Meet Morgan Curtis, artist, fashion designer, and founder of Morgan Lane, a line of luxury lingerie, sleepwear, and swimwear. Having founded her brand in 2014, Morgan aims to change the way we think about intimate wear, and build a brand that adds fashionable flare and luxurious care to items worn both inside and outside of the bedroom. From her careful attention to detail, to her proud love of opulence, Morgan Lane as a brand reflects not only Morgan herself, but manages to capture the zeitgeist of the modern sophisticated woman - a woman who dresses for herself first.
Born the oldest daughter of iconic fashion designer Jill Stuart, Morgan grew up fully enthralled by the inner workings of the New York City fashion scene. Having had a prime example of the work it takes build and maintain a brand with staying power, she studied closely and reverse-engineered a blueprint for success in an erratic industry.
Now on the brand’s fifth year, Morgan Lane is evolving beyond intimates and solidifying its presence as a 360 degree fashion brand, with stockists spanning across continents and self-aware flirtatious branding that talks to, and not at, a universal generation of women who want to feel good about themselves.
I chatted with the Forbes 30 Under 30 alumna and former CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Finalist to discuss everything from her inspirations for the brand, to her tasks and to-dos as an entrepreneur, to what she’s learned from her time working for her mother.
THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR BREVITY AND CLARITY.
What led you to start Morgan Lane?
“Well I’ve always been obsessed with lingerie. I love all of the details that go into it and I think that women have a personal relationship with their lingerie that differs from their connection to their ready to wear, it’s like their little secret treasure and only them and their loved ones can see it, which makes it really special. This led me to expand into sleepwear, which really celebrates ones life at home, and it’s a luxury to lounge around in silk pajamas and cashmere, it makes you feel adored.”
How does Morgan Lane differentiate itself from other lingerie brands?
“Morgan Lane is really a fashion brand, we sell in lots of contemporary Ready-To-Wear stores, and it’s definitely seen as something that functions both as RTW and sleepwear. The functionality and comfort are really important to me, but my designs go beyond that because they allow my customers to take pajamas from day to night, and a lot of the prints and embroidery and color palettes follow [current] fashion trends. I also illustrate a lot of the prints myself, so they’re all custom made.”
What does your creative process look like for product DESIGN AND development?
“I usually start with a theme. For example, one of my recent themes came from a collection of antique brooches that I found in all different moon and star shapes, and then I used those to create a watercolor print for sleepwear and every single detail that went into the collection was based off of that; there were stars in the mesh and rhinestones on the panties, and star and moon appliqués on the bodysuits, and metallic ribbon trim down the sides of the track pants, and everything revolved around the night sky. My most recent collection was inspired by a road trip I went on in Italy for my honeymoon, and I loved taking inspiration from different objects [I saw while travelling], and real life day to day things that I find.”
WHAT DOES THE MORGAN LANE TEAM LOOK LIKE?
“We’re currently a team of 6, myself included. We’re all young women and we’re all really close. My office is right above the Jill Stuart office, which is really great because I get to see my mother most days and they have such a big team, sometimes we share facilities.”
How did working for your mother's brand prepare you for your work at Morgan Lane?
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always been fascinated by my mother’s energy and passion. She really loves what she does and puts everything she has into it. Like I said, she’s here almost every day, and when designing for Morgan Lane, I have a bond with the items I create and they really reflect my character and personality. She always taught me to stay true to myself and not to design things that I wouldn’t personally wear. When working at Jill Stuart, I explored every department from high school until now, from being an intern, to a sales rep at her SoHo and East Hamptons stores, to design, to fabric, to sourcing, and then I finally became her assistant designer. It was really important in learning every aspect of the business and the process.”
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU’V TAKEN FROM THAT EXPERIENCE AND BROUGHT INTO YOUR OWN COMPANY?
