The design duo Pam & Gela on dumpster diving, why they didn’t kick back after selling Juicy Couture and how their Valley connection has influenced their latest line.
Juicy Couture founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor are perhaps the ultimate masters of reinvention. After selling the company in 2003 to Liz Claiborne for a reported $53 million, they could have rested on their laurels. Instead the best friends created Skaist Taylor, which has recently morphed into the more casual label Pam & Gela. The edgy luxury line hints at the very thing that put them on the map: the velour track suit—but with a twist. The duo talks with Ventura Blvd editor Linda Grasso about their illustrious past and their exciting, fresh start.
I love humble-beginnings stories. I hear you have one.
GELA: We started in a classic 1920s Spanish apartment in Hollywood. We would wash our vintage jeans in the communal washing machine and dry them all over the courtyard (sorry, neighbors). It was like a sea of wet, vintage Levi’s drying in the California sun.
Is it true that your first professional endeavor started with a $200 investment?
PAM: It’s all true! We started dumpster diving through the vintage bins at several LA rag houses, searching for the perfect pair of vintage Levi’s. We sized each pair with a measuring tape as we went along. We turned that denim into maternity jeans for our first brand, Travis Jeans.
Do you view yourselves as visionaries?
GELA: We view ourselves as brand-builders, even though we didn’t have a clue what brand-building was when we started Juicy Couture. Everything we did was instinctual.
So that line—Travis—was doing well, and yet you decided to move on. You two strike me as bold.
PAM: We were just not feeling the line anymore, so it was time to move on to bigger and better.
I understand that Pam & Gela is not trend-driven; you design what you’d like to wear everyday.
PAM: Yes, we live by that mantra: the most incredible sweatshirts and sweaters that are luxe yet affordable; the coolest, perfect dresses that are not too tricked out and can be your go-to when you don’t want to think about what to wear.
PAM: Edie Sedgwick, Talitha Getty, Kate Moss … the style “it girls” who have that amazing, cool and chic vibe.
After you sold Juicy, why not just sail off into the sunset?
GELA: We really thought I would move to England and Pam would paint, surf—but we are obsessed with clothes and the thrill of building another lifestyle brand. It’s who we are. It’s what we do best.
So the velour tracksuit put Juicy on the map. What will it be with Pam & Gela?
GELA: We feel like the modern-day uniform is more about a vibe … it’s chic, comfortable and a little rock ‘n’ roll. We are really not into the androgynous thing or the black-and-grey, oversized thing.
Gela, how has being the wife of a rock ‘n’ roller influenced your own style as well as your designs?
GELA: My personal style has really not changed much. I’ve had the same influences throughout the years. Marianne Faithfull and Jimi Hendrix played a big part in influencing what I wear and design.
Pam, you are a Valley native, right?
PAM: I grew up in Encino and went to Birmingham High. I loved growing up in the Valley in the ‘70s. The skateboard culture was a huge influence, and rainbow Vans were my prized possession. I still love that casual vibe today.
You two have been through transitions, weathered storms, startups, etc. Many friendships would have crumbled under the pressure.
GELA: We have grown up together. We really trust each other and push to make each other better. Working with your “bestie” makes the highs higher and the lows not so low.
Advice for others who want to start a business?
PAM: Make something people want to buy. Understand your brand and your culture, and most importantly, love what you do!
They’re roadside attractions.