Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

Nicole Lorenzo (left) and Jennifer Somer make lingerie for the fashion-conscious.

Posted December 4, 2002:

Flirty and functional
Nicole Lorenzo '96 designs new line of unmentionables

Two years ago Nicole Lorenzo '96 and a colleague in the Gap's lingerie division, stumbled on a revelation: Women have only two choices when choosing underwear: either plain and comfortable or sexy but impractical. "We were both dissatisfied with what was out there in the market," says Lorenzo.

Convinced that they could come up with a line of underwear that would satisfy fashion-conscious women but also stand up to frequent use, Lorenzo and her partner, Jennifer Somer, started researching the market as they finished up their M.B.A.s, Lorenzo at Stanford and Somer at Columbia. The pair put together a business plan, found a designer, and lined up start-up funds. Their new company, Zoe San Francisco (www.zoesf.com ), launched its first line last February and recently came out with its fall/winter 2002 collection.

"We feel there's no one else doing what we're doing," says Lorenzo, who speaks Spanish and majored in economics with a certificate in Latin American studies. "Our goal is to choose fabrics that feel beautiful next to the skin," and are machine washable, says Lorenzo, who has worked in finance at Morgan Stanley in New York and Montgomery Securities in San Francisco.

Using fabrics discovered in Paris and exotic colors such as jasmine, lotus, and plum, the young start-up is selling its sexy but comfortable lingerie to high-end boutiques like Fred Segal in L.A. and Mixona in New York City, and will start distributing to department stores next spring. Priced at about $45 per bra and $20 for panties, Zoe's products aren't cheap, but they aren't as expensive as European brands, says Lorenzo, who wears only her own creations.

"We're like the Kate Spade of lingerie," says Lorenzo, who is involved in every aspect of the business, from stuffing envelopes to choosing a manufacturer in Vietnam. Lorenzo admits the business can be stressful, but that doesn't dampen her enthusiasm. "I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur," says Lorenzo. "I feel really really really lucky. I never thought it would be as fun as it is."

By K.F.G.