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Katherine and Robin

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The Bouwieri Girls Making Waves in LA

Mono B and Lapcos, Comfortable and Curative Brands Thrive by 'Bringing Balance'

Good news, Virginia: it’s now completely acceptable and downright fashionable to wear leggings for both casual and work attire. Truly fashionable leggings are now not only vibrantly hued, but well fabricated from the softest, most comfortable materials on earth – many of them recycled. 

Bad news? Most of the next generation of “functional fashion” designers and merchandisers propagating adoption of this trend aren’t doing it from Loudoun County. This fashionable fusion of comfort, sustainability and style has its bullseye some 2,676 miles to the west – in Los Angeles. 

How do we know? We have spies.

Katherine and Robin Bouweiri, daughters of Kristina Bouwieri, founder of Sterling Women, have their feet firmly planted in this seismic shift, and are delighted to share their perspectives from ground zero. 

But first, if you doubt that “ath-leisure” is changing fashion as we know it – even in the more conservative Mid-Atlantic – you haven’t been watching the stock price of companies like Lululemon. The great irony of the pandemic for “under 30’s” and many older cohorts, is that having a pandemic turn work routines topsy turvy has made healthy, athletic lifestyles even more of a priority than before March of last year. 

Katherine, now 25, and Robin, 24, moved to LA just ahead of this curve after graduating together from Virginia Commonwealth University the summer of 2019, Katherine with degrees in Creative Advertising and Fashion Merchandising, Robin in Graphic Design. The sisters found a third roommate to share rent on an apartment, confident of instant success.

Katherine landed the opportunity to open a Free People store in the heart of Malibu, three months before graduating college. A month after moving, Robin landed a job at a digital marketing agency and was quickly promoted to lead designer. Craving a small team environment where she thrives best, Robin jumped three months later to a contemporary women’s fashion brand called Comune, where she rose to assistant Creative Director, just before the doors closed due to COVID.

A couple of months into unemployment Robin received a phone call from Jennifer Lee, an old colleague and now President of K-beauty brand Lapcos (https://www.lapcosusa.com/). Robin popped in for an interview and immediately became their design and marketing coordinator, rising rapidly to manager. Soon after, Katherine landed a job at Mono B, https://www.mymonob.com/, an Asian-owned, woman-owned athleisure brand. The pandemic brought more business to the brand than ever before, which sounded the clarion call to take its products direct to consumer.

Now both women – Katherine at the ath-leisure clothing brand Mono B, and Robin at the Korean skincare company Lapcos – are doing work for which they might have waited years to be promoted into if they were in more established firms – in cross-cultural, emerging fields with international footprints to boot. 

Maybe luck did play a part, but so did knowing what they wanted to do at an early age, and working hard to build both their skills and resumes by committing to part-time jobs through high-school and college. Katherine spent nearly seven years with Free People, a bohemian-styled clothing brand that invited her to come to the home office in Philadelphia when she graduated. But, Katherine didn’t want to live in Philadelphia. 

“I decided, I'm going to live where I want to live, I'm going to get the job that I want, and I'm going to do that by working hard,” Katherine says, and for her, there was no other choice but LA. She finds Mono B to be not only a perfect fit for her skillset, but with a lean enough head count to afford her the opportunity to learn by doing nearly everything needed to market the brand online. She’s done all the email marketing, advertising, styling for the photo shoots, social media and much of the branding, such as naming all of the styles for the website. She’s worn so many hats, she had to hire a marketing assistant. For someone with a passion for fashion, she considers it a “gift” to be able to do a bit of everything and so be able to apply creative inspiration to every facet of marketing. 

“I'm definitely a more elevated role than someone my age with a normal trajectory would have had. A lot of what I've been doing is extreme trial and error and spending a lot of time teaching myself things I don't know,” Katherine admits. “Some people thrive having a mentor to hold their hand and teach them the ropes. I thrive having the freedom to do things the way I want and figure it out along the way.”

Mono B proclaims that its apparel is designed with balance and inclusivity in mind. “We balance fashion with function and quality with cost. We believe that moving your body and having a balanced lifestyle is a necessity and not a luxury.” Inclusion for customers can be as simple as being able to find the really cute styles in “curvy” sizes for a larger frame, or that, for the month of May – Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – every purchase was accompanied by a healing or invigorating cosmetic mask produced by Lapcos, and designed to introduce the best of Korean skin-care science, a.k.a. “K-Beauty,” to the U.S. 

The cross-marketing effort was not only hugely successful for both brands, but donated 10% of proceeds to the Asian Mental Health Collective (https://www.asianmhc.org/) – because May is also Mental Health Month, and because giving back is a core company value for both sisters and their brands. As they put it, “The only thing better than looking good is feeling good, and when you give to others (especially those most in need), you never have to choose between the two.” In the last year, other philanthropic partnerships have included the Downtown Women’s Center, Dress for Success, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and donations to front-line health workers and hospitals. 

