Laura Choi x Par en Par

A series that spotlights the inspiring women who are building inspiring things

After spending ten years traveling while working in NYC, Laura Choi launched Par en Par -- a new take on resort wear inspired by the duality of relaxation and effort. Unlike traditional resort wear associated with mostly physical travel, she was inspired to create a line for the intellect, one that spoke to why we travel (to feel moments of respite, satiate curiosity). Follow her at @parenpar to check out her beautiful line. 

What was the inspiration behind Par en Par?

Par en Par is inspired by the duality of relaxation and effort. I wanted to explore the idea of resort not as a season but as a state of mind. After being in the New York grind for almost a decade, I started to think about how I wanted to design a more sustainable lifestyle for myself, one I never felt I needed a vacation from. With that introspection also came a critical lens of my surroundings and the things I owned. That was the inspiration for the first collection -- adaptive pieces for a lifestyle that balances work and play, doing and not doing.

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So far, what was your most exciting day founder? What happened? Why was it the best?

I remember my first order from a complete stranger. I was initially so confused that I looked her up on Facebook! Turns out, it was the first non-friend supporter of Par en Par. Followers on social and congratulatory words feel great, but there is something special and validating about the market voting for your brand with their hard-earned dollar. They’re saying, “We agree. You’re onto something good.”

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What is your biggest struggle in the hustle? (Be honest!)

My biggest struggle has been simultaneously wearing all the hats as a one-woman company. To be my biggest champion when the days get tough. To run a marathon in my head from one function to another (e.g., “I want to change the world!” to “I need to drop off this shipment before the post office closes!”). Launching this company has been the truest exercise of independence; no one else is motivating me or accountable for the success of Par en Par but me.

On the other hand, I feel super fortunate to have found the right partners along the way and I couldn’t have done it without them -- from my manufacturer to the freelance team of creatives. I was able to vet the right team by working mostly through trusted referrals.

How has your background in retail shaped your approach to building a resortwear brand?

I learned so much in my ten years at Bloomingdale’s and Warby Parker. Both experiences were absolutely crucial to the building of Par en Par. The two things that I really focused on were experiential connections and conscious creation.

Firstly, I wanted to make the interaction with Par en Par a moving experience. There are specific touchpoints, particularly in the unpackaging experience, that are designed to subtly transport or create a shift in the mind. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s been one of my favorite parts of creating the brand.

Secondly, I wanted to build sustainability into the DNA of the brand from the start. For example, on a fabric sourcing trip to India, I learned about khadi and its process. Khadi is a handwoven fabric made of handspun yarn, which makes it extra breathable. It was a crucial part of Ghandi’s nonviolent movement for independence by keeping cotton production in the country. The fabric was so beautiful in its raw state that I didn’t want to have it bleached or dyed (up close, you can still see tiny flecks of cotton seed!). That was the birth of the khadi collection. You can read more about the full process here.

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If there was a brand/marketing/PR genie that would hand you one achievement, what would it be?  

A full feature is always the dream! Being a new, direct-to-consumer brand is super challenging in terms of building brand awareness. Multiple brand retailers have a vested interest to cross-promote your brand (on social media, in stores) and without that traditional avenue, you’re left on your own to get the word out there.

What is your favorite Instagram feed right now?

@binubinu_soapsoap - Who knew soap could be so beautiful?

@pocoapocoapoco - I have a strong urge to visit Oaxaca and this feed continuously feeds that fire.

@onegunranch - Other passions of mine include food farming and animal rights. I love how this ranch focuses on biodynamic farming.

@foundintranslations - An exchange over Instagram with Mukul led to a month of travels together and a profound new friendship!

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What is an article you read / podcast you listened to recently that felt like the writer/host was in your brain?

A friend recently sent me Joan Didion’s essay on Self Respect that hit home. “Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.” As a founder, I think many could relate to this idea of letting go of immediate comforts in sight for the possibility of something larger.

Let's end on a non-work note! Favorite place you have ever been?

On a recent road trip through the Southwest, I really fell in love with White Sands National Monument. Firstly, I have an affinity for places that have an extraterrestrial vibe to them. Secondly, I took away a valuable lesson during my visit. I had been looking forward to going for years and arrived at the crack of dawn to photograph a few pieces from the collection. Upon arrival, we were almost immediately met with the craziest storm. I was so disappointed about not getting The Shot I had so clearly envisioned! On our cold, wet walk back to the car, I took a pause, closed my eyes, and listened to the sound of rain on the endless white sand dunes. I looked up and saw a clear break in the sky: white sand dunes and white storm clouds, sandwiching a vast blue sky afar. I then realized that I had experienced all that I needed to. That morning at White Sands reminded me to appreciate the unplanned, to respect the natural order of things, and see the beauty in the storm.

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CEO & Founder of Tactile