Designer Spotlight: April Spring, FOXERS
“Everyone loves showing you their underwear when you’re in this business.” – April Spring.
Whether it’s on vacation in the Grand Cayman Islands or out on the town in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, April Spring, founder and head designer of FOXERS, can’t shake happy customers wearing her unique underwear design. “Everyone loves showing you their underwear when you’re in this business,” she says. One time a beach goer shouted to her, “Let me show you my FOXERS! These feel so comfortable. I’m your best customer and I should be your model the band!”
Her initial creation—a thong with a men’s boxer waistband—was created to help women avoid the fashion faux pas that took place when their thongs peeked out of their low-rise jeans. As pant waistlines began to rise, so did the popularity in the FOXERS brand. Women and men shop the collection now not only for it’s function but also for it is comfort, style and quality. And a network of six distributors give the brand an international reach.
Each season FOXERS releases new, on-trend color ways in their popular lace and cotton boxers, lace camisoles and tanks. Spring has also expanded the collection to include skirts, button down shirts, perfect v-neck tees and swim cover-ups based on her personal insights and customer feedback.
We caught up with Spring this month and asked her to share a little bit about her beginning and some useful advice to business owners. Read on for her best business ideas.
Q&A with April Spring, FOXERS
Above: English Lavender Collection.
Let’s talk about how you got your start. What drew you to the fashion industry?
When I was little, I always wanted to do fashion. It came from a fear of the dark. As I was falling asleep, I’d make my mind focus on wedding and evening gowns and it would caused me to have full color dreams of designs. It has always just come to me. I go to sleep and try to keep from thinking of things I don’t want to think about and instead I think about something positive, usually that’s fashion.
Above: April attending her first trade show.
What led you to this industry and to start your own business?
My husband got the opportunity to go to Malaysia for his work. While there, I was in a women’s business group and I took illustrating at fashion school. The school needed a designer to go to silk towns to represent the United States. That’s how I got into designing.
Malaysia is where I came up with the idea for FOXERS. I was sitting at a coffee cafe outside of mall next to our condo with my husband and co-founder Alex Emmermann on a Saturday morning.
Above: FOXERS’ first sewing machine in Malaysia
April’s A-HA! moment
When I mentioned about thongs sticking out of women’s jeans and how I thought they looked distasteful he said it was “the look.” I said, “Oh, dear. No, it is not.” So as our other Ex-Patriot friends from around the world would walk by I would ask their opinion and every time the man immediately replied that it was the style and the woman would say, “no it’s not, it just happens.”
I came up with the idea for a women’s thong with a men’s boxer waistband. I went ahead and made it right away and had a prototype the next day. From there, I met three different factories at a factory convention. I had already owned my own business, a public relations firm for financial and investor relations, in the States. When I began meeting with buyers they were glad that I had real business experience under my belt.
Above: Plum Perfect.
What have you learned operating your own business?
I would say perseverance. I have a quote on my wall by Thomas Edison that says, “Our greatest weakness in life is giving up. The most certain way to success is to try one more time.”
Also reacting and making changes — I started this business just before the recession.
I could have easily said I’m in debt and I’m closing down but instead I thought, “I’m going to sit here and if I sell one pair of underwear I don’t care, I’m going to make it through this day.”
Above: FOXERS’ Christa McDaniel, Alex Emmermann and April Spring at CURVENEWYORK. Photo by Jan Klier.
Team Building and Retention Advice
If you see that something is not working listen to your customer, listen to your friends and staff. You have to make changes and be open-minded and you have to keep it positive. Those are all things everyone can do and more companies will do better if they are patient. Grow when you have to grow, back it down when you have to back it down. It can’t always be about the bottom line.
Find the right people for your team and as soon as anyone is cancer in your business you have to get rid of them. Anyone not on the same page as your goals has to be eliminated because that wastes time.
Above: April examining the first shipment of FOXERS.
What’s the hardest part of being a business owner?
Letting people go! That’s the worst. I don’t like to confront anyone and I want everyone to be positive, but I also want everyone to be happy in what they are doing.
As a product company, another difficult part is estimating production. It’s difficult to figure out how much to have or how little to have. The retail market buys different from the wholesale market and in between those two sets of growth I started working with distributors and they buy in a completely different way than the other channels. It’s always a learning curve with product and it’s hard to estimate when you are growing when you are a young brand. Luckily, we’re in our eleventh year and getting the hang of it. We also have a new consultant that is fantastic.
Above: Hedgehog Collection.
The collection is always fresh and exciting and includes great colors and styles. Where did you hone your skills for creating?
The more you can spend time immersed in the creative process the more creative you become. I have to block out time to sit and be creative. I’m always thinking of something, always coming up with an idea. Then I immediately draw those ideas. I read, go to industry shows and go to seminars. I’m always learning.
Above: Black Cherry Collection.
Where do you find inspiration for your collections?
I’m really connected to and enjoy period shows and movies, everything from the 1700 to the 1950s. My first dresses were 50s looking dresses in 2005. I also love color. Inspiration can come from a flower that is the most beautiful color. Recently, I was inspired by azaleas. “I have to make this color!” I see one thing and recall another thing and they come together to make a collection.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Mostly being able to create the product is my favorite part. It’s like a dream come true. I walk in here sometimes and I can’t believe this is all mine. That combined with having people tell me that they love my product. It’s affirmation. It would not be great if I were the only who liked it.
Working with Retailers
“Everyone needs flexibility, retailers don’t need to order a whole collection if they only need to replenish one item.”- April Spring.
Can you describe your relationship with retailers and distributors? How do you work with them to help support their businesses and promote products?
I get a lot of nice comments about how flexible we are with boutiques. When the recession hit everyone said to me, “You have to have a minimum.” But I wanted to change the way it was. Everyone needs flexibility, retailers don’t need to order a whole collection if they only need to replenish one item. On my website you can order wholesale and retail.
I always make sure retailers have better margin than I do. I want to help the retailers sell the product and not have them buy things they don’t want or they can’t sell. Honestly, I try to help each business out and not make hard and fast rules because every customer base is different.
I also sell direct to consumers on my website — I don’t have sales very often. We try to make sure our site doesn’t compete with one of our stores. If I have a customer looking for something, I will always reach out to a boutique to help them find that product.
Above: Feathers Collection.
FOXERS around the world
On the other hand, working with distributors is very different. It’s actually a bigger relationship and there is a lot more to it. We’re distributed in six different countries—Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. All of it involves different pricing and shipping. It’s a whole different ball game and it takes a while to get it fine-tuned but it’s worth the effort because it allows you to bring your product to a whole other market faster.
Above: FOXERS first nightgown lace and chiffon halter. “These we brought back for the 10 year anniversary. They will be out again this Fall Winter,” says April.
What’s next for FOXERS? Can you share any details on upcoming product launches or company happenings?
We have so much going on. The UK distributor is one of our biggest things launching now. Also our first trade show in England is this December. We have an all new website and all new photography in the works and that will hopefully be up by the beginning of August; we’re making a video to promote the collection and we’re coming out with new pieces and a new color way in august.