Isabelle Alix of Offtrack: “Here Are 5 Things You Need To Succeed In the Fashion Industry”
Written by Chaya Weiner
Published February 6th 2020
I am a strong advocate of less is more; that it be in fashion but also in my everyday life (food, moments, people, etc.). I believe that we should be more selective about what we consume and more demanding about what we purchase. When I grew up in Paris, my parents brought me up on the idea of “owning less but owning better”.
Asa part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Isabelle Alix. Sometimes it takes a transatlantic trip to find your business. Such was the case for Isabelle Alix, founder of Offtrack. Parisian by birth and upbringing, Isabelle didn’t come up with Offtrack until she moved to New York in 2015 when she was positively stricken by the way women valued comfort over style and had this wonderful way of being liberated in/by their attire. With a background in business and marketing, she immediately resonated with the city’s quest for innovation, passion for clothing, and freedom of expression. Isabelle built a career working for luxury brands in Paris and in New York City, but felt disgruntled by the way the industry tends to dismiss their customers’ needs and most often neglect to offer an ethical option to luxury manufacturing. After living in Shanghai for a year while at Emlyon Business School, she learned what the real cost of clothing was. Her experience shifted how she viewed and consumed fashion, and that shift grew into a need to establish a brand that could reflect her way of thinking and living: confident, mindful, and — most importantly — sustainable. She knew she wanted to do one thing and do it well, so she decided to create and sell luxurious yet affordable, machine washable leather leggings, produced locally, with attention to economic and social impact.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I first arrived in New York City I was positively stricken by the way women value comfort over style (something that I was not used to seeing in Paris) and how they don’t take anything for granted — they ask questions and search for more transparency on how their clothes are made. This was inspirational and truly resonated with me: luxury does not have to be stiff, imprisoning, or reserved for an elite group — it can be easy, liberating, and open to all.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The design process recognizes every body shape in order to address the widest spectrum of women by mixing comfort, quality, and fit. Women dress for speed and comfort now, and we need to adapt to that.
Rather than following fashion schedules and norms, we seek to “democratize” luxury leather by bridging style, practicality, and sustainability. We opened the site for our friends and family to pre-order and test out our product, and we were amazed by the immediate success. This recipe of Paris chic meets New York comfort was appealing not only to women of all shapes and sizes but also across generations. One thing that amazed me was when we sold three pairs by word-of-mouth to three generations in one family, including an 86-year-old grandmother! This was really validating to us, that women were willing to pay for quality, and that our product was very inclusive.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think the most important to me is to have a vision, to have that big picture that guides where you are going but doesn’t skip the necessary steps you need to take to get there. You learn so much at each step of the process, so take your time, acknowledge your learnings along the way, and accept them as you move forward.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At my limited scale, I try to bring joy and goodness by really listening to the people I am with and being present in the moment. It is so easy to drift away and think about what might be coming next, but there is nothing more important than being in the moment and giving to the person you are with — I try to apply the same with my customers online. I make sure that I am answering each request, and I personally take care of all of our customer services.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” — Oprah Winfrey
I believe that when you actively listen to others and don’t take anything for granted, you are more prepared for the obstacles that might come your way.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
I am a strong advocate of less is more; that it be in fashion but also in my everyday life (food, moments, people, etc.). I believe that we should be more selective about what we consume and more demanding about what we purchase. When I grew up in Paris, my parents brought me up on the idea of “owning less but owning better”. For example, instead of buying dozens of pieces at fast fashion companies such as Zara or H&M, like we are tempted to do, I was encouraged to save up and buy one nice piece of clothing that I knew I would wear over and over again. I still apply this to my daily habits, but also have integrated this approach into my business with Offtrack. We offer one product, which we believe is the best product you can find. You know that with this purchase you will be wearing it often, and most importantly keep it for years. That is why I am excited to see the boom in second-hand clothing. These clothes already exist and deserve to be worn. In that same vein, I am happy to see rental clothing businesses grow as well so as to cater to those who are in need of change and excitement in their wardrobe.
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.
I believe that there are a couple of things to keep in mind that will lay the grounds for a successful path in the long term: Wisely choose your suppliers — it is important to know and be proud of who you work with. Make sure your path to the market is as sustainable and ethical as possible — it is much easier to start out on a healthy base than to revert to one from the old practice. Start small — test out your idea/product in the most efficient way possible. Once you have validated your approach, you can grow bigger. Listen to those who have been in the industry longer than you: when you are starting out, you are full of ideas and ideals, and it is easy to get carried away and believe that you know better or that things will turn out differently for you. Although I do believe in taking risks, I have learned from experience that you are often better off taking the advice of those who have been there before. Trust your gut — most of the time you have the answer in you, and when you are starting out, it might seem frightening at first but don’t let that overwhelm you; listen to that voice inside and it will guide the way.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
By manufacturing fewer clothes, and in a better and more sustainable way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
What animates me the most on a daily basis is helping and encouraging women to feel perfect just the way they are. I strive to give women around me the tools to simply accept that they do not need to be more or different and that they have all that they need within them to be beautiful and perfect. The key is learning how to unleash and accept that. I have come to realize that maybe my purpose in life and that is was I am advocating for with my brand. At Offtrack, I want to give women the strength and confidence to feel right with their choices and to feel beautiful and strong in their bodies. Coming from the luxury industry in Paris, I learned the power that luxury items can convey and bring upon you. When you are wearing luxury garments, it can bring pride or a sense of confidence, and I wanted to share this feeling with all women. We are currently working on developing a movement called The Offtrack Way, which aims to encourage women to feel confident about their choices and live life according to their own energies, and not follow anybody’s else path (or customs, or social norms) that were imposed on you.