This months Women in Business series features Cathy, founder of Ivalieu Pettipants. We met Cathy almost 5 years ago when her brand was just an idea. We’ve loved watching and helping the idea turn into a business allowing women to be more comfortable and confident when life lifts their skirts. Read on to learn more about the Ivalieu journey.
How did the Ivalieu brand began?
After my second child I realized that I had been avoiding wearing skirts and dresses, especially so during the summer. It was too bad, I thought, as a skirt or dress instantly makes me feel more pulled together and attractive and those can be elusive feelings when you’ve got wee ones. But they simply were not practical. It was nearly impossible to keep my private bits private with all the bending down to pick things up and toddlers toddling along lifting up your skirt. Then there was bike commuting for work. The annoyance of struggling with my skirt as I hopped on and off my bike, especially with colleagues around, meant I was choosing pants most every day while my lovely dresses hung forlornly in my closet.
Then one day I was reading a blog post about what to pack when traveling and the female author said she takes several skirts and a pair of bike shorts to wear underneath to deal with accidental exposure and sticky thighs. What? I had had enough. We can put a rover on the planet Mars but the only options for women who are active but also want to wear a skirt or dress is to wear tight, compression undergarments or sweaty bike shorts (or buy specialized skorts)? Ack! I decided there must be a better way to preserve some modesty and banish thigh chafing while feeling and looking awesome.
Next thing I know, I became fixated on modernizing the bloomers of old with new performance fabrics and thoughtful design details. I believe that all of us deserve to feel and look good while making the most of our existing wardrobe so with the technical help of JLD-Studios, Ivalieu Pettipants was born!
How did you come up with the 3 unique silhouettes?
Our bodies come in all shapes and sizes, plus we have diverse aesthetics and life-styles. I knew that one type of fit wouldn’t work for everyone so I launched Ivalieu with three different silhouettes: the athletic Sport, the versatile Savvy, and the fancy Rococo.
The Sport is most like a bike short but without the padding so that it’s comfy for all-day wear. It’s an excellent choice if you prefer a snug fit, need the leg opening to stay put (think: bike commuting), or are looking to banish thigh rub. Because it’s fitted through the hips and thighs it can be worn under any style of skirt, from pencil to maxi.
The Savvy is most like an old-school slip short or tap pant from the 1940s. This style is semi-fitted through the hips and thighs so it’s perfect for those who like a loose leg opening. The Savvy works best under looser skirts like A-line.
The Rococo exists because it is so dang fun. It’s my ode to traditional bloomers a la “Little House on the Prairie.” It’s also semi-fitted through the hips and thighs but we’ve brought this bloomer into the new century with luxe fabrics and three rows of handmade ruffles that look great peeking out below your skirt hem. The Rococo a little bit steampunk, bohemian, and square-dancing all combined.
What is the best thing about owning your own business?
Oooh, I love the creativity involved but the best thing is adding value to customers’ lives. I have amazing customers. Everyone that I’ve met or talked with has been genuinely nice, smart, and fun so when they tell me that they appreciate Ivalieu and offer testimonials, it is just so rewarding.
Does Ivalieu have anything new planned for this year?
Yes! We’re testing out a longer version of our Sport silhouette plus a new type of fabric.
One of the major reasons that people love Ivalieu is that it eliminates the dreaded thigh chafing, aka chub rub. However, several customers said that they’d like to also have a longer option so we’ve sewed up a few of our Sport pettipants with an 8” inseam and are looking for feedback. For those who buy a pair, let us know: want more length or is it just right?
Also, I recently got my hands on some perforated fabric and I’m smitten. It’s light and ideal for those super, hot summer days. We made just a few pair of pettipants to see what customers think but assuming others love it as much as I do, we’ll roll out more this summer.
Why did you choose to work with a local manufacturing company like JLD-Studios?
I always wanted to keep production local but it took a while for me to fully appreciate the many ways it is the best choice. For example, I knew that I wanted to contribute to reshoring and the revival of living-wage manufacturing jobs in my community. However, it wasn’t until I got into prototyping and sample production that I started to realize how critical it is to be able to meet with people face-to-face. It’s generally always easier to communicate in person but as an apparel outsider, I discovered it was essential. I face a steep learning curve so you can imagine how challenging it was to trouble-shoot a design or construction problem by email or phone. Then when I was ready to produce my first run, I went to L.A. to buy fabrics and meet with some manufacturing studios. It was a true headache. I could not get anyone to meet with me unless I was ready to order 300 or 400 pieces. And looking at contract terms, it was obvious that if a bigger client had an urgent need, I would get pushed to the back of the line with no recourse. When Jenn told me that they were going to open a manufacturing studio, I ran the numbers on an initial run of 25 pieces versus 350 pieces. For this bootstrapping entrepreneur, it was a no-brainer. From low minimums to personal attention and sage advice, JLD-Studios makes Ivalieu possible and I am so grateful!
Remember to head over to Division St if you’re here in Portland. Pop up shop ends with Bike Month. Of course you can always find Ivalieu online!