Business Unusual: How a Dress Company Launched a New Brand During a Pandemic

Kid’s Dream quickly shifted from creating special occasion girls’ dresses to items that everyone suddenly needed — face masks.

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One LA company's response to COVID-19 led to a new brand, new products, and new customers

After Chewy Jang immigrated with her parents to the United States from South Korea in the 1990s, her mother and father opened a contract sewing company in Los Angeles’ Garment District. One of the Jangs’ clients was Kid’s Dream, a special occasion girls’ dress company that sold elegant lace and sequined gowns for weddings, communions, and other memorable events.

In 2011, when Jang graduated from college, the owners of Kid’s Dream put their business up for sale. The Jangs jumped at the opportunity. After the family bought Kid’s Dream, Jang took over the wholesale side of the business, which sells gowns for girls ages 12 and younger to department stores and boutiques worldwide. The company also sells plus sizes.

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“We want to be inclusive of all girls,” Jang, Kid’s Dream CEO says.

After the purchase, Jang’s parents led manufacturing and added new dress styles. The family also upped its marketing game to increase the company’s existing customer base.

For years, business was humming along for the Jangs in their showroom, warehouse, cutting facility, and sewing complex — all located in downtown L.A. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Shifting focuses

Before the pandemic, Kid’s Dream sold 90% of its inventory to wholesale buyers and 10% to retail. Wholesale buyers regularly dropped into the showroom to browse dresses and place bulk orders. That ground to a halt with COVID.

“Since then, we’ve been putting all of our energy into retail,” Jang says.

Even before California mandated nonessential brick and mortars close their doors in March, Jang, her mother, and her younger sister Julie (their father passed away in 2017) started designing and selling kids’ face masks. Soon after closing their doors to the public, the mayor of L.A. announced mask wearing would be mandatory.

“That’s when everything exploded,” Jang says. “We realized there was going to be a huge demand. Everyone needed a face mask, and we had the supplies. We had a head start and we were able to produce very quickly.”

“Everyone needed a face mask, and we had the supplies. We had a head start and we were able to produce very quickly.”

A new brand

The Jangs found they were getting more interest online from adults who wanted to purchase a mask for themselves, so they quickly pivoted to focusing on producing adult masks. They created several styles and collections for adults — floral, stars and stripes/patriotic, and Rainbow/Pride, a nod to Jang who’s LGBTQ.

The company found it had an advantage over other businesses that decided to sell face masks and had to have customers pre-order as they waited for the masks made abroad to arrive.

Since March, the Jangs have added multiple mask styles for both adults and children to their website, including cotton machine wash pleated masks, masks with filters, and more recently, styles designed with lace and sequins for special occasions. They created a new brand and a new website to sell the masks: LA Face Masks.

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“Face masks have been saving us,” Jang says. “In the beginning, people were really just worried about the protection. Now, they also want their mask to look good.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Jangs committed to regularly posting updates on their business on social media as well, including eye-catching photos on Facebook and Instagram. Jang ran a contest during which kids could design their own dress, and to connect with customers, she shot a video of herself talking about the company’s new mask venture.

Kid’s Dream has also committed to donating face masks to medical professionals, frontline workers, and the homeless. “It’s a blessing that we were able to produce products that could be good for the community,” Jang says.

Navigating uncertainty

Since some lower-risk businesses were allowed to reopen in California, Kid’s Dream has opened its showroom doors to the public in addition to what’s typically its largely wholesale clientele. People are venturing in.

Customers are looking for flower girl and communion dresses, with some families beginning to hold small ceremonies made up of just a handful of family members. They’re also investing in face masks to match the gowns.

“We got our name out more, and retail has picked up,” Jang says.

80% of the company’s employees are back to working on-site, but on a rotating schedule to keep employees safe as the pandemic continues.

Most recently, the Jangs designed new summer masks for kids and adults, including Rainbow florals and Glitter Stars. They’re also bringing their staff back to work. Currently, 80% of the company’s employees are back to working on-site, but on a rotating schedule to keep employees safe as the pandemic continues.

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One major challenge over the last several months has been major shipping delays with the U.S. Postal Service.

“Customer service has been really difficult and emotionally draining,” Jang says, with shipping to customers taking much longer than usual. She’s refunded shipping costs in some situations to keep customers happy.

With the current uncertainty about the course of the coronavirus pandemic, and exactly how large retailers will fare, the Jangs are considering holding off on releasing more new dress lines for the year. Instead, they’re focusing on saving money.

“No one knows what’s going to happen,” Jang says. “We’ll ride this out so we can survive. Then, hopefully next year after we have a vaccine, we’ll be able to go strong again.”

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