Rochelle Behrens solved a pesky style problem with a simple solution: put the buttons in the right place.
Behrens spoke to the Akron Roundtable on Thursday, sharing her story of The Shirt, the button-down blouse for women that doesn’t gap in the front.
Her fledgling New York-based company has rocketed ahead since her shirt became one of Oprah’s “Must-Have Fashion Items” just two years ago.
“When you’re looking for a white shirt, many times it doesn’t fit across your bust and you’re popping out,” O Magazine fashion director Adam Glassman advised viewers on the segment. “Now you don’t have to put tape or safety pins and all this stuff that doesn’t work.”
The rest is fashion history.
“That was the day my life changed and I stopped sleeping,” Behrens told the Roundtable audience. Four of her styles — in white, pink, gold-flecked and cocoa in silk and cotton — hung at her side.
Behrens did not start out to be an entrepreneur. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied political science and art history, got an internship at the White House and worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
Plagued with ill-fitting button-down shirts that gaped between the breasts, Behrens became obsessed with finding a solution. That led her to develop a patented, dual-button design that enables women’s shirts to lay flat, allowing women to feel comfortable and powerful in what they wear, she said.
The secret, Behrens said, is that the buttons are in the right place and that a second seam of buttons is next to the skin.
Behrens now is building her brand, plugging the product endlessly and broadening her product line to include a variety of shirt styles and shirtdresses.
She succeeded in what she said was her “dogged” quest to get her product line into her No. 1 choice, Bloomingdale’s, and nearly 100 boutiques.
She has sold 17,000 shirts nationwide — a small number by fashion industry standards. Her quest is to place her shirts in every woman’s closet worldwide in a decade.
For now, her audience is the upscale businesswoman who can afford her fine cotton or silk products — classic tailored shirt (in eight colors, now on sale for $58) to her signature silk shirt (in five colors, at $138) and her classic black shirtdress (now on sale for $132), many made in New York City’s garment district.
She takes advantage of the modern woman’s bent to shop at virtually any time on the Internet. She sells 80 percent of her product on www.the-shirt.com.
She asked audience members to vote for her shirt on the QVC Sprouts website, where viewers can lobby for products they would like to see featured.
In answer to a question about what a new entrepreneur needs to make it, she said they need to raise money and have something that differentiates them from the crowd.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.