Kym Gold: Co-Founder of True Religion & Founder of Style Union Home

Episode 343

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara golden show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, its Kara golden from the Kara golden show. And I’m so excited to have my next guest here. I’m fan girling over her as we’re chit chatting right before we got started. But I’ve Kym Gold here who is the co founder of True Religion, many of you remember that incredible brand. But today, she’s definitely getting the word out about it right now. But it’s called style union home. And she’s going to talk a little bit more about all of the cool stuff that they’re doing there. But Kym’s vision as a designer was always a driving force behind high fashion and designer denim revolution of the early 2000s, which created as she and I were just discussing and disruption in the denim industry and ushered denim into high end fashion. And with her newest company style union home, which I can’t wait to hear more about directly from her. She is doing the same. And she’s also the author of a terrific book, which I read prior to even knowing that she was going to come on to the podcast called gold standard. So I am totally in awe of her and all that she has accomplished. And as she and I were just talking about as well. She’s a serial entrepreneur that is not only a builder, and a startup success, but also somebody who can scale businesses and really follow exactly what consumers want. So I absolutely am honored to have you here. So welcome cam.

Kym Gold 2:13
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Very,

Kara Goldin 2:16
very excited. So who was Kym growing up? You talked about growing up in Malibu, and I’d love to hear a little bit about your early life. Did you always think that you would become an entrepreneur? You know,

Kym Gold 2:28
it’s interesting. I do get asked that a lot. I think you know, I’m an identical triplet. Oh, so yes. So I think being an identical triplets sharing, you know, I mean, everything DNA, we look like we have the same mannerisms. We had, we had to share our bar mitzvah, we had to basically share everything right. And I always wanted to stand out and be an individual. And I think because people don’t understand what it’s like to be a triplet, so you have to work really hard to be an individual. And it was just part of me, I just wanted to not have anybody telling me what I couldn’t, couldn’t do, what I couldn’t spend how I could do it. I wanted to be in charge of my life. And I think that’s just so funny of people. You know, serial entrepreneurs have a very specific DNA, it’s very specific, because it’s so much work, you have to have so much passion and so much work. And you you, you hear no all the time and you just keep going. And it’s it’s a it’s like people do extreme sports, it’s like, you know, like downhill. It’s like downhill skiing. That’s a very specific person. You know, so that’s, that’s me. I mean, I grew up I have two brothers I have. My mom was a psychologist, my dad is an attorney. And I think that they always wanted me to be a doctor or an attorney or something that they felt I could fall back on. But that just wasn’t me. I do have a real estate license. And I do have a business degree. But i i There was no way I could work in a corporate world. It’s no possible way. No, so my personality. So we

Kara Goldin 4:17
talked about you are the co founder of a brand called True Religion. What your did that start? Oh,

Kym Gold 4:25
my goodness. You and I were talking before but it seems like so long ago, but it also feels like yesterday. It started in 2001

Kara Goldin 4:36
I believe. How did the idea come about? Well, you

Kym Gold 4:39
know, I had quite a few companies prior to true religion. And my my now ex husband, who’s the other co founder was in fabrics and I had just sold one of my businesses prior to True Religion was called Bella doll. And I said you know When I started working for the only time I ever worked for two other companies was Liz Claymore. And another company. It was no longer around. But But I was designing. And I said to Jeff, I said, you know, you’re so good and fabric so good. Let’s do something together. I mean, he wasn’t happy doing what he was doing. I was, you know, I had three kids at the top three babies at the time. And he said, Yeah, let’s, I mean, let’s go. Let’s do this. Little did I know, that was a demise of my marriage. But I think that people go into business, never thinking with a husband or something that is not going to work. But I don’t suggest people working with spouses. But anyway, that’s just me.

Kara Goldin 5:44
So interesting. So you started to sketch out the designs, you had this idea for a new gene? How did that come about?

