You probably recognize the lovely Leslie Yeung from her Parisian elopement video that went viral a couple years ago (and is still making the rounds – yes, it’s that good). And if you’re a fan of American-made quality apparel, you’ll recognize her from Rogue Territory, the denim brand she and her husband Karl Thoennessen operate in Los Angeles. Although Karl founded the RT in 2008, this past year marked the first they were both full time with the brand. It’s continual success and growth is proof that with every great man, there is a great woman. And vice versa. Unfortunately Leslie will not be attending Northern Grade this weekend in Brooklyn, but be sure to say hello to Karl!
Q. Your husband Karl founded Rogue Territory in 2008. Obviously you’ve been a huge part of it, but you recently became a full time partner. How has it been growing the business together?
A. I left my corporate job in Feb of 2013, and the past year has been quite an adventure! It has actually brought us much closer together and we surprising have less arguments about the business now than when I was working full-time. It’s funny, I think some friends and family were more concerned about us working together full-time than we were. 2013 was an amazing year for the brand, and we can both say it wouldn’t have been possible without the other person.
It’s extremely fulfilling to work toward a goal together, and ultimately more rewarding to experience success and failure together, than alone. Currently because it is still just the two of us, the biggest challenge is separating work from your life, which pretty much doesn’t happen. We are always working, because we honestly enjoy it, but I think it’s important for us to carve out time for just ourselves outside of the brand. So we are taking a much-needed vacation after Northerngrade. Afterall, what fun is it being your own boss if you don’t give yourself some time off now and then?!
Q. A big part of the Rogue Territory brand is connecting with fellow artisans and creative folk. How do you guys find the members of your supportive community and how does it benefit your respective brands/businesses?
A. Most of the collaborations that we’ve done have actually been with customers of ours. It’s important to us to be engaged with our customers, and Instagram is an amazing platform that really enables us to do that. We’ve built relationships with customers through IG and it allows us to get to know a little bit about their lives as their getting to know about ours. Many of our customers are very creative passionate makers themselves, and we find it very inspiring and only natural that we’d reach out to them to collaborate.
I think collaborations benefit our brand by keeping things interesting and allowing us to introduce new and different products in an authentic way, through the eyes of the individuals who live and breathe their trade everyday. We enjoy sharing their stories with our customers and supporting the creative community that we’re proud to be a part of. Every collaboration we have done to date has been a very organic process, not just a collaboration for collaboration sake. We’re about to release another Keep The Trade Alive project in the next few weeks that we’re really excited about, so stay tuned!
Q. How many Northern Grade pop-ups has Rogue Territory been a part of to date? How do you feel it benefits the brand?
A. Northerngrade NYC will be the third that we have participated in. Our first was Los Angeles and then San Francisco. We are especially excited about Northerngrade NYC because we’ve never done a consumer event like this on the East Coast, so it will be exciting for Karl to meet some of our East Coast customers in person for the first time!
Northerngrade events are great because they give us the opportunity to introduce our brand to consumers who have not heard of us, and it’s an opportunity to connect with our existing customers. It’s a very humbling experience to have people come out to meet you wearing your product, and to talk about how they feel about the brand. The growth of Rogue Territory has been very organic and it is absolutely because of the unwavering support we have from so many loyal customers. We have one of the most engaged customer bases and they seriously continue to blow our minds.
Q. As a woman, what’s it like running a brand focused on menswear? Does it inspire your own style?
A. It’s definitely interesting! I interact with a lot of our customers via social media and emails, so I have come to learn a lot about the psychology of the menswear shopper. It has made me appreciate the way guys shop, or at least the way our customer shops. They are super informed, very particular (mostly in a good way) and very attentive to small details. They are curious about the fabrics we use and why Karl incorporates certain details, and it’s nice to know they notice the functional details that go into our design. It has definitely inspired my own style…even though most days I feel like I just dress like a dude now. But I think solid basics and classic garments are and should be unisex. And working from home everyday has pretty much converted my style to “as comfortable as humanly possible”, which usually translates into oversized SKs or Safari Trousers that I wear boyfriend-fit and a t-shirt or chambray shirt.