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