Kym Gold 5:52
The idea paint that I love denim, I’m a denim girl. Right? Everything for me was denim. And I couldn’t understand why it was casual Friday denim, why denim wasn’t a fashion statement. Right. And I think what I wanted to do was to make it sexy. I wanted to make it we you know, we started with men’s originally because there wasn’t really stretch in denim. So we started with men’s that I had this idea to collaborate with a company called DuPont that did stretch fabrics. And so we made denim was stretched. So it really happened where we did men’s and then while men’s was gearing up, you know, women’s really, I mean, women will wear men’s men’s won’t wear women’s jeans. So then when we started to collaborate with DuPont, I said, I’m gonna go for the curvy woman who’s you got to stretch. And that was an underserved demographic. So then we started making this fabric together with DuPont. And I cannot tell you how sad it was wet like this, it like wildfire. It just went so quickly, I look back. And I just think holy moly, I think there was you know, most most often when I do companies, I try to find something that’s not out there. And that wasn’t out there. And homes that I build, I do homes differently than most people, companies that I have built and sold or are just, you know, something that is such a niche market is just something that it’s not out there. I don’t like to conform. And so when we did stretch denim, it was a really was an exciting time, for fashion.

Kara Goldin 7:40
So it wasn’t just about the design. So it was also about the fabric. I mean, nobody else was doing what you were doing.

Kym Gold 7:46
No. And I think the pockets, what I wanted to do is to make bigger pockets make them it was very technical, because the bigger the pocket, the better it fits on a curvier women, women generally and usually, when you do inseams and you do the break at the knee, and you do the I don’t want to get too technical, it’s good squeak you’d be boring. The back rise the front rise the way everything was put together that I designed this gene it was engineered a down to the machinery would make whoever wore these jeans the best that they could look. So it was it was a lot of it was very specific in my approach in designing these jeans.

Kara Goldin 8:34
So you mentioned that you had started a few companies before true religion but true religion really was the one that hockey stick to kind of your put you on the map. Definitely. So what was one of the coolest moments building true religion when you think you close your eyes and you think back like what was the moment when you said Holy smokes, and

Kym Gold 8:56
I do get asked this a lot. And this is a very true to I think anybody who’s had any sort of success is you go to a trade show and you don’t expect the line of people you don’t expect. You know three out of five people whether it’s drinking your drink, or it’s wearing your fashion, whatever it is when you start seeing it go surpasses anything that you even thought because I mean, still to this day, I can’t believe people are wearing them. I can’t believe it. And I think you know when something was stands the test of time. So I look back today so back then it was trade shows but even today when something stands the test of time, you know you’ve made a mark and it’s pretty incredible.

Kara Goldin 9:46
So true religion sold and successfully sold in 2013. And did you stay with the company at all when when you sold it?

Kym Gold 9:57
So no, I did not I’d stay I, you know, I’ve been asked since to come back I, you know, to be part of it, I’ve since come back and consulted. You know, once I’m done, I’m done. It’s sad to see what’s happened to the company, because I think more often times are not when a designer leaves the vice president or somebody who’s the creative, the company is never the same. It just just isn’t. So as I, as I, when I did go back to consult, you know, it just wasn’t fun. Yeah, something’s not fun for me, I’m not going to do it. I’ve never started a company, thinking it’s going to make a gazillion dollars, I always start a company out of passion, and something that I don’t see in the marketplace. And something that I want to have fun doing. Because I listen, I’m going to be 57 next year, and I find that life is really for, for having fun and doing what you really liked doing.

