Welcome to our newest editorial initiative, Who What Wear Spotlight, where we'll be using our editorial platform, social following, and ad inventory to turn the spotlight on small businesses that need our support now more than ever. Each week, we'll be highlighting a new fashion or beauty company. If you own a small brand and would like to be considered for the program, please apply here.
Like so many other small business owners, Geraldine Chung, the owner and buyer of Los Angeles–based boutique LCD, has had to pivot her entire business strategy to e-commerce. LCD’s two retail stores account for 85% of its sales, so Chung decided to pack and move over 4000 units of inventory to her house in order to safely fulfill online orders herself.
“My house went from having major aesthetic vibes into being a chaotic warehouse,” says Chung. “But I’m so thankful I have a business that can even continue to function during the COVID-19 pandemic when so many others can’t.” Don’t be fooled by her positivity, though—it has been a huge challenge for Chung, who at the start of stay-at-home orders would often wake up in a panic at five every morning, wondering how she’d be able to adapt to survive, what loans she could apply for, how she could take care of her team and vendors, most of whom are also small businesses (a mission LCD has held from the beginning).
Since launching in 2012, Chung has created the ultimate cool-girl fashion spot: a true hub for discovering emerging or independent designers, a lot of whom we love and feature regularly, like Collina Strada, Sandy Liang, Martine Rose, and Rejina Pyo. “One of the biggest challenges for moving our retail operations online is not being able to shoot our beautiful designer products on models using professional photographers and cameras,” says Chung.
Despite all of the obstacles, Chung is making it work, and we couldn’t be more impressed. That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to interview her and get the 411 on everything from the inspiration behind starting LCD, her work-from-home style, what things are currently bringing her comfort, and of course, trends that we shouldn’t sleep on. Keep scrolling to read our interview, and if you’re able to show support, Chung shared her favorite LCD pieces you can shop online.
First of all, how are you?
Thank you for asking! Thankfully, I am doing fine, and my family is healthy and safe. So on a personal level, I'm doing great. On a professional level, things are crazy.
Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
LCD is a curated destination for some of the most exciting young and emerging independent fashion brands in the world. It’s a community-focused, internationally sourced venue for people who love fashion, eccentricity, uniqueness, and a little bit of attitude, but above all else, it’s a place to feel safe. I hated the idea that so often fashion meant dealing with snooty customer service, so everyone on my team is kind, gracious, and friendly. My approach is definitely influenced by being an outsider in fashion—I did not come from a fashion background at all but rather music and tech.
What inspired you to start your business?
After the last recession, I was living in New York, helping run the digital media team at Atlantic Records, and feeling very overworked and under-inspired. What did inspire me was A) the thriving contemporary-art scene and B) the indie (what we used to call “hipster”) scene in Brooklyn, where it seemed like everyone I knew was starting their own small business: pickling eggplants, screenprinting, making artisanal whiskey.
I knew I was ready to leave the corporate world and start my own business, and with my background in web development, digital marketing, and e-commerce, a website seemed like the ideal platform. I was so moved and excited by the new creative work I was seeing from artists like Dash Snow, José Parlá, Chris Johanson, but the art world seemed so rarefied and unapproachable, I had no idea how to enter it. But fashion. Fashion seemed accessible, and since I already knew how to design and build websites, it seemed like the easiest way to launch a new business. In hindsight, that was incredibly naive, but the naivete was probably necessary!
How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
Social distancing has affected my business in a huge, huge way—in many ways. Our two brick and mortar stores account for 85% of our sales, so you can imagine the absolute panic I felt when I heard that the mayor of L.A. called for all nonessential businesses to temporarily close. I think a crisis brings out some truths about people, and it’s absolutely fascinating to see how people reacted. I know people who panicked and felt paralyzed with fear. I know people who immediately started hoarding paper goods even though they didn’t need them. And I know (and am so lucky to be surrounded by) people like me, who stepped up to the plate and got shit done during a crisis. My senior staff and I had 24 hours to pack up and load all of our stores’ inventory into my house so I could continue to run the online business safely from home.
Since then, it’s been a true business rollercoaster. The first four weeks I would say I slept maybe four to five hours a night and worked from before dawn till late at night. I was researching grants and government loans, organizing unemployment for my staff, developing a new digital marketing strategy, speaking with friends who are digital- and financial-planning experts, consoling fellow business owners, calling banks for loans, packing orders, and sharing all my findings on social media so that fellow business owners could find help and solace.
Some people are finding joy in getting dressed and doing their beauty routine, even if they have nowhere to go. What do you think fashion and beauty can offer people right now? What has it done for you?
I think getting dressed during quarantine is very important for our mental health. It’s self-care. Everyone is allowed to lounge about in sweatpants and dirty socks—that’s completely understandable—but if you do that every single day, you may start to lose the sense of time passing; you may start to feel unmotivated and lost. Getting dressed for me is like putting on armor and girding myself for the day’s work. It's also just a nice way to alleviate the monotony of spending every day by yourself at home.
Speaking of fashion, how would you describe your working-from-home style?
Well… not to sound like a complete hypocrite, but I think everyone who knows me knows of my absolute love for sweatpants. Luckily, I have such a large assortment of super-cool sweatpants, I could probably wear a different pair every day for a couple of weeks. My WFH style is pretty much the same as my regular working style: vintage T-shirt, fun sweatpants, and Nikes.
Aside from fashion and beauty, what are some things that are currently bringing you comfort?
My three-legged rescue pitbull, Millie, is to die for!! She’s honestly such a rad dog. But also old musicals (I dare you not to watch The Sound of Music and hum those tunes for days) and trashy YA science-fiction novels.
What are your favorite brands?
That is a very political question!
What’s one fashion trend we shouldn’t sleep on and why?
I don’t really believe in fashion trends anymore! I think the advent of the internet and Instagram, in particular, has made it so that every micro-trend has its own cult following. All the folks who love grandma-chic congregate together, all the streetwear heads band together, all the avant-garde Margiela/Demeulemeester/Owens tribes stick together. I think it’s really wonderful —though it does make buying very difficult.
There are certain trends I think are incredibly important, though none of them are about a certain kind of style. The movement towards sustainability is so powerful and important, as is the body-positivity movement. Every single fashion designer needs to consider both of these as fundamental parts of their business moving forward.
Shop Chung's Favorite Products:
"I'm obsessed with this brand Someware, which was created by two L.A.–based artists, Brendan Fowler and Cali Thornhill-Dewitt. It took almost two years of chasing them down to finally get these tees in my store. They’re made in conjunction with my friends at Everybody.World, and the fabric is all recycled cotton."
"The nose behind Lola James Harper, Rami Mekdachi, was a perfumer for some of the most-storied fragrance houses in Europe and created this line with his family to honor the intimate and personal scents they experienced visiting friends all around the world."
"My friend Kara Jubin designed these amazing sweatpants (and matching sweatshirt!) in this color for us. We had been working crazy hours for days on end, and we were both desperate for some wine and not afraid to be sloppy about it—hence the name “wine spill” for the colorway. The fabric is a tiny bit thick/sturdy, which is great so you don’t look like a complete slob!"