Kristi Kyle is the Founder of Love Long Length – clothing designed specifically for women 5’10 to 6’3 (178cm – 192cm). The brand launched in 2014 with 2 products and a real desire to help tall ladies in South Africa – the response was incredible! Love Long Length is a very personal brand; it was created to help tall women feel beautiful in outfits that are designed specifically for their proportions – at a price they can afford!
We first met on social media last year, very early into the Tall Guides journey (I don’t even think we even had a website at that point) but I’ve always remembered you. You have fantastic energy and such passion for what you do that I instantly felt connected with you. Fast forward to 2017 and I’m thrilled to be interviewing you and giving our tall world the chance to see what I saw. I’m curious to learn more about life as a tall woman in South Africa and find out more about your Love Long Length story.
Q1. Tell us a bit more about yourself…
A1. I am 6’1 / 186cms tall and I live in Pietermaritzburg (not far from Durban), South Africa with my husband and two children, Jesse (6) and Jack (4). I hopped around quite a bit from the age of 15. Originally born and raised in Zimbabwe, then off to California for 8 years, married in Mauritius where we lived for a year before settling down in South Africa.
Q2. For those of us who have never visited, can you paint a picture of what life as a tall woman is like in SA?
A2. There are plenty of tall women in South Africa, owing to Dutch Heritage. Being tall in this country, is hands down, without a doubt, a huge plus – it’s fantastic! I do get stopped every once in a while in public places with someone noticing my height, but only ever to pay a kind compliment.
I was married by the time I arrived in South Africa, but before then I dated in California. Funny enough, I have never dated someone taller than me – and I just realised that right now! My husband is a centimetre or two shorter than me.
Q3. I love the fact that you describe yourself as the heart behind the brand and I recall you mentioning that tall clothing was fairly difficult to source in South Africa – Can you tell our readers what inspired you to start Love Long Length…
A3. My goodness, when we first moved here I was just about to have my first child. Spending so much time in the States, with extra length options on the rise, I forgot how real the struggle was. Maternity clothing for tall women? Not a chance! Not only that, but my once size 8 figure blossomed into a size 12 overnight. My precious collection of GAP jeans had to be packed away into a “maybe
later never” pile along with the rest of my international brand clothing, and I was left at the mercy of the South African retailers.
Needless to say I lived in way-too-short leggings and tunics. There is ONE local store in the mall here who do carry a few extra length pairs of trousers, but the design and quality are not thought through or well made. Fast forward to this year and they have discontinued the range.
On the high end of the spectrum, there are one or two denim companies that stock a tall pair of jeans; but the prices are out of reach for the everyday woman. There was an obvious gap in the market for a quality range of basics at affordable prices.
Q4. How long did it take you to get from idea to launch and what has surprised you most along the way?
A4. Idea to launch was 6 months. Brenda (my gorgeous mother & business partner) and I chatted about it seriously in January 2014 and we launched with our first product in July.
With us being the first niche brand for tall women in South Africa, Love Long Length was truly breaking ground in a new territory. Needless to say, when I first started to tell friends and family about my business plan, I definitely got a few raised eyebrows!
Q5. Before you embarked on this fashion adventure, did you have any previous fashion or business experience?
A5. My mom unknowingly raised me to be an entrepreneur. She ran successful self-made businesses from home all my childhood life. I have such fond memories of helping her with her orders and hand-writing invoices for her at the age of 12.
I day-dreamed of having my own business one day.
In college, I studied Business Administration. I have since been fortunate to have many years of experience in both small and corporate offices. Fashion & Design experience? I knew nothing! I was fortunate to have met an incredibly wise business mentor from the very start who was top of the manufacturing industry here in South Africa. He pointed me in the right direction and from there I built a great team around me that could turn my ideas into a design reality.
Q6. Do you design your own collections? / How involved are you in the creative side of the business?
A6. Yes, Brenda and I are involved in everything from the style to the fabric to the finishes. We work with an incredible pattern-maker who takes our ideas and works on a pattern until we are sure it’s exactly what we want. We then hand everything over to one or two local manufacturers to do their magic.
Q7. How many people does it take to make Love Long Length a reality and are you the only tall girl on your team?
A7. Love Long Length is made up of myself (186cm) and Brenda (180cm). We handle it all… from Manufacturing to Marketing and everything in-between. We were fortunate to add two new members to our team last year. Carol (183cm) looks after our customers in the Gauteng area. Angela (185cm) looks after our customers in the Western Cape area. I’m surrounded by tall people so much that I often forget it’s a rarity!
Q8. Tell us more about your current collection and the latest addition; skinny jeans.
A8. We reached a huge milestone for our little business by launching our first ever pair of jeans this year. It’s been an incredible success and we have just re-stocked due to popular demand. We also offer a structured pair of linen trousers that work well for both every day and corporate wear. We carry an array of basics that include short and long sleeve tees (extra length in torso), palazzo pants, dresses and sleepwear.
All our products are available online, and we currently only ship locally within South Africa. Having said that, we do get requests internationally via email and we are always willing to look into the most cost-effective method of shipping (unfortunately, it’s usually quite costly).
Q9. What can we expect to see from the Love Long Length brand in 2017?
A9. To add to our collection, I’d like to design the perfect work chino for our corporate customers. I’d also like to work on a pair of bootcut jeans this year. As well as designs for a new maxi dress that I have in mind. As a business, I’d love to see our brand grow further into other areas of South Africa. It kills me to think that there are ladies in this country that have no idea they don’t have to go to a hundred stores to find a pair of PJs that are long enough!
I am extremely big on customer service and taking care of our shoppers. With that in mind, we have set up the system of bringing on “distributors” who look after our customers in a specific area. They handle returns, send out info on new products, arrange fittings, and represent the Love Long Length brand. We are privileged to have Angela and Carol on our team. I would love to add one or two more ladies to the team this year that can represent us as well as they do.
Q10. …and finally, can you describe yourself in ONE word?
Kristi’s Tall Guides Takeaway
Thank you so much for sharing some of your story – we wish you every success with Love Long Length. Before we wrap up, can you tell us what three pieces of advice you would give to other women who might be looking to start their own business or a fashion brand?
1. Find yourself a great business mentor in the same type of industry – this will save you from making unnecessary mistakes. Schedule a meeting, grab a notebook and take as many pointers as you possibly can in whatever time they can give you!
2. Marketing DOES pay off – I started off by walking around the mall look for tall ladies and handing out business cards! Marketing doesn’t have to cost you much at all but your time. Host competitions to get your name out there, find free mailouts or print flyers for schools to put in homework books.
3. You ARE going to make a mistake at some point, and that’s okay. Learn from it and move on quickly. The end goal is so much more important than the sum of money you lost out on or that one garment that wasn’t up to standard. You’ll do better the next time!
To shop the Love Long Length collection, head over to the website or connect and show some support on social media