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Soft Haus: Behind the Brand

Interview by Devon Lach 
Photographs provided by Soft Haus 

Gina Röckenwagner is the owner and designer at Soft Haus, a small ethical and sustainable knitwear company based out of Los Angeles.  She opens up about her background in fashion, her decision to start her own company and the hurdles she had to overcome starting a business as woman.  

Tell us a little about yourself...Where were you born?  How did your upbringing influence your vision for Soft Haus?

I was born in Los Angeles and that’s where I grew up.  My dad is an immigrant so I have always been raised around hardworking people and been socially conscious.  My parents never worked for other people so I never grew up thinking you have to grow up, get a job and work for the man because I never saw anyone do that.

What did do for work before starting Soft Haus?

I worked in the fashion industry for a couple of years...for Anthropologie in a lot of different capacities.  I tried to get as involved with other designers and yarn people as much as possible.

What was most difficult when starting Soft Haus?

I think the hardest thing was overcoming my own fears about starting a business as a woman.  I feel like when men want to do something there is never any question...like oh yeah you want to do that and they are confident and they can go for it.  I really had to overcome my own hangups:
I was involved in a pilot program put on by the founder of Spanx, Sarah Blakely, it was about overcoming the voice in your head–because no man has the voice in their head telling them they can’t do it.  

Did you feel like there were any additional outside hurdles you had to overcome as a woman?

There are definitely outside forces at work against women.  When I went to meet with the first factory I ever worked with, I brought my boyfriend along and I remember the owner of the factory just talking to him the entire time.  I remember thinking this is so crazy, he has zero expertise in this, he’s just coming along to support me and be an extra set of eyes. Why does everyone immediately speak to him and not to me?

You walk into factories and people doubt you.  I was really young at the time and they see you and think , “oh this young girl, she’s never going to follow through.” At the end when they say, “when you’re ready let me know.” Obviously I was coming to them because I was ready

Photograph by Devon Lach 

You are pretty transparent about your brand—where things are sourced and made— where did this motivation come from?

I was really affected by the 2014 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. I was working in the fashion industry so I was thinking, what I do has the potential to directly put these people in harm’s way.  I never want to be a part of that, that fast fashion world. I don’t design products that are meant to be worn once and thrown away.

I was going to Peru at the time working with this ethical sustainable co-op and seeing how they were employing women and really making a difference in the community they were located in. I saw that and said that’s what I want to do. Fast fashion is destroying people’s lives and destroying our planet.  

What has the most inspiring aspect of running your business been?

The most inspiring thing to me is getting to work with the artisans that I work with.  That’s my bliss—being able to go to Peru and work with these amazing women that are devoted making this beautiful product.  Getting to work with these amazing materials is just a bonus.  Peru has some of the most amazing fibers in the world—cottons, alpacas, wools.

What do you see for the future of Soft Haus?

I hope to keep making great sweaters that really inspire people. My clothes are some of my best friends and I hope that my clothing can be that to some people. It doesn’t have to be the clothing line for everyone, but I love seeing people responding to the brand.

See Soft Haus’s full collection here.


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