How to Successfully Launch a Fashion Label
There’s nothing more inspiring or uplifting than a story of success—more so when that success comes from hard work (and a little bit of hustle). L.A.-based label Rails, founded by Jeff Abrams, started with just a single hat, and has now grown into a full collection of women’s, men’s, and children’s apparel sold all over the world.
With a celebrity roll call of fans that reads like list of Hollywood’s most stylish ladies, Rails has made a name for itself as a go-to for laid-back separates and easy-to-wear plaid shirts (and trust me when I say, they’re literally the most comfortable shirts you’ll ever wear). We’ve spotted everyone from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Selena Gomez and Beyoncé in a shirt, and now it’s time for you to discover the brand, and see that anything is possible.
Keep scrolling to discover how founder Jeff Abrams launched the label, which item sold out the fastest, and our favourite celebrity-worn looks.
Who What Wear Australia: You’ve just spent some time in Sydney—how do you think Sydney style differs to L.A. style or how is it the same?
Jeff Abrams: Sydney and Los Angeles share a similar aesthetic. The laid-back luxe lifestyle of both cities is now influencing the global fashion scene. My most recent trip to Sydney was a great opportunity to infuse local nuances into our upcoming collection.
WWW: What do you think it is about your brand that resonates with Sydney girls?
JA: There’s an innate effortlessness to our aesthetic that’s influenced by the warm weather and beach culture, yet the sophistication of a metropolitan city. Sydney girls share that sensibility of building a wardrobe from timeless pieces, which is what Rails does best. Whether you’re in Bondi Beach or Malibu, the Rails girl is always comfortably chic.
WWW: You don’t have a standard fashion background—how difficult was it to start a fashion label?
JA: I didn’t have experience in the industry but had a vision, so ultimately learned through trial and error. You need to follow your creative instincts, be innovative in a way which is marketable, and focus on becoming great at something. Not pretty good at a lot of things.
WWW: What did you do to get your brand off the ground?
JA: When I first began, I really had no idea how to actually produce a full collection. It was a journey of trial and error that led me through the initial stages of building the brand. I had just returned from Europe, I sewed the word Rails onto a single black hat and a simple hooded sweatshirt, and embarked on a door-to-door journey trying to get orders. I drove all over the U.S., walking into stores unannounced trying to build the foundations for the Rails collection.
I came back to Los Angeles and employed the same concept learning the business of fashion, walking into factories and suppliers, staying late at night at sewing facilities to understand the details of garment construction and the process of assembly.
Each season I refined the creative direction and focused on creating versatile pieces in luxe fabrications that represented the Southern California lifestyle. The idea was to build a collection that made you feel both relaxed and refined.
WWW: What has been the biggest struggle or hurdle or setback?
JA: As a fast-growing company, time management is always one of the biggest challenges. There are many moving parts that require attention—design, marketing, and production. I realised early on that to be successful, I’d have to quickly transition between all functions of the business and make good decisions, while never losing sight of our brand identity.
WWW: At what point did the label reach the next level after you launched?
JA: Since the beginning, we’ve had a loyal group of brand ambassadors, celebrities, and tastemakers wearing Rails. Shortly after I started, Kate Moss was spotted wearing a shirt, and I really felt like I had arrived!
Now I get more enjoyment from seeing more anonymous girls wear them in everyday life. While I became accustomed to seeing girls wear our shirts around the U.S., I was incredibly excited the first few times I spotted Rails on my travels abroad. Now I see them everywhere—London, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo. It’s rewarding to see the Rails brand connecting with so many people across the globe.
WWW: What is the fastest time a piece has sold out and what was it?
JA: There was a frenzy after Gisele Bundchen was spotted wearing Rails at the Super Bowl in 2015. We had more than 100,000 visitors to our website in two days. We sold out of that exact shirt, and basically every other shirt on the site.
WWW: Would you do anything differently? What would you go back and tell yourself in hindsight?
JA: I’ve made a lot of mistakes but they’ve taught me more than my successes have. One thing I’ve found is that I am I’m always focused on moving forward and can make decisions under pressure.
WWW: What has been the best career advice you’ve ever received?
There are always unexpected challenges that arise, and you need to be thick skinned and resilient. Don't be discouraged by setbacks—use them as opportunities to become a better designer and business person. Most importantly, you need to have the internal drive and determination that no one is going to stop you. You will be successful!
WWW: What’s next for Rails?
JA: We’re growing in each new market from Scandinavia to Asia and of course, Australia. We have exciting design collaborations on the horizon as well as pop-up shops and retail stores rolling out next year. This year our goal is to grow further into a global lifestyle brand. Our signature shirts will always be at the core of the collection, but our focus is on expanding into new categories—cashmere sweater knits, jersey and denim.