Alum Spotlight: How I Built My Fashion Brand
Touro alum Elaina Kornfield explains how in partnership with her sisters she launched a successful fashion line
Superwoman and Touro alum Elana Kornfeld (middle) shares how she launched a successful fashion business with her sisters while balancing life with her eight children and her job at a preschool. Find out how she does it all and her advice for future entrepreneurs.
Have you always loved fashion?
I grew up in a family of girls (we are four sisters and one boy), but I was a tomboy as a young child. I loved to climb and play sports. I was extremely athletic and clothing was the last thing on my mind. My mother loved dressing us in frilly (itchy) dresses and triple petticoats. From head to toe, we were dressed in lace and bows. As I grew older, I discovered that I loved putting outfits together. My sister Chani and I would sketch clothing and we loved to wear outfits that were different. We appreciate classic clean lines with an air of feminine flair, clothing that’s versatile and chic but most importantly, comfortable!
When did you know this was the career for you?
Our company, WUKOgals, started as a hobby. We were making clothing for ourselves that we loved. Never dreaming it would be a business, we wore our own designs and friends kept asking if they could purchase them. Within a few weeks of posting pictures on social media, we were sold out and our business was born.
What are the biggest challenges you have at work?
Designing is a passion of mine--it is a great creative outlet for me. I am also the Director of Burbank Jewish Preschool and Infant Care, and I feel that working with children is my calling. I do my very best to stay true to both businesses, but finding the time to complete everything required of me is my biggest challenge. I stay up and work very late and start work very early. I'm super-organized and have even minute details written in my phone or on my computer. It's the only way to fit it all in.
How do you know when your products are hitting the mark?
Analytics tell the story. We usually test a new product and when the numbers tell us it is successful, we reproduce it in more colors, fabric variations, and occasionally a print or two.
Do you have any experiences to share that would be helpful to other women entrepreneurs?
I'd say to any budding entrepreneur that hard work pays off and Rome wasn't built in a day. I have 8 children and I joke that preschool is my 9th and WUKO is my 10th. My sisters and I work tirelessly to make WUKOgals succeed. One of my favorite sayings from the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory is that "The world is not a jungle. This world is G-d's garden. But for a garden to produce good fruit one must work particularly hard... it takes more toil and more time."
What is the most important way your Touro experience prepared you for your current career?
I loved Touro, and the teachers and friends from different communities that I met. I wanted to finish my B.S. as soon as possible. I went to seminary in the morning and Touro at night. I took 15 credits that first semester, but worked my way up to 21 credits a semester. I learned to juggle a lot. I guess that's been a recurring theme in my life :)
What was your favorite class at Lander College for Women and why?
I had two favorite classes. The first was PSY 101. I loved looking past intuitions and feelings and delving into the true roots of our behaviors. I also loved BIO 101. I definitely have the right brain gene, but I've always loved sciences as well.
What advice would you give current students who are interested in the fashion industry? What steps should they take while they are in college?
My advice would be to try and intern with someone they respect. See what areas of fashion they connect with. There are so many areas that go into creating a business in fashion: design, merchandising, website, finances, logistics, etc.
What’s your favorite dress from the Wukogals line?
That's a really hard question. It's constantly changing, as we are constantly bringing new designs to life. I loved our first dress ever, our #WUKOtunic. I also love the #WUKOaura and the #WUKOcolumn.