Shoshanna Gruss Cel­e­brates 20 Years in Fash­ion

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY ROSE­MARY FEITELBERG

In the 20 years since Shoshanna

Lon­stein Gruss started her dress com­pany, she mar­ried, had three chil­dren, added swimwear, evening­wear, a girls' col­lec­tion and a boys' one, launched e-com­merce, di­vorced and now will launch an ex­clu­sive la­bel with Gwyn­nie Bee Sun­day.

From the start, the de­signer has of­fered lin­gerie-in­spired siz­ing for shop­pers, so this lat­est pair­ing is a log­i­cal move. C'est Nous by Shoshanna is the de­signer's first fully in­clu­sive line, rang­ing from XS-5X. A UCLA grad with a dou­ble ma­jor in his­tory and art his­tory, her orig­i­nal plan was to take a job in fi­nance. Like le­gions of other col­lege grads, she spent her last free sum­mer trav­el­ing in Europe with a friend. Gruss started sketch­ing on the trip and never stopped. “Hon­estly, in the be­gin­ning what I imag­ined was driv­ing around the coun­try with my sam­ples and show­ing them to the stores that I thought I should be in. Road trip­ping — that is re­ally what I wanted to do,” she said with a laugh. “Then I was like, ‘Damn it. I have to work ev­ery day. I don't like this, but I got used to it.”

Her par­ents loaned her $30,000 to pro­duce the first col­lec­tion, on the con­di­tion it was rent money or that. So Gruss lived at home and even­tu­ally paid her par­ents back. “I was like, 'This is pretty sweet. I work all day, I go out all night, some­one does my laun­dry — I'm stay­ing here.”

Five years later she moved out, when she mar­ried Joshua Gruss. Her fash­ion ca­reer goes back to her undergrad days, work­ing at Tracey Ross' Los An­ge­les store, when Robert­son Blvd housed about 20 fur­ni­ture stores, The Ivy and Agnes B. “She kind of cu­rated her closet, which was new at that time. I had only seen depart­ment stores. There was no Scoop, no In­ter­mix,” Gruss said. “Still, noth­ing fit me — I loved the store, I loved the girls and I worked there for the dis­count pretty much.”

It wasn't un­til see­ing Hard Candy founder Dineh Mo­ha­jer and other en­trepreneurs walk into Tracey Ross with sam­ples to pitch the owner that Gruss re­al­ized, ‘Oh, you can do this. That's re­ally where the seed was planted,” she said. “I wasn't think­ing, ‘Oh, I want to do this.' But I thought, ‘Why isn't any­body mak­ing clothes for me? I'm young, I have money to spend, I like my body but no one seems to ad­dress it. It was the time of slip dresses and grunge. You had to look like you were 11 for­ever. It was so de­feat­ing so it was the right time, right place, right mind­set. Cer­tainly, it was a dif­fer­ent world. There was no In­ter­net, no H&M, no Tar­get. Now, there is just so much more com­pe­ti­tion but I think I've got­ten bet­ter.”

With her 6-year-old twins now in kinder­garten, Gruss, who also has a 13-year-old daugh­ter, also has more time for work. As her e-mail in­box and In­sta­gram feed can at­test, many shop­pers have been re­quest­ing larger sizes for a while. The Shoshanna la­bel has of­fered them on a lim­ited ba­sis due to dis­tri­bu­tion, ac­cord­ing to Gruss, who noted that some ac­counts will only buy up to a size 8. “I know how frus­trat­ing it is. I used to say that stores were like mu­se­ums. I ap­pre­ci­ated it, I could look at it, but it re­ally wasn't for me and I couldn't have it.”

Sep­a­rates may be added down the road, but the first col­lec­tion has 12 styles of dresses re­tail­ing be­tween $118 and $160. The de­sign­ers and Gwyn­nie Bee ex­ec­u­tives

The en­tre­pre­neur has inked a new deal with Gwyn­nie Bee and is prepar­ing for a Saks ex­clu­sive.

de­clined to com­ment on pro­jected vol­ume. Ea­ger for feed­back from Gwyn­nie Bee cus­tomers, Gruss said she will use that in­for­ma­tion for the next col­lec­tion. “Ob­vi­ously, my [own] brand was started to be more in­clu­sive than the 0 through 12 range. This seemed like a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion,” she said.

Her own la­bel is of­fered in 400 stores in­clud­ing Neiman Mar­cus, Saks Fifth Av­enue, Shop­bop and Bloomin­gale's. Next month, an ex­clu­sive col­lec­tion will de­but at Saks. “We're sort of cel­e­brat­ing our

20th all year, be­cause why not?”

Con­vinced that go­ing with your gut and chal­leng­ing the tra­di­tional way of do­ing things are es­sen­tial, Gruss said, “I read news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines. I'm fas­ci­nated by our global his­tory cur­rently and what's go­ing on. If you pay at­ten­tion to ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one, you can keep your fin­ger on the pulse and know what's go­ing on. Then you can pull back when you need to or go for­ward in a cer­tain way.”

A model wears a look from the C’est Nous by Shoshanna la­bel.

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