 1800s, the mission of Solika is to empower women, the world over. Their value system is deeply embedded in their brand.
Chaya and Sarah have been best friends since preschool and each have a grandmother who was a seamstress. “Designing is in my blood,” Chaya said. They both studied a year abroad, in Israel. They appreciated fashion and grew up dressing modestly. And they noticed a void in their community—that not many brands make cute modest clothing.
Entrepreneurial, they decided to fill that void, to create a trendy, minimalist, modern clothing line, together.
Once they had the idea, nothing could stop them. They drove to the Fashion District in Downtown Los Angeles and asked a stranger where they could get a pattern made. The man literally walked them over to meet a patternmaker named Annie, who ended up making their first sample. “If you have a goal, just keep going,” Sarah encouraged.
They had 15 garments in their first collection and they hosted a pop-up at a neighbor’s house, inviting teachers, friends, family—their community. Chaya said, “It’s not about perfection. It’s about doing it.”
Word spread and the two fledgling business owners traveled to New York to do trunk shows. “The doorbell didn’t stop ringing,” said Sarah. They took orders on things they didn’t even have.
Solika is in its tenth season now, and according to the website, “Every collection has a distinct palette; whether it’s a pop of color or soft nudes, the details are kept tonal, letting style and fabrication create the vibe.”
Solika is not in a showroom. Chaya and Sarah do all of their marketing through social media, and this is how boutiques find them. “It’s raw. It’s real. We go knocking door to door.”
Their ‘Heidi’ dress is their most popular style. It sold out immediately when it hit the market. And they learned one of their first lessons. Instead of making more, they paused it for a season or two, trying to create intrigue. It was a mistake. “If you have something this popular,” Chaya said, “you should always have it in your line. Make it your staple.”
Another more recent challenge they’ve encountered was a fabric and construction issue on one of their styles. They had hundreds of pieces sold and ready to go, but they couldn’t send them out because the dresses were ripping at the seams. “Our value system made us stand strong,” they said.
They discovered that the factory used the wrong fabric, not the one used in the sample. And they didn’t double-stitch it. The lesson here, Chaya said, is that “challenges in a business should never stop you.”
“Know who you are and just go. There will be hardships. Just go. Just do it.”
Solika is currently open to offering internships, and will be working with FIDM Career Advisor Cynthia Harvey on developing the idea. The brand is based in Sherman Oaks, in the greater Los Angeles area.
Categories: Fashion Design, Guest Lecturers