Nov 19 2020
COVID has been creating a new reality for retail, and with 82% of young consumers saying they’ve been shopping online more often than they did before the crisis. For some major brands this has meant a quick pivot to focus on ecommerce, and a race to keep up with rapidly changing trends. But there are also some who have seen this year, in all its quarantined glory, as an opportunity to launch something completely new.
In fact, YPulse has spoken to several startups that decided 2020 was the perfect time to begin their brands—and many of these enterprising young founders are Gen Zs. Last month, we told you about how the HAGS app was created as a way to digitize the yearbook experience for high schoolers who missed out on the tradition. Skincare brand Topicals launched during quarantine for young consumers with chronic skin conditions—and sold out within hours.
Today, we’re talking to a new teen-founded clothing brand that has managed to carve out major success in a challenging year. Los Angeles-based Loonar Clothing was launched over the summer by 15-year-olds Jack Schwartz and Mateo Santamaria, two lifelong friends, who Inside Edition reported used “the money that they had earned from $10 entrance fees throwing parties pre-COVID as capital to start.” With Loonar, they’ve put together a formula of Gen Z-appealing ethos and influencer-driven marketing. First, they’ve founded their brand with some of their generation’s biggest concerns as a central focus: They take pride in being a sustainable unisex apparel brand, using knits are made from “recycled water bottles and post industrial cotton” as opposed to new fibers. As Schwartz explains, he and Santamaria have a passion for fashion, and they wanted to start a brand that combined their love for clothes, while also “minimizing their ecological footprint” and creating pieces for everyone (“…we represent equality for all.”)
The Gen Z-team has also fundamentally understood how to employ the social media they’ve grown up with as a tool to gain attention, and wield the influencer effect. YPulse’s influencers and celebrities report found that 70% of 13-18-year-olds follow an online celebrity on social media, while 58% have purchased something an online celebrity recommended. Loonar has quickly garnered support from some of today’s most popular influencers and celebrities, growing their own TikTok channel to 34.7K followers, where they’ve received 3.4 million likes. Many of their videos, like the ones that feature Charli D’Amelio and Chase Hudson sporting their face masks, have gone viral and accrued millions of views—helping to catapult Loonar into early success.
We spoke with Schwartz about why the pandemic was a perfect time for the brand to debut, how they’ve tapped influencers and online celebrities to get Gen Z’s attention, and what the future has in store for Loonar:
YPulse: How did Loonar Clothing get started?
Jack Schwartz: My partner Mateo [Santamaria] and I came up with the brand Loonar over quarantine because we had time on our hands. We both love fashion and wanted to start a brand together, and we thought it was important to represent something we cared about, and that would also be good to the planet. We started the brand by working with people through Zoom to design the line.
YPulse: Why did launching a brand during quarantine feel like the best move to do right now?
JS: Launching a brand during quarantine worked in our favor because we had extra time, and we came up with a good marketing plan. We thought of the idea of selling masks which are fairly easy to manufacture in large quantities, and are needed by everyone especially because of the pandemic. We also figured everyone would be on their phones at home and so we could use social media to market it. Since social media is driven by influencers and celebrities, we knew we had to get the support of top talent.
YPulse: Have you come across any challenges launching a brand during the pandemic?
JS: I actually believe it is more convenient for us launching a brand during COVID due to all the free time we have now with school online. I think people are on their computers and phones more so we can reach them with social media. We did do a pop-up at The Lost Warhols [Museum], but if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, we probably would’ve gotten more store traffic. However, our online store hasn’t been affected.
YPulse: How are you both balancing remote learning and managing a new brand?
JS: We are managing online learning and the brand very well. We wake up and do school in the morning from 8 AM to 12 PM or 1PM, then work on the brand after school with all of our free time being mostly on the weekends and nights.
YPulse: What are the products you’re offering?
JS: We are currently selling t-shirts, hoodies, and masks. Every week we have different drops. We are going to expand the collection into a few other body styles and add hats next month.
YPulse: What influenced the style of Loonar Clothing?
JS: The meaning of our brand is “From the dark side to the light side of the moon, we represent equality for all.” Loonar refers to the moon so we started with a space theme incorporating astronauts, aliens, and now we are expanding our collections beyond space, but keeping with our message of equality.
YPulse: What are the biggest fashion trends that brands should know about today?
JS: A big trend that brands should know is having cool designs that aren’t just basic or simple. Letting their creativity expand so their design feels different and authentic. We recently did a Halloween launch with super dope designs that a lot of our community liked. We also noticed the trucker hats are a big trend right now and we are working on that for our next drop and adding our own spin to them.
YPulse: As teen founders, how are you reaching teen consumers?
JS: We are reaching the teen and college audience through TikTok. It’s the biggest app in the world right now and we have been posting videos of celebrities on the app wearing our brand such as Post Malone, Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae, Lil’ Huddy, Bryce Hall, and many more. Posting these celebrities wearing our brand made our videos go viral. Currently, we have 34K followers, 16 million views, and over 3 million likes.
One of our biggest marketing strategies is definitely through TikTok. We are always trying to post different content that gives our fans an inside look into the marketing of Loonar.
YPulse: How do you think young people today are different from young people in the past?
JS: Young people today are different due to the fact that this generation has social media. In the past, it seemed much harder to get the word out about a clothing brand, but with social media you can reach millions directly.
YPulse: Are you seeing that more people in your generation are prioritizing sustainability in the products they’re looking to purchase?
JS: Yes, I think people our age are more thoughtful about the environment and how things are made. Because most young people care about their futures and taking care of the Earth. We really do!
YPulse: Loonar has gotten popular celebrities and influencers like Post Malone, Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae, and many others who have a massive social following to support your brand. How were you able to grab their attention?
JS: We were able to get all these celebrities on board with our brand by approaching them nicely around Los Angeles, and asking them if they could wear our products. We told them about how we are trying to grow our business and the meaning of our brand, and since then, they all have been super supportive of our hustle as 15-year-old students.
YPulse: What’s next for Loonar Clothing?
JS: We hope to achieve many things with Loonar Clothing. We just hosted our first pop-up at The Lost Warhols [Museum] in the Beverly Center on Halloween to release our third drop. We just hired a sales rep who is going to hopefully get us into more retail stores—both on and offline—like Zumiez, Urban Outfitters, etc. We hope to eventually go beyond our online store and open up our own physical retail store so that we can host more marketing events and pop-up events—COVID-safe, of course. We believe online will continue to lead our business, but the retail store will be a great marketing push. Our big picture goal is to create a meaningful, well-rounded, and very cool lifestyle brand.
Jack Schwartz, 15, is a designer, marketer, and business owner. He is a sophomore in high school in Pacific Palisades, CA, where he is on the Honor Roll, attends honors classes, and has a 4.0 grade point average. When Schwartz was a freshman, he started a business on the side of school called Project 1,2,3 where he would throw parties for high school students. They rented a location, hired a DJ, and stocked it with water to drink. He would charge $10, and the parties were attended by high schoolers from all over the LA area. He’s always had a love for fashion and style, and began to make his own custom pants by sewing on custom appliques, utilizing paints, etc. When the pandemic hit, Schwartz’s party throwing business came to an end, but paved the way for his knitwear brand Loonar Clothing, which he co-founded with his close friend Mateo Santamaria while in quarantine.
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