“Definitely the fabrics and sourcing. I’ve used a lot of the same mills and similar approaches to finding things that I’m looking for. I followed her development process for putting in new prints and embroideries, I’ve also definitely tried to follow her calendar for the year, and having the right production time and design time. Really every aspect I’ve used in some way or another.”
What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome in starting and running a brand?
“One of the biggest challenges for me is always editing the line, especially when I was starting out. I constantly have ideas running through my head and it’s hard to focus and narrow down. It’s really important to keep the collection tight, or it becomes really easy to run into production issues. For example, it’s usually hard for a new brand to hit the margin they need when they have too many styles and not enough orders yet, and they can’t hit factory minimums. I think a lot of business is prepared for bigger brands, and it’s hard to get it started at first, being so small.”
Morgan Lane is big in the European market, what made you decide to put your efforts there and how has that affected the success of the brand?
“It definitely has to do with the background of the brand. I’m the oldest of 3 girls, and my youngest sister is named Sophie Lane, which is where the “Lane” in Morgan Lane comes from. I was inspired by her to create Lanie, who is a bit of a muse who demonstrates the enchantment, charm, and mischief that belongs to the Morgan Lane girl. Before I started the brand, I was working on a series of doll paintings, and I wanted to draw a character that would make the brand identifiable and tell a story, and I think Lanie has a bit of French attitude, and her character really evolved in London and Paris first. I think that [the European markets] weren’t afraid to afraid to test my whimsical approach to lingerie and that was definitely really important, because it really established the brand from the start as a global brand. I was able to have some of my first pop-ups at Harrods and Le Bon Marché, and now I’m able to use those as examples of what we can do here in the US, which is really exciting.”
What does a typical day look like for you?
“I usually have a light breakfast or quick coffee with my husband. I try to resist looking at my phone until after, but it’s hard because I work with a lot of factories overseas. Once I’m in the office, I usually answer all of my emails and I have about 60 to go through on average. Every day is really different, it depends on when in the season the day falls. I can be doing anything from working on a new collection’s moodboard, to drawing a new print, to meeting with new fabric vendors, or being out on a photoshoot, showing the line to one of our stockists. Each day is totally different, and our team is really close, so I try to schedule what we call “Lanie Team Lunch” every other week. It doesn’t always happen, but we try. After work, sometimes we work out together, but in the summers I like to go for runs with my husband after work to clear my head.”
What advice do you have for young female entrepreneurs looking to break into the fashion industry?
“My advice would be to constantly be researching and organizing your research. I still refer to images that I saved from college for inspiration, and it’s really important to have an archive of references to always go back to, even if it’s on a Pinterest board or however you want to organize it. It’s also helpful to know how your mind works, and I love moodboards, they’re constant reminders of the Lanie girl and keep me focused. I highly recommend starting with an internship (especially at Morgan Lane), and you should take every task assigned to you like it’s the most important task you’ve been given, even if you’re organizing bras, for instance, it really shows your character and work ethic if you color code them and fold them perfectly.
HOW HAS YOUR UNIVERSITY DEGREE HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
“I went to Cornell and majored in Fiber Science and Apparel Design, but Cornell really makes you study everything. One of the most important things I learned about was pattern making and sewing, and I definitely still use that knowledge today. I do all of my own fittings on all of my styles here. I also worked a lot on my illustration and painting artwork [in university], which I use on a lot of my prints and packaging. I also did a semester abroad at Central Saint Martins in London and I studied knitwear, which was extremely beneficial because I just launched a cashmere and knitwear program for Morgan Lane last year, and it’s definitely a specialty that’s great to have a background in.”
What big plans do you have for 2019?
“We definitely have some really exciting collaborations coming, as well as some new launches on our website. We’re really expanding our embroidery program, so personalization has become a big thing for us, we allow our customers to be creative and design their own pieces. We’ve created little patches, and you can monogram items and make letters different colors. Other than that, we’re expanding our swimwear collection, we’re currently on our 3rd swim season. We want to make the whole Morgan Lane line from bed to beach.”