We had so much fun catching up with Emily Soong, who brings out the everyday warrior in each of us through her clothing line WILL LANE.
What are your guiding values, and how do you bring them to life through your product line?
Empowerment, determination, and authenticity. Our primary mission is to empower the woman behind the clothes, and not merely the brand or product itself. When she picks up or wears a WILL LANE piece, we want her to feel something really specific - that she's supported and enabled to take on whatever comes her way with boldness, determination, and fearlessness (and of course, comfort & style). This doesn't mean being perfect or always "succeeding". Rather, it means acknowledging the obstacles in an authentic & honest way, and then facing them head-on despite the challenge. By placing value on this mindset or approach "in the gym" or "in the ring" (so to speak), we aim to empower her first and foremost. The clothes become a vehicle for this.
These values permeate everything we do - from the colors we use, to our cuts, to our minimalistic aesthetic, to what we name each piece, to the content that's produced. But most importantly, these values are manifested through our own ethos at WILL LANE. I'm proud to say that those who work with WILL LANE are living examples of these values!
As consumers, we have a lot of different choices when we are deciding what to buy, what to wear. Our purchases make a statement about what we believe in and what we are trying to communicate. What sort of statement are we making when we “wear our Will”?
Definitely, apparel has the power to say something about you, to make a statement. By "wearing your will" on the outside, you're reflecting your inner strength and willpower, which can be channeled whether you're in the middle of that tough workout, trying to run that extra mile, just trying to get through the day, or dealing with a larger ordeal. You're wearing your fight and struggle - whether it's in or out of the gym - out in the open, which goes back to our values of authenticity and empowerment. By wearing your will, you're owning who you are, which isn't always the easiest thing to do. So behind this lies inner strength and will.
You had experience in both finance and education before Will Lane. Changing careers can be an intimidating prospect; what made you take the leap to turn your dream into reality and start your own company?
After turning 30, I caught the entrepreneurial bug and realized that it was time for me to create something of my own. My parents had their own business for over 25 years, so I guess the thought of it was always in the back of my mind. Throughout all of my career and personal transitions, being active was always a passion and helpful go-to that remained constant for me. And as I began to dive into the transformative aspect of fitness (beyond just the physicality of it), I knew more than ever that I wanted to explore this more.
Starting your own business, especially without a background in the industry, comes with many challenges. Looking back at what you’ve built, what are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of having brought together women from different walks of life. It's an incredible thing when you see people working towards a common goal -- people who may not have crossed paths otherwise. It's one of the hidden or "soft" sides of running a business, but at some point when you're working with talent, you realize that your role is to partially facilitate the talent of others and not get in their way! I truly love empowering others and watching them flourish in their work and passions - this expands 10-fold when you're experiencing a team effort. At the end of the day, it all comes down to real people and providing them with a meaningful experience.
Do you ever have moments when you doubt yourself or your decisions? Some people call the feeling “imposter syndrome”- when you afraid of being “found out” for being anything less than an expert. If so, how do you combat that?
Being a new business owner in a new industry definitely gives way to this. But I think this syndrome results from very real pressure to act a certain way when you're in a particular position. When you're a founder, people do look to you to have all the answers and to make all the decisions. But the truth is, as human beings, we're not always 100% correct and there's always some margin of error and risk to every decision. So rather than trying to "combat" this syndrome, I always go back to transparency and try to embrace it instead. In other words, I try to let others know that this is a new field for me, that I don't have all the answers, and that I'm always learning and refining each and every day. When you acknowledge this to others, they're generally understanding and it levels the conversation or task at hand. This also has the power to put everyone at ease because then you're all working towards a solution as a collective unit rather than as a hierarchy.
The truth is, we ALL have our challenges and struggles; it all boils down to what we decide to reveal to others. In many ways, its almost like reverse psychology... by way of revealing your vulnerabilities or uncertainties, you also reveal your willingness to connect, be authentic, and confidence in who you are and where you're at! There's power to that, which can empower the individual and also others.
When you’re building a company, no two days are alike; but can you describe to us the closest thing to an “average” day for you?
Most of my days consist of lots of emailing, jumping on conference calls and running to meetings. But I always start my day with a cup of coffee and checking the news to see what the landscape is like for that day, and when I get a workout in, it's usually at the end of the day. I'm more of a night owl, so working out later in the day helps me decompress. These are the two bookends of an average day for me.
I couldn’t help but notice your recent launch- a beautiful bomber with nods to iconic pieces of NYC’s history. You’ve said that this jacket is an “ode to NYC women.” Can you speak a bit about the process of designing your jacket, and more broadly, what about active women in NYC inspires you?
In answering this, I have to trace the jacket back to its origins. It all started with a chance encounter this summer with a woman wearing a classic black satin bomber jacket with "BY WAY OF DALLAS" written on the back. I’ve always loved this style; they’re reminiscent of varsity athletic jackets and baseball bomber jackets for me - both classic American staples. But I also immediately connected with those words “By Way Of" because they're a visible and direct acknowledgement of where one comes from. To me, the person wearing the jacket was stating their identity loudly, clearly, and confidently. With any geographic identification, there are always mental & emotional associations with certain places -- this is especially true for NYC.
Turns out, the woman in the jacket worked for the brand and she was all for getting a collaboration going. It felt like kismet!
In my early vision, I knew I wanted to create something with that strong identity. When I specifically think about NYC and downtown culture, I think of graffiti and street art. I wanted to make something for the woman who embodies those non-conformist qualities and who is striving, struggling, hustling, and dreaming in this big city - these are the women who inspire me. And so this jacket pays homage to these women and their amazing resilience & strength! After all, in my opinion, "being active" is so much more than 60 minutes of cardio or strength training each day. It's a life style, a mentality, and an approach to life. To me personally, it means actively striving for something - whether it's a physical transformation, career goal, or personal growth.
I also wanted to take something that seems classic, throwback, and from another era (i.e. the baseball bomber), and turn it on its head by adding atypical elements. This led way to the patchwork. The jacket is also a transition piece that can be worn from studio to street. I hope you'll all check it out here.
Ready to wear your WILL? Use code ENJOY20 to get 20% all active-wear on will-lane.com.