Mirror, Mirror: Limited local manufacturing may force designer to look overseas

Liz Rymar, owner of the ellelaluri line, may soon have to move production overseas.
Liz Rymar, owner of the ellelaluri line, may soon have to move production overseas. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 29, 2013

Ellelauri's silky leather-trimmed shirts and baby doll dresses are very cubicle-appropriate.

But the splashes of shimmer, shine, and sparkle courtesy of designer Liz Rymar make every look perfectly holiday chic - hence the fab timing of ellelauri's Liberty Place pop-up shop. The 2,500-square-foot boutique will be housed in the downtown mall through the end of January.

You may know the 5-year-old label from Tinseltown exposure, especially from the Kardashian ladies.

Kim Kardashian was photographed in a black, A-line ellelauri silk skirt leaving a London hotel in late 2012. Kendall Jenner, Kim's younger sister, wore one of Rymar's fit-and-flares during an an interview last summer.

"Sales shot through the roof," gushed Rymar, the line's 31-year-old designer and creative director. "And it still does because people keep seeing it on the Internet."

Other celebs spotted in the easy-to-wear wear - think specialty boutique meets The Limited - are George Clooney's ex-girlfriend Stacy Keibler and Entertainment Tonight and Dancing With the Stars host Samantha Harris.

These days, said Rymar, a Huntingdon Valley native, she's turning a profit thanks to 20 percent to 30 percent growth each year since ellelauri's inception. The brand is sold in about 60 retail locations nationwide, including Center City's Pileggi and Aoki boutiques.

Rymar, now based in Philly, makes all of her moderately priced 28-piece line - most dresses are less than $200 - in New York's Garment District.

"We can be completely involved in the process, and that's very important to me," said Rymar.

But soon, she worries, she may have to move her production overseas.

It's a dilemma a lot of growing designers are facing. When fewer than 100 pieces are produced of each item, as Rymar does, it's easier to manufacture locally. But as the line grows, the cost becomes prohibitive.

Thanks to local initiatives like the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy's and the kickoff of the "PHL Made" marketing movement earlier this year, there is a designer on every street and cul-de-sac. But there are still few places for sewing, and the facilities that do exist say they are too busy to take new clients. Also, designers who have found local manufacturers can be stingy with details for fear of competition.

Two weeks ago, I sat on a fashion panel sponsored by Fashion Group International, and the No. 1 question from the audience's 60 or so budding designers was how to make the bulk of their products in Philadelphia for a reasonable price.

"We are almost at the point where it would be more cost-effective to go to Asia," said Rymar, who found Philadelphia manufacturers, but they wouldn't take new lines.

"It's kind of scary. Right now the cost of shipping samples to Asia wouldn't be worth it . . . but we may be getting to that point soon."

Rymar, who graduated in 2004 with a degree in fashion merchandising from the University of Delaware, landed her first job in sales at a swimwear design house in New York. The business was so small, she got to work closely with the designer and learned how to accommodate the curves of a woman's body.

That experience motivated Rymar to take classes at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. In 2007, Rymar took additional design courses at the London College of Fashion.

When Rymar came back to the States, she invested $8,000 in ellelauri - a combination of her name (Elizabeth) and her sister's nickname - and in spring 2008, debuted a line of jersey dresses in wrap and color-blocked styles.

Her collections progressed. She started working with silks and chiffons, tweeds and wools - mostly dresses. She opened a boutique in Avalon this past summer.

This fall she noticed women have turned their attention to blouses - especially with leather trim and sequins - and added those to the line.

Leather collars + leather cuffs + a little sparkle = great Black Friday shopping.




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