Avelaka is a clothing brand founded by Laura Miranda, a California native and member of the Pechanga Tribe in Southern California. The burgeoning label is already sold in stores such as Anthropologie, and boutiques throughout the country and has been featured in Women’s Health, Refinery29 and California Apparel News. Laura is also a tribal attorney for Native American rights, and seeks to create garments that meld classic shapes and designs with native inspirations.
Most recently, Avelaka’s Holiday ’12 and Spring ’13 collections were shown at the Project Tradeshow in Las Vegas. Despite being busy meeting and greeting with potential buyers and press, Laura took the time to answer a few questions for PR Couture.
How did the inspiration for Avelaka come about?
Being a lawyer for tribal rights I have experience helping people to understand tribal values and practices, but this was primarily in adversarial situations. I wanted to share the beauty of native culture in a pleasant and creative way that also inspires one to seek out new experiences and different ways of life.
Once you had the idea, how did you go about implementing it?
The fun part is visualizing the idea, but then the work begins! And where to start? Since I am a lawyer the nuts and bolts of trademarking the brand name and logo, establishing the company and embarking on branding development were very familiar to me. The search for a team in the fashion industry to collaborate with was a bit harder. I used my existing contacts to reach out to people in the industry. I was fortunate enough to find a great group of ladies, including a designer with graphics skills, a production specialist and an amazing sales team to help with the launch of the brand.
What’s been the biggest challenge moving from the world of law to the world of fashion?
The challenge for me right now is having enough time to do both, since I still represent my tribe on a limited basis. I am also a Governor appointee to the California State Native American Heritage Commission, so I continue to stay active on tribal issues. Many aspects of developing and managing a clothing brand involve attention to detail just like lawyering. The fashion industry moves so quickly in terms of development and production of collections each season. Being creative and executing under pressure is a challenging balancing act.
Does Avelaka support the Luiseño tribe or have any give-back components?
Avelaka is not associated with any of the Luiseño tribes – there are seven in southern California. We are definitely interested in giving back to tribal communities and programs that are in need as well as exploring other related charities once the brand is established.
I would love to bring an aspect of an indigenous technique, weather it be weaving or painting, into the brand forming a partnership with native artists.
How did you begin to get the word out and secure distribution in stores like Anthropologie?
We were fortunate enough to have a great sales team and made ourselves visible through press, trade shows and networking. Our unique prints are what appealed to Anthropologie – they loved the colors and our graphic designs.
What has initial feedback been from buyers, customers and press?
The prints! They all love the colorful and creative prints.
What are some cultural considerations consumers should be aware of regarding native inspired looks?
As a brand one of our cornerstone philosophies is to bring native culture into fashion in a respectful and authentic manner. We would never copy symbols or designs that have a sacred or private meaning into our garments.
Explain PR strategy and biggest success thus far?
A major part of our strategy has been to start with brand development by experts in this area. We worked to define exactly why and how Avelaka is a unique brand and then put together a strategy to carry out the brand vision and concept.
A PR firm then follows the brand vision when it puts together press campaigns and pitches. This ensures consistent and targeted communication of the brand. For example, our brand position and purpose – what makes us unique and sets us apart from other brands is that Avelaka is the only apparel brand that melds classic shapes with native inspiration. And more than just offering lovely garments, Avelaka shares the beauty of native cultures, encouraging women to embrace the spirited moments in life.
What role does social media play in your PR efforts?
Social media is vital to facilitate brand awareness and recognition. An additional goal of ours is to utilize social media to help us understand and respond to what’s satisfying to customers. Having the knowledge about percentages of people that respond positively to a certain style gives us vital information to use when designing future collections. Our success, after all, ultimately hinges on a combination of marketing our vision and providing customers with garments that give them an experience they will want again and again.
Three things people may not know about Avelaka:
- Avelaka (pronounced ah‐VEL-ah-ka) means butterfly in the Luiseno Indian language.
- All of our garments are manufactured in the USA in Los Angeles, CA.
- The majority of our prints and colors are our own creation, inspired by natural landscapes, designs in nature and tribal cultural motifs.