Finding Inspiration In The South Of France
Sur La Côte is a small online boutique based in Los Angeles. Founded by two tenacious sisters in 2016 when they couldn’t quite find what they were looking for while shopping for the festival of the year - the one and only Coachella. Determined to not look like everyone else at the famous function, they embarked on creating their own looks inspired by their childhood growing up in Manhattan Beach and their many summers spent in the South of France - and if that isn’t badass I honestly don’t know what is!
Ally Melideo, one of the founding sisters, took a few moments to share her experience starting a brand, Coachella, prioritizing sustainable and ethical sourcing and more!
CURIO: This wouldn't be an interview without me asking you for a bit of your background - could you share how you got your start in the industry and what steps you took to get there?
Ally: I started while studying Marketing & Communications at Loyola Marymount University. I always knew I would own my own business, because I like to do things my way and I just have that type of personality where I can't really work for someone else. It sounds like it would be a flaw, but I made it work for me. I am honestly surprised it turned out to be in the fashion industry, though. If you told me that five years ago I wouldn't believe it!
CURIO: What industry did you think you were going to end up in?
Ally: I really wasn't sure! I had so many different jobs that I genuinely loved. I worked at a pre-school and thought I would want to own one someday. I worked at a spa and thought I wanted to get my esthetician license and open my own spa. But the timing with this business venture worked out perfectly and I love that I can gain so much experience in different aspects of running a business, it is not all just about the clothes.
CURIO: In your 'behind the brand', you explain how a trip to the South of France with your sister inspired the types of garments you both create - have you both always agreed on the styles you want to produce? Have there ever been variations?
Ally: We were very lucky to spend a lot of time there when we were growing up. It definitely influenced our style, because although we are from Manhattan Beach and grew up dressing very casual and beachy, I wanted the line to be sophisticated as well. Elevated beachwear! Everyday resort wear!
CURIO: What is the brand's relationship with Coachella? Will you create festival specific products? Launching your first initial pieces at such a huge function must give you guys all the feelings looking back!
Ally: Actually it was the inspiration for launching Sur La Côte! I was going to Coachella my junior year of college and I wanted some really sick lounge pants but I couldn't find anything similar to what I was picturing. My sister actually made them for me on the east coast (where she was working) and shipped them to me! They were unreal. I can't tell you how many people asked me where I got them. The fit was a dream. Then the next year, I wanted similar pants but a tighter fit. And again, my sister created them for me and absolutely nailed it. (Those turned into our best selling Biarritz Pant now). Again, I got a ton of people asking me about them. That is when we really started thinking about seriously launching a brand. We started out with those two styles of lounge pants and expanded from there.
CURIO: Do you remember what the first piece of clothing you ever made was? What was it?
Ally: The first style we made for my Coachella outfit turned into our Positano pant, and then the second, more form fitting cut turned into our Biarritz pants. Starting out with just lounge pants was so fun, it was so great to create an option for women who didn't feel like wearing black leggings or jeans day-to-day. We started getting some traction for our niche lounge pants, but then expanding into a full line was so exciting as well. I wear our pants at least 3 times a week and I probably will forever.
CURIO: Do you ever get tired of that first initial product? Similarly to how a musician sometimes gets tired of performing a popular song?
Ally: I totally get that! And to be completely transparent--- yes! I am always more excited about the new items I design, I think that's just natural. But that first pair of lounge pants will always hold a special place in my heart and I know how much hard work went into making them.
CURIO: Who are your biggest inspirations for style and design?
Ally: My friends are by far my biggest inspiration! I aim to design for every woman. So I am lucky to have a diverse group of girlfriends. When we were making our original lounge pant style, I remember being like "I have a best friend, Erin, who is 6'1, how is she supposed to wear these?!" And we ended up making a cut just for tall ladies. My family is all petite women, so we have a style just for ladies 5'5 and under. They inspire me so much, especially because the fit is the most important thing to me. I love when people try on my clothes and they feel so confident and hot. It's my favorite thing in the world. I recently designed our "Rebecca Tie Top" for my beautiful roommate/best friend! It turned out to be a best seller, especially for petite ladies with a smaller bust.
CURIO: There is (finally) a large push for brands to use ethical and sustainable practices - how are you navigating manufacturing and sourcing?
Ally: So happy about this! I keep it in mind at every stage of production. I feel like I learned a lot just from being a consumer as well. Have you ever ordered a small item and it comes with a ton of packaging you have to throw away and it's like why did it even need this?! We ship plastic free in compostable packaging. It's not the most glamorous or impressive presentation, but I'm hoping people are more focused on the clothing items inside! Even when we do influencer gifting, we ship it in our minimal packaging. You just throw it away anyway! All of our items are made in LA at factories with workers that are paid well. You have to be realistic, though, and realize that this will add a significant cost. But it is important and makes me feel good about what I'm doing.
CURIO: What do you want more consumers to know/think about when shopping in this 'new' ethical/sustainable landscape?
Ally: I actually think consumers are so knowledgable about the industry because people are finally talking about it more. I do wish that sometimes people wouldn't always look for the "cheapest" product, because even though you are saving money, there is usually a cost somewhere else that isn't worth it. Like people not being paid a fair wage or manufacturing that is damaging to the environment. I am guilty of this too and I try to work on it all the time.
CURIO: My last question is about the future of Sur La Cote? What are you hoping for the store? Do you have any exciting projects or events you'd like to share?
Ally: Yes! I am so excited to be doing a pop-up store for all of August in the Brentwood country mart. This will be my first long-term pop-up and I can't wait. I love being able to interact with customers, hear their feedback, and see them in my clothes! And we have some really cute new items that will be ready by August.