Keren Longkumer & Valerie Quant, LoQ
Titled by creatively combining the surnames of Keren Longkumer and Valerie Quant, LOQ is a fresh new line of daring footwear designed in Los Angeles and crafted in Spain. Keren calls India home while Valerie is cozied up in Venice Beach. The duo is living and working on opposite sides of the world but manages to come together and produce something truly exceptional from both similar and opposing sensibilities. Keren and Valerie may have only recently launched their line, but the two have learned a whole lot in a short time. Today we catch them in a rare moment of shared location to chat about mixing business and friendship, their love of Solange and the importance of starting small. Enjoy
LSG: Tell us about your studio space and neighborhood!
Valerie: Keren and I have a long distance work romance, so we communicate remotely. Currently, it’s just my husband and me in our 550 sq ft bungalow Venice Beach home/office where we’ve lived for almost four years. We never want to leave even though we are growing out of it fast. It's a 5-minute bike ride to the beach and walking distance to delicious eats and cute shops. My favorites are Gjusta for cortados and open-faced sandwiches and the beautifully curated General Store for home goods.
Keren: I work from India. The neighborhood vibe in Nagaland, where I live, is very relaxed. The fabric of society is closely knit together, so the sense of community is very strong. For example, I get my vegetables from local farmers, and it’s the kind of place where if I run out of sugar for my coffee I can ask my neighbor for some, and they usually join me for that cup of coffee, sugar in tow.
LSG: Can you walk us through your path? What kind of stops were on the way to where you are now? What initially drew you to fashion?
Valerie: I grew up in a family that manufactured denim, so I was exposed to business very early and set my goals to create something similar at a young age. We would take trips to Tokyo and Italy to scour second-hand shops for inspiration, then go back and start sketching and work with pattern makers to create the finished piece. I fell in love with the process. After working for the family business after college, I was getting burnt out on apparel and needed to try something new. I found myself drawing more accessories and objects, and I decided to run with it and take classes at FIDM for Footwear, which led to jobs at a few fast-fashion companies where I worked for the following years. I learned how to work fast and digest all the trends and spit them out into hundreds of shoes a week; it didn’t feel creative, and the process that I loved got cut out of the picture. There came a point where I felt I had enough knowledge and support that I had to jump in.
Keren: My parents are my biggest support system, and it was important that they understood what I wanted to do. My biggest hurdle was my father. When I shared my career plans with him, the first words that came out of his mouth were, “I don’t like the word fashion,” which broke my heart. I come from a country where fashion as a career choice is an unwise decision to make. I fought many battles with my parents but they finally surrendered.
I’ve always loved shoes and have always spent more money buying shoes than clothing. Every time I wore a pair of new shoes I felt confident and believed I could take over the world. It was like a personality makeover, an instant boost that was very gratifying, and I wanted to develop the same feeling for others through shoes. So, I went ahead and studied fashion.
LSG: How did you two meet and what inspired you to branch out independently and pioneer your brand?
Valerie: It was at FIDM where Keren and I met and worked on our first project together – we clicked over our passion for leather and would obsess about colors and each others illustrations. We talked about starting our brands independently and then it naturally became a discussion that we do it together, this was more than five years ago. We got to a point where we started talking to factories in Spain, and we had no choice but to take a risk and start!
LSG: Your work is artful and daring while still being completely wearable. Who do you imagine wearing your designs? Do you have a muse(s) in mind?
V+K: Thank you, we want our customer to feel that way too. We love Solange and how she confidently pulls off different proportions and colors – she would be our dream girl for sure.
LSG: Can you describe the feelings you want a wearer to experience in your work? What do you wish your pieces to evoke?
V+K: We love that you described us as artful, we want our LOQ girl to feel like they are wearing something that defines their style – timelessly chic and confident with an effortless touch.
LSG: How does your environment influence your collections?
V+K: California shapes a relaxed sensibility in our designs. We want our shoes to feel natural and comfortable.
LSG: We know you work with producers all over the world, tell us about your team.
Valerie: It’s our second season, so we have a tight operation right now. Just me and Keren plus our manufacturers in Spain. We would love to expand and have a proper office in Spain one day.
LSG: Where do you source inspiration and how do you organize it?
V+K: Our favorite part of design is the research stage, Pinterest and Tumblr are great resources where we gather images and create mood boards – art, architecture, beauty and color references. The tactile process of researching is always gratifying too – ripping from magazines and adding swatches for a mood board. We love referencing vintage bags, furniture or jewelry for upper details — it’s endless what you can find on Ebay and while shopping in thrift stores.
LSG: What themes are influencing your work right now?
V+K: “Femme Sophisticate,” “Power Suit.”
LSG: Can you tell us about your process of designing a collection?
V+K: It’s funny because when we started, we thought we would be just designing and drawing all day long. Not the case! Most of the work is factory follow up, negotiating, and solving problems. 10% is design. It takes us two days of research and another two to make drawings. Then we create tech packs for each style. A lot of the magic happens in Spain where we source leathers, make new lasts and create heels. Once we're done, it’s all business – neither one of us is a “business person”, so we have had to take on new roles that we never expected. At the end of the day, we are doing what we love and seeing our designs come to life. The cherry on top is when you see someone wearing your shoes when that happens, it's worth all the challenges, sweat, and tears of manufacturing and being a small company.
LSG: Materials obviously play a huge part in your line. Can you tell us about why you choose the ones you do?
Valerie: Keren and I used to obsess about colors and materials in school, and we still do. We always said we liked colors we could imagine eating and leathers that evoked an immediate sensory connection. We want to our girl to have an instant attraction.
LSG: Starting a business is intimidating, and we've all heard horror stories of working with a friend. What gave you two the courage and what do you have to say to others considering the move?
V+K: It is scary, we talked about it FOREVER and finally jumped in. You have just to do it. It's almost better not to know too much about what you're getting into because then you will never try. If you have a passion for it, you make it happen, and you work hard. What stops people from working with friends is the possibly falling out of friendship – it’s hard to separate business and personal relationships. Sometimes we freak out on each other and then we hug it out.
LSG: Were you friends or partners first?
V+K: Friends, but we met while partnering on a footwear project together – dream match.
LSG: What is your mantra to get through hurdles?
V+K: Just breathe. We catch ourselves getting caught up in the stress, and we just remind each other that we have already been through the worst, and we’ll get through it.
LSG: As business owners, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a company?
V+K: Start small and work smart. From both business and design perspective, you have to understand all sides of fashion. Whether it’s finding a mentor or working in the industry first, there are a lot of ways to avoid mistakes. Start small, don’t overextend yourself on the first collection. The tighter, the better. Make sure you understand and research your customer, there may or not be a market for your product.
LSG: What are a few things you love that have nothing to do with fashion?
V+K: Food, we love experiencing new restaurants and cooking at home. Travel, it’s a novelty for us to take trips, but it resets our minds for creativity.
LSG: Tell us a little bit about your routines. Five things for a stress-free day?
First thing coffee!
Music when getting ready in the morning.
Checking emails and making sure we are on track on our to-do list.
Exercise if we can.
A glass of wine at the end of the day.