One of Lapcos’s specialties is eco-friendly sheet masks drenched in serum so that, when applied for 20 minutes, the healing ingredients have an opportunity to “dig deep into your skin and deliver many benefits at once,” Robin explains. Other specialties include targeted skincare, like their Red Collagen Collection powered by plant-based collagen boosters, and their *new* Biome Boost Cream, a clinically proven daily moisturizer powered by probiotics and prebiotics to support your skin’s microbiome. 

This month, Lapcos is launching three highly concentrated sleeping masks, also known as their Zz-Shot Series, a curated skin program to maximize the skin’s natural processes that repair and renew while you sleep for truly dreamy skin. The key to effective skincare is using products that play well together, so Lapcos makes it easy to work their formulations seamlessly into your regimen. (See Robin’s Regimen below for some of her favorite products.)

The next challenge absorbing the company’s interest is how to make its products 100% biodegradable, Robin says. “It's tough but we're trying to get creative to figure out a good solution.” And when Robin says “we,” she means it. At 24, she’s in charge of the company’s B2C and B2B marketing strategies from launch campaigns to weekly email blasts, designing and updating the website and designing all product packaging and marketing collateral. She even designed a one-of-a-kind structure for the brand to display their product line up at tradeshows, like Magic in Las Vegas (see https://www.magicfashionevents.com/).

Over the past nine months, she’s been working with Jen and Lapcos’s global team on product development as well. From conducting market research on trends and new formulations to deciding what products will have the greatest impact for the company, Robin’s main goal is making sure they’re not just creating more waste.

Fittingly, we encountered the Mono B brand first at a Sterling Women’s luncheon, and fell hard, quickly amassing a full wardrobe of leggings, biker shorts, tops, hoodies, and “sweatshirts” that could pass easily for couture “ready-to-wear.” The feel of some of the fabrics is almost silken – “like butter” – but the merchandise comes at all comes at a reasonable price-point and nearly all the pants have large enough pockets for an iPhone 11 Pro-Max!  While the line stocks boutiques and gyms all over the country it doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar outlet anywhere in Virginia or DC, something Katherine would love to remedy. Just don’t ask her to move back to run it; she’s having a ball right where she is.

As for what gave her the confidence to strike out on her own, Katherine says, “I grew up listening to all these inspiring women at Sterling Women, but I had no idea how much it was affecting me. It's definitely shaped me and my drive. I grew up believing whatever I want to do, I should do it, and it’s going to be okay.” 

Robin chimes in, by way of advice for her peers, “Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, whether that means moving across the country or leaving a job where you’re not thriving. So many people are afraid of the unknown but once you embrace it, you're drawn to it more and more because the return is so incredible.” 

Why LA? Katherine says, “I just felt so drawn to LA. I was never going to stay in the DC area. The DC area is great for other things, but fashion is not one of them. And I wanted to be surrounded by opportunity and like-minded people, which is what I have here. Los Angeles literally encapsulates me. I love healthy eating. I'm a pescatarian. I love fashion, I love the beach. I love hiking, and I hate the cold, right?”

LA is compelling for another reason – people care about what they’re wearing. Both the scenery and the commitment to sustainability are inspiring. While New York may be focused on always expressing the ultimate in designer chic, in LA designers are willing to “try it on,” tweak and reiterate until something takes off. And, because brands and their warehouses are literally around the corner from each other, the people she meets shopping, eating and working out all are connections that may matter professionally. 

Echoes Robin, “I think everyone here is a bit more progressive and open-minded, I’m so thankful to have been given a chance to prove myself so early on in my career. In my experience, there is more of a youth culture here, and it creates the ideal environment for anyone straight out of college looking to branch into skincare, fashion or music industries.”

This fall, they’ll visit trade shows and maybe an Indie fashion show or two (see p. X) to stay plugged into what’s next, and the cycle will begin again.

Robin’s Regimen: 

  1. “Don’t forget about your second line of defense, it's very important to use Vitamin C during the day for antioxidant protection alongside your SPF. Robin uses “Topical C” by the Nue Co. She just shakes a bit into her Lapcos Red Collagen Serum and is protected from the elements. Always follow serum with a moisturizer, such as Lapcos’s Biome Boost. Lastly, add a layer of SPF.
  2. “Retinol and hydration, the holy grail, supply all your skin needs to thrive at night.” Start with The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum or Lapcos’s Hyaluronic Acid Mask. Next, apply Paula’s Choice Retinol. Then apply either Lapcos’s Restore Shot or Quench Shot (two of the three sleeping masks launching this month) for a boost of hydration and nourishment overnight.
  3. “I’m obsessed with sheet masks, I use one every day.” After work it’s either the Lapcos Collagen Mask or Escargot Mask. On the weekends, she’ll use the Lapcos Vitamin C mask in the morning for extra antioxidant protection and an undeniable glow. 
  • Robin & Katherine Bouwieri in Malibu
  • Fun Colors
  • Summer Prints
  • Wild Side, Curvy or Slender
  • Katherine and Robin
  • Curvy Girls Love Prints
  • "Pismo" Recycled Set
  • Sheet Masks For Whatever Your Skin Craves
  • Robin's Night Regemin
  • Robin's Morning Regemin