Kara Goldin 10:58
I 1,000% agree, the challenge really is is that, you know, when the founder DNA kind of leaves the room, it is really challenging, no matter what industry it’s in, I’ve watched her religion go through some challenges over the last few years. So I was so curious, you know, how you felt about that, it must be tough, you know, to watch that,

Kym Gold 11:21
it’s really tough, because, you know, people think of true religion, and they and they find out I’m part of it, and I you know, they don’t know that I’m not there anymore. What happened, it’s like, it’s sad, because, you know, the people who have been in and out of their CEOs and designers, and it’s just became, you know, that family, you don’t want to go home with Thanksgiving just became a money making prospect that didn’t really and I hate to say it, but you know, when a company loses again, the designer, there’s the soul has left the building, it’s just that’s just what happens. And so it’s sad to me. But you know, you move on, it’s not I mean, you know, the difference between me, when I think about business is it’s, it’s, it’s not gonna break my heart. My kids broke my heart. You know what I mean? A family member, or it doesn’t keep me up at night business’s business. But the most important thing to me, you know, is is my family. And that if you spend most of your time looking back and going, Oh, that’s horrible. And what are you doing today? Where am I going today? What am I doing tomorrow? I don’t spend a lot of time on the past on thinking

Kara Goldin 12:36
about the past. The one thing that I’m so curious about when people are building companies, you know, I always say you pick up lessons right along the way from experiences, you thought something was going to be super great. And then it wasn’t or you didn’t think that something was going to go a certain way. And it did. And it was awesome. When you think back on whether it’s true religion or another startup that you were doing, where there was this huge aha moment, can you think of something that, you know, has really kind of been ingrained in you? I’ll never do that again. Or always do that again. Well, I’m a person

Kym Gold 13:14
who always leads by example, like, if I, you know, as an owner, I take out the trash, I clean up, I don’t ask anybody to do anything that I want to do. That’s always been a big lesson that I’ve always had. But there, but then on the thick that answers your question, but what I do want to say is as the only woman on a board of directors, only woman, largest shareholder, okay, my company, I felt as a woman, I had to speak more aggressively. I had to speak more loudly to have my voice heard. And my lesson today as a woman, and really, my company has really only run by women, is the softer you speak, the more people listen, the more you feel confident and stand very firm in your belief on what you’re doing. People will follow people will listen because I think a lot of women find that they have to be a certain way in business and they have to lose that feminine side. You can be extremely feminine, stand tall and firm in your truth and you don’t have to raise your voice. You don’t have to be aggressive. And that is what I’ve learned. I mean, again, as a woman of almost 57 You could be really quiet and still get whatever you need done.

Kara Goldin 14:39
Such great advice. So now let’s get into your current company style union home. So what inspired you to get into the home business home fashion line, I should say because you’re also in the homes business building.

Kym Gold 14:55
You know, okay, so I was it’s people I always say I was retired. Tired of my now husband says you weren’t tired. You were building homes.

Kara Goldin 15:03
Yes, it’s true. True, true true. Through the

Kym Gold 15:07
process, staging and building homes, I found there wasn’t cohesive way of staging a company, which is a huge thing. The emotional buy for people when they come in to buy a home now they’re staging companies. But I found that from tabletop to accessories to even the dog bowls throughout the house, it wasn’t as cohesive as I wanted it to be. Okay, it just felt like my My motto is you don’t want the clothes to wear you. You wear the clothes, it’s like you don’t want the room to where you wear the house. You want to go in and have it be warm, not have something, you know, jump out of you from each room, it should just be part of a cohesive flow. So my son, my youngest, took me to ceramic for Mother’s Day, my birthday at Studio, and I got hooked. And I said, You can do this. This is an and you know, of course, my husband and Dylan said, okay, here she goes, she can’t just have a hobby. She has to make it into businesses. And of course, it wouldn’t make it into a business. This is something that I don’t see out there. I don’t see, you know, sure there are companies out there that do this, but they don’t do it in the scope that I do. And it’s all made in LA, all handmade. It’s from tabletop. It’s lifestyles, from tabletop, to dog bowls, to accessories, and you can buy absolutely everything in your home. And it’s handmade. And I support artisans that is also really important to me to support people who are getting paid for what they love to do. And that’s that’s very important because I think people who who are ceramicist, you know, make one this one that but now they’re getting paid to make the things that I design and collaborate with, to scale to a very large company. And it’s just so fun. Again, they get to go to work every day get paid for what they love to do. Within two years, we’re in over 200 stores. We have beautiful collaborations with parachute bedding and Nordstroms and amazing architects and interior designers. And again, I see another true religion. For me.

