Karen Mulligan and Jillian Demling, cofounders of Pret-a-Surf : “It was important for us to have our line made in America specifically made in NYC. We wanted to give back to the city we love”

Karen Mulligan  Jillian Demling_pret a surf

I was first aware of Pret-a-surf while browsing on J.Crew for a denim jacket. Something that I finally did not buy ending up ordering a necklace. Ok then, here we are now I am actually interviewing the two best friends and cofounders of this lovely and promising baby brand. As I was chating with one of my blogger friend about her visit to some kite surf competition with Sosh, I thought ‘hey why wouldn’t I do a special summer editorial focusing on surf !!??’. Funny enough that today as I was to meet with a private wealth management expert and prepared for a dull introduction such as I studied that and I graduated from here, when first words from this charming and talented guy were ‘I am a former professional surfer’ … Although I am not myself a surfer (I snowboarded and skateboarded as a kid though) I feel that there is something special about surfers, better than a state of mind, a lifestyle. You know how much I love lifestyle, better when associated with design and the arts and a touch of business, don’t you ! So here we are with Jill and Karen who both met a decade ago and share a passion for surf. Based in NYC these two are part of one of the most dynamic creative community, working for the American Vogue and managing legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz’s studio. They mean it when they say that they want to put their names on a brand that conveys both style and functionality.

Karen Mulligan and Jillian Demling on ‘running a women’s brand and a business with things that they love and on inspiring women to do whatever they want to do’.

Business Madame : You both co founded Pret-a-Surf, how do you share between the two of you with the different areas of expertise?

Karen Mulligan and Jillian Demling : We are fortuntate that our skill sets complement each other. I (Jill) am very social and am out and about meeting all different types of people so I tend to do more of the selling and promoting of Pret-a-Surf. I (Karen) as Annie Leibovitz’s agent have a lot of experience with contracts and negotiations and tend to handles the business side of things. When it comes to designing the line and making creative decisions it is a true collaboration of 50/50.

BM : To what extent your previous professional experiences infuses in this project ?

KM & JD : We both are around creative types all the time – from fashion designers to editors to photographers to artists to celebrities and this enables to see all the different sides of business. We both have unique days jobs that give us access to many different perspectives – all of which inspire us and influence us daily in our creative thinking and way to work when it relates to Pret-a-Surf.

BM : And in fact you still have your carreer going on so how do you manage running this new venture and your ‘daily job’ at the time ?

KM & JD : We are both highly functioning women and can multi-task. We believe in what we do and give 110% to everything we do. We never compromise and we are incredibly loyal and dedicated to our “day jobs” and to Pret-a-Surf. We always find a way to make it all work. It definitely helps that we are best friends too.

BM : How does your own lifestyle influences on your products and on the brand ?

KM & JD : We both love sports and fashion, and are active and athletic, but still want to be classic and chic while doing any of our athletic endeavors. We value comfort and style. With Pret-a-Surf, our goal is to create pieces that WE would want to wear. Function and fashion in one.

BM : Professionals from the creative industries and even at a small scale are getting increasing recognition for their social and economic contribution. Where do you stand on this point ?

KM & JD : When we started Pret-a-Surf, it was important for us to have our line made in America specifically made in NYC. We wanted to give back to the city we love and has inspired us so many years, and give business to an industry that is moving more and more overseas. We believe that sports give young women a much needed outlet and are involved in charities raising this awareness.

BM : There is a beautiful story beneath the birth of Pret-a-Surf so how does the story continues ? What are the next steps or up coming development ?

KM & JD : We have really enjoyed collaborating with J.Crew. It is exciting to work with other creative and successful women, like Jenna Lyons. We hope to continue that relationship and maybe branch out and put our Pret-a-Surf stamp on products other than surf and swimwear. We would love to provide our Pret-a-Surf girl with everything they need from flip flops to a great functional beach bag to a line of beach accessories. We have a “sea” of ideas!

BM : Tell us about someone that really supports(ed) you on bringing the light on your brand ?

KM & JD : Jeffrey Kalinsky from the store Jeffrey was the first to jump on board and support Pret-a-Surf from the beginning. He bought the line without even seeing a sample. His stamp of approval brought others into the mix. Next came Humberto Leon and Carol Lim from Opening Ceremony. Mickey Drexler and Jenna Lyons have helped make Pret-a-Surf a true household name by doing two collaborations with us, putting Pret-a-Surf in their catalogue and last summer, making a video on our story. Their support has been incredible to us.

BM : What advice would you give to any young entrepreneur ?

KM & JD : Believe in yourself. Believe in what you do. Put your ideas into practice. Take chances and never give up.




About businessmadame

founder of Business Madame ... since 2007

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