Full Name: Karen D. Hansen & Laura A. Rachlin
Current Title/Company: Founders/ Wren & Roch
Educational Background: Bachelor of Science Degrees in Interior Design from Florida State University
Karen and Laura, thank you so much for answering our questions. Congratulations on being part of the Nolcha Fashion Lounge. Please tell us, what was your first job and how did you land that position?
Karen’s first job was working as a junior designer for Herman Miller, a renowned furniture manufacturer. She made fast friends with a high-level colleague at a design event. He recommended her for the position and the rest is history. Laura’s first job was with Daring by Design. She received the owner’s contact information from a design event at FSU. She interviewed and was hired immediately.
How have your designs evolved since your first sketch?
Our brand is still very new so we always have more to learn, but we listen to our manufacturer, our clients, our family (including Karen’s spicy 93-year-old Grandmother) and our friends, to solicit feedback for constant improvement. We wear our bags and we critique what works and what should change. For example, the new collection of our envelope clutch, Love Note, will have a removable cross body strap to make it more versatile and more appealing to a larger demographic.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career and how were you able to overcome them?
How much time do you have? As single mothers, we have been juggling multiple companies and five children (collectively) for years. Our most difficult personal times became the springboard for Wren & Roch. Our lives haven’t been easy. We decided to take action to support others who have been victims of rape, domestic violence or childhood sexual assault. We feel our brand will bring about social change in many ways. We are just getting started and the excitement and passion behind this work is what drives us each day. Did we mention that we are also best friends? This has really been the key to our personal and professional success- it’s like free therapy is available every day!
We want to hear about your inspiration as a creative! Where does your inspiration come from?
We are inspired by everything and anything. It could be food, nature, architecture, travel, a word, a story or a friendship. We have leathers that look like a dirty, old crocodile rolled in mud and we have handbags named after a family member who lost his battle against cancer at the age of 40.
How did you learn the ins and outs of owning and operating your brand?
We were fortunate to have been business partners for 16 years before beginning W&R so we’ve ironed out most of the kinks already. For us, the challenge is that we are in a new arena with new players and for the first time, we are selling a tangible product, not just our ideas.
As a business owner, how do you achieve a work/life balance?
We love what we do and our kids are proud of us, which means everything. We juggle baseball, basketball, kickboxing, soccer, tennis, carpool and school conferences right along with going to the United Nations, the White House, NYFW and Bloomingdales trunk shows. We eat well (and often), we workout regularly and although we take our work very seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
What do you see in the future for your brand? How do you hope to grow the business?
The sky is the limit. We have so much work to do for our social causes that it will take a lifetime. We definitely see our brand expanding to include products for men as well as apparel and accessories designed to fill a gap for the LGBTQ community. We will add to our offering of accessories, then move into clothing and shoes.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The fact that we are positively impacting lives.
What is a typical workday like for you?
Lots of coffee, take the kids to school, work out, meet at the office, have lunch out and then try to cram eight hours of work into three. All of this is followed by after school pick up, dinner with the kids and late night email responses.
Photo credit: @MLAYNELAWSON Model Credit: @LAJOY224
Best moment of your career so far?
There have been so many, we can’t even count… and they just keep coming. We are so filled with humility and gratitude at this point, we can’t even answer this question.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Go easy on yourself. You’re not perfect, but neither is anyone else.
Go-to coffee order?
Karen- large black coffee (no cream or sugar); Laura- small black coffee or Chai tea latte.
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and what would you order?.
Oprah, hands down, and we would definitely order dessert.
Best advice you’ve received?
We’ve been fortunate to receive lots of great advice over the years. The most impactful would be “When you reach a certain level of success, begin to look for significance”, Bruce Retzsch, architect, friend, and mentor.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Wow, that’s a good question. Maybe you guys can make suggestions- we’re terrible at celebrity calls.
The Nolcha Shows are a leading award winning event, held during New York Fashion Week, for independent fashion designers to showcase their collections to a global audience of press, retailers, stylists and industry influencers. Over the past seven years the Nolcha Shows have become established as a platform for discovery; promoting cutting edge innovative fashion designers through runway shows and exhibitions.
The team at Chic Galleria is thrilled to again be collaborating with the designers who will be featured at the Nolcha Shows on February 15, 2017. We are looking forward to showcasing these talented designers and attending their shows this fall. – Beth Anderson, Founder and Senior Editor, Chic Galleria