Kara Goldin 17:22
That’s amazing. You mentioned earlier to me that you have sort of a store, it’s more of a collaboration environment, right? Where yes, many people are working there and creating some of these things. I’m dying to go to this location. Can you share more about it? Yes,

Kym Gold 17:38
it’s gorgeous. The eyes, I found this place downtown Los Angeles is across the street from second the arts district across the street from the Soho House. And I built it out to have a myriad of sections. So there’s the CERAM as you walk in, and there’s like a, I guess, a retail space. But it’s also the showroom, where my you know, interior designers come buyers Nordstroms, parachute wherever, come in, and they can buy buyers. Then there’s the workplace with all of my team. And then there’s Potter’s and the kilns and the wheels, and then next door and that there’s the whole shipping area. So we’re talking about 10 to 11,000 square feet of space that I turned into, built it out. So you can see through every section, it’s like watching pizza being made, you know, you can see the sliding glass doors throughout the whole process. And it’s you know, from beginning to end is it’s a process to do what we’re doing.

Kara Goldin 18:41
So you’re primarily creating and then you’re selling in other people’s stores. You have this one location, but is the plan to start building out more stores or direct or what is kind of the overall point? Yeah, we

Kym Gold 18:54
do a lot of Yeah, no, it’s it’s ecommerce. It’s wholesale. It’s and we were just doing a huge business with Nordstroms right now. Another lesson is it’s okay to say no, when you’re not ready. You store it comes like Nordstroms. You can seriously it can be a huge business people can do 5 million a year just in Nordstroms with their online platform and their their retail outlets. But I said no at the beginning because I wasn’t ready. I mean, we’d only been in business, like literally a year. And I said no, I’m not ready. I don’t want my first chance to be I didn’t want to mess it up. So another powerful lesson is you can say no, people will come back. And so we’re getting geared up for our second hopefully our second order.

Kara Goldin 19:44
Very cool. But

Kym Gold 19:45
yeah, it’s really cool. What I think is, you know, ecommerce and retail and opening up all over Europe is is where we’re going and doing great collaborations on Working on two hotels right now and a couple of restaurants as well. Oh, I

Kara Goldin 20:03
love it. Well, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen with this brand, because it’s definitely beautiful, beautiful things i What’s the big difference between clothing and home? You know, I think about clothing. And many of the challenges with seasonality and maybe overseas production, I guess some of production is being done now with clothing in the US, but I’m so curious, what’s easy. And what’s hard category to category?

Kym Gold 20:35
Well, it’s interesting. This is so much more fun than clothing. I mean, I did clothing, 30 years. So I love clothes. But I also love homes. So for me, it’s almost seamless, I don’t have to the most fun part about this, this business. And the difference is I don’t have to do fittings, and I don’t have to do lookbooks with models, and I don’t have to, you know, it’s the same as seasons, we go to the trade shows, we treat it just it just like a fashion house. But it’s so much more fun. And it’s such a new challenge. Because you know, people in clothing I have found, I’m just gonna say it because it’s my truth are not nice, I have found people in home wares are really nice. And it’s more of a, you know, going to trade shows and meeting friends, you know, they go into going to trade shows, clothing, it was just not fun. It wasn’t fun for me anymore.

