You can't walk down trendy Robertson Boulevard or Melrose Avenue without seeing someone wearing black leggings. Ironically, the city that's embraced the fashion trend initially rejected the man behind it.
Three years ago, David Lerner came up with the idea to make best legging in the world. He wanted to take the traditional legging and make it stylish: adding a zipper, putting a velvet strip down the side. He got his start making ten pairs, and took his product into 15 Los Angeles stores without an appointment. The first placed he walked into told him to "get the [expletive] out."
Undaunted, Lerner pressed on. The next 14 stores all took his brand. He then traveled to New York, and soon had 30 stores ordering his line. Now, his DL Collection (see it here) is an international brand, boasting celebrity clients such as Paris and Nicky Hilton, Megan Fox, Christina Aguilera, Lea Michele and Halle Berry.
His line has now expanded to include t-shirts, dresses, sportswear and a maternity line. Check out some of Lerner's collection below:
In an exclusive interview with TooFab's Lawrence Yee, the 27-year-old self-taught designer talks about why he chose to make leggings and why they became so popular.
TooFab: Why did you chose to make only leggings when you first started?
Lerner: The one thing women are brand loyal to is a bra. Why were they so brand loyal to a bra? It was intimate on a woman. I wanted to start with that concept -- what would women be brand loyal to? Leggings are also intimate on a woman. It's tight and hugs private areas on their body so there was a lot of thought that went into this.
TooFab: Why not manufacture overseas? [Lerner's entire operation is in New York]
Lerner: I am a big believer in U.S. jobs. I'm trying to help this economy and I can personally look over everything. My quality is better than the high end brands because they're making it all over seas. I really have the best quality, and for me that's what it really comes down to. People notice the difference. I use this really expensive fabric from Brazil and then I make everything here. That's why women keep buying my products.
TooFab: How did you pick that material from Brazil?
Lerner: I looked at material all over the world. I got ten yards of fabric from Korea, China, Brazil, from the U.S., you name it. I literally would cut them up into 10 pairs of leggings from each one. I put them on girls I considered to be my customer and they unanimously loved the fabric that I got from Brazil. You can't copy a New York bagel, you just can't. That's how it is with this fabric from Brazil. Many people tried knocking me off unsuccessfully.
TooFab: Are any of these ten girls celebrity clients?
Lerner: None were celebrities. They were just “it girls,” girls who work in the industry, girls that are trendsetters, PR girls, some girls that work with other brands, hip girls from LA and New York. I have so many celebrity clients it's just ridiculous. I was just at Sundance with Kate Hudson. I gave Kate some of my maternity line. Someone like Lea Michele, she gave me her number and I develop relationships. I'm honest. If I see Christina Aguilera or one of these girls that I know wearing my stuff and I know they don't look good, I'll tell them.
TooFab: What is the difference between Los Angeles girls and New York girls?
Lerner: They are so different it's hilarious. Once New York girls hit that age where they are out of college, they want to be taken seriously right away. They want to meet that guy right away and have kids. They sort of dress for that, opposed to LA where girls are more down to have fun. I think people dress according to that vibe. NY is more serious dressing and LA is more laidback. I also think there is so much horrible fashion right now it hurts my [expletive] eyes. People try so hard. People don't understand that less is more. Girls don't have individual style anymore. You see these girls in something that might be expensive but it's just horrible.
Toofab: What are some trends you like for the summer?
Lerner: The biggest trend I see is girls wearing workout clothing around. I see Lululemon everywhere, on celebrities, on girls. They're trading in fashion for comfort right now. I really believe that. You're going to see a lot of skin this summer, a lot of crop tops, a lot of red. To me I think it's going to be a sexy summer.
Toofab: What's next for David Lerner?
Lerner: We are expanding on our dresses. As a company I'm just expanding more and more. But I'm a person that never wants to bite off more than I can chew. As a designer I want to do everything, but as a business man I know I can't. I would say in the next three years you'll see everything from my brand. You'll see a couture collection.
Judging by the popularity of his leggings and dress line, you can be sure to see Lerner's couture collection hitting the red carpet soon.