2008 - taking root
Disillusioned and disappointed with “normal” life, I move back in with my parents from age 24-26. I turn my childhood bedroom into a mini ashram, paint it golden yellow, listen to Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison records, smoke some weed/do some acid, meet my future husband Patrick at a local sports dive bar called Hoops and Hops. After no breaks from college and working a job I didn't like in NYC, I finally have the privilege of time to really figure out what I love. It's yoga, and yoga clothes.
2009 - let's begin
I teach myself to dye with plants, screen print designs on blank American apparel flare cotton pants, and open up shop on Etsy to sell them. I start my own website on IndieMade (there was no Shopify yet!) and hop on this up and coming thing called Instagram! The biz grows slow and steadily year over year, so much that I quit my waitressing job and go all in.
2012 - goin' to california
Pat, our beloved yellow lab Liam, and I pack up a small uhaul trailer and move from Connecticut to Los Angeles to grow the brand. I quickly meet Nadya, my seamstress, via a Craigslist ad I put out, so we can begin selling a product that is 100% handmade by us. We meet up downtown under the freeway and exchange the goods. We call ourselves yoga pants dealers!
2013 - a shift
One dry, hot, SoCal fall day, I take my weekly visit into the garment district to buy fabric, and on a whim I purchase a few yards of sparky nylon metallic fabric. Printed yoga leggings were everywhere at the time, and I want to try something a little different. Prior, I was incredibly staunch on all our creations being pure, organic, natural fibers. (I also didn’t know that microfiber pollution was a thing, no one did - ugh.) The sparkle leggings are such a hit that I come out with three other colors and almost solely sell shiny leggings and bra tops for around four years.
2014 - mostly metallic
I sell at Urban Outfitters and have a handful of other large-ish retailers buying our leggings. I think I’ve made it - smooth sailing ahead and we’d just grow, well, forever. Hand dyed organic stuff is a tiny tiny segment of Purusha People, making the overall brand a little confusing.
2015 - a baby!
This is the year my son Shepherd is born! And also the first year we begin to experience a little financial struggle, the first year the brand makes less money than the last year. Many many other yoga brands have popped onto the scene, and basically make identical products to what I make. Beyond that, they are actually good at marketing the styles. I don't wear much of our clothes. Sparkly leggings aren't really my thing, so I have no idea who our customer is and what her tastes are. I don't understand how this is such a bad thing yet.
2016 - bad business
It isn’t a loss overnight, it's a slow and steady leak. Retailers are ordering less, or not at all from me. Website and Etsy sales are down. No longer can we take a trip to Big Sur, no more going out to dinner, eventually it becomes hard to pay rent, groceries are a strain, and finally, we can’t afford anything beyond bare necessities. I remember not being able to afford new running shoes, I’d run with holes in my sneakers covered with duct tape. I reluctantly begin to understand this isn’t a bad collection or a bad year... it's a bad business.
2017 - back east
We move back to CT as CA as becomes impossible to afford, and I miss family and friends, the east coast and seasons, land and fresh air. Our rental home is more than half our salary each month. Shep is two years old, and I have almost all the time in the world with him because I no longer have work to do because the brand is drying up so badly. I begin to soul search, how can I turn this around?
2018 - a rock in my stomach
We can no longer pay rent and are totally overextended. I remember having just a few dollars in our bank account, often overdrawing our funds on groceries, and regularly begging for money from family. Purusha People only survives at this point by offering huge sales, like 50% off. It's really sinking in now that this might be the end. I wake up in the mornings with a tremendous sense of despair, sometimes starting my day crying. My mind races with uncertainty and fear. How will we provide for ourselves? Who will hire me, and for what job? Where can we afford rent? Should we force ourselves into my parents basement? The thought that gives me the biggest rock in my stomach is this: WHY should my creations even exist? There is no reason why. On top of this, Pat has a TIA stroke and we have to put Liam down. Rough, rough year.
Early 2019 - flailing and failing
I think, well obviously there’s something wrong with Purusha People. I change the name of the brand to my name for a few months, Hayley Elliott. A customer tells me it sounds like the name of a pyramid scheme jewelry brand LOL. It doesn't take. I attempt to launch a maternity brand called Willa Avery, a New England inspired clothing company called Biological VT, a lint roller company (yes, I said lint rollers) called Milton Elm, a basic cotton legging brand called CA Yoga Supply, a kids line called Shepherd LA, and a discounted yoga retailer site called Yoga Deals HQ. Literally ANYTHING BUT Purusha People, as I had known it in 2009. Needless to say, I flail around, and feel like a complete failure. Friends and family basically encourage us to quit, me consider returning to waitressing, Patrick get a job at a local hardware store (nothing wrong with these jobs BTW!).
Late 2019 - nothing to lose
Yet... I still feel like I have something to offer. My desire to create and share will not go away. There is nothing to lose anymore because I don’t really have anything.
Pat asks me one broke ass summer day, "What is meaningful to you?"
Immediately I say, "It's to make something beautiful."
"Clothing that is authentic, inspired by nature, conscious, ethical, sustainable. Clothing like I used to make, the epitome of what yoga is in a material form."
Just before my daughter Marigold is born in August 2019, I design and make my dream yoga wear. I have no expectations, it's purely for its own sake. I find a beautiful organic cotton tencel (forest fiber) fabric, have Nadya sew some tops and leggings, dye and print them by hand, and share them with whoever is still with me after all this time.
2020 - big year
People like the stuff we make again!!! Damn, it's the best feeling in the world! I return to my roots and remember why I love making clothing. I understand the woman who wears our stuff because I'M HER! I'm spending all my time in my basement dyeing and printing everything by hand, Nadya is sewing. We do a lot of made to order and our waitlist is about three months long. A longtime customer becomes an investor, I'm featured on some podcasts, and we get a little press. It's a BIG year, and it goes beyond my wildest dreams. Listening to my heart is my mantra. I am so so humbled to be doing what I love!
2021 - growth
Purusha People doubles in sales from the year before! Nadya and I can no longer keep up with the demand on our own. I reestablish some CA manufacturing connections from back in 2014, and begin producing the majority of our styles in Los Angeles. Nadya and I still sell out drops together, but I am totally overworked and spread thin from making the clothes and running the entire business. It's a lot of fun to be creative, but I know I can't keep this up. I long to design, grow the business, connect with customers, and also be a human again and be a mama to my two young children,
2022 - refining things
Nadya gets married and finds a new job, and we split as manufacturing partners, but stay very close friends. I move all production to LA so I can better focus on everything else necessary to run a business! Our production is ethical in small family owned shops, our fabric is tweaked to the ideal characteristics for performance and sustainability, and our dye and print shops use only GOTS certified ingredients. I am SO proud of our beautiful clothing! I still have a few shreds of doubt in myself leftover from years of uncertainty that I work through, all the while creating many drops people love (and I love!) and a few that kinda flop. Still finding my 'voice' in my creations.
2023 - trust
I'm reborn dramatically from last year. Something clicked in me, or unclicked, I'm not sure... But I've firming decided I only make what I would 100% wear. So if a design doesn't do it for you personally, I feel ok with that. There's nothing worse than making something you think someone else will like and they don't like it...and you don't like it. I listen to my community in terms of what they desire, but it must filter through me. As creatives we have to always listen to our hearts. I know it's what's brought me to where I am today, and for that I'm forever grateful.