Kara Goldin 21:39
What kind of comes to mind, as you’re talking about that as you start to grow in an industry, I switched from tack over to beverage, and I felt that I had kind of maxed out on tech now, you know, definitely Tech has new innovations, I left in 2001. And certainly a lot has happened since 2001. But I think where I was personally was that I needed to go into a new industry and sort of start all over again and be a student and which I think is a lot of what you’re talking about. I mean, when you sort of go high and break the glass ceiling and do all of those things. I mean, it’s great that you got there, but you’re sort of like, okay, where do I go now? Do I go start another clothing company? Or do I actually go back down to the bottom again, and start in an entirely different category or industry and I feel like that’s what you’ve been able to do successfully, you’ve been able to, you know, really create and build and do the things that you’re doing, which is so inspiring.

Kym Gold 22:41
I really appreciate that. I think that, you know, a lesson that I’ve learned really learned is if you know your business, you can pretty much do anything. Because it’s it is the basic thing that people don’t creative people don’t understand is that, you know, if you know your business, no one can take your business away from you. And you can create whatever you want. It’s it’s it’s from clothing, to whatever it is building homes, I produce documentaries, but it’s all about the bottom line, at some point where to get to the bottom, what is your margin? Well, you have to know your costs, you have to start and know your business. So if so, and, and and invest in yourself financially because if if you do invest in yourself financially, you know, you will find that VCs are interested in and and if you’re investing in yourself and you believe in yourself, other people will so know your business know what you’re doing. And you know, have fun, God. Right? Definitely say that a lot.

Kara Goldin 23:43
I mean, it’s it’s so important. You talked about you have a lot of women involved in your companies running your companies. I’ve heard you speak about the importance of having women on your team. Why is this so important to you above and beyond the fact that you’re a woman? Why have you taken this on and really taken a personal interest to having a voice around this?

Kym Gold 24:04
Well, you know, being the the only female, the largest shareholder in a public company and being treated like dirt always made me feel like this is never going to happen to me again. I’m going to hire women. We all speak to my ethos and you know, my culture is everybody speaks with dignity and respect to each other. I think women are more understanding of what’s going on with with with a woman and especially if we have kids, and we’re trying to juggle it. I find that most importantly women need to be hired more than men do. We haven’t had that chance. I’ve lived through it. I’ve been through it. I just feel that women are better multitaskers and have more of a feeling when you’re not having a more of a feeling or or a more, have more compassion on what’s happening in your daily life and understand that you can’t be 100% every day because women understand what we’re going through as mothers, you know, as as people in the workplace and I feel women should be paid equally, or even more than men. This is not man bashing. I’ve raised three men, this is supporting other women, most importantly, and I that’s just how I feel. This is really important to me. Well, you’re practicing

Kara Goldin 25:31
what you’re preaching. And I totally appreciate that. I feel very strongly as well about this. And I love to see leaders like you who are really doing it. Thank you for that. It’s so Tripoli inspiring. In addition to you just being an incredible entrepreneur, you’re just an incredible voice to that is doing great stuff. So really, really love that. So best advice that you have ever received.

Kym Gold 26:01
Okay, best advice I’ve ever received is from my mom who sadly is no longer with us. But she was a brilliant woman with a wicked sense of humor. You know, I know that sounds kind of trite, but I it’s stayed with me enjoy the journey. Enjoy the journey. Because that’s the best frickin part of it. Because wherever you go, these are the words you would say joy, the journey and whatever you go it leads you to where you’re supposed to be. And it is the truth, this best advice I’ve ever gotten. I love

Kara Goldin 26:35
that well it was such a pleasure speaking with you Kym and we will put all of the information in the show notes but everyone needs to check out style union home and also your book gold standard which talks all about your journey to and just follow Kym gold because she is such a rock star and has done amazing stuff. So very very you are definitely somebody that I have always wanted to meet so really inspired by you and motivated by you. So thank you help. It’s

Kym Gold 27:08
fun today. I really really had a good time.

Kara Goldin 27:11
Thanks again for listening to the Kara golden show. Please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara golden and if you want to hear more about my journey I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey including founding and building hint we are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara golden and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara golden thanks for listening