The corner of West Broadway and Spring in Manhattan's SoHo district gave birth to designer Monique Leshman.
While the apparel and accessory designer still lives two blocks from where her small empire started, her reach is now much further and wider. Monique employs 800 people at three factories in India and in New York City.
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I met up with Monique in her Upper East Side studio, and found her as colorful as her clothing. I couldn’t stop perusing her racks of vivid caftans and shelves of exquisite, oversized jewels.
I asked Monique how she manages the rising cost of the many materials she uses, from silk to copper to stones.
She said it isn’t easy. "We have to be very conscious of what fabrics we are choosing. Silk has gone up 300% since I started."
So, has she passed at least some of that increase onto the consumer?
Monique says she's operating on slimmer profit margins and just keeps trying to get her brand out there.
That's easy with the help of her good friend and business partner, Nikki Jones. With Nikki's larger-than-life personality and dedication to the brand, Monique Leshman's designs have made five fashion covers in magazines across the globe. All without a formal PR agency.
Perhaps what's most impressive is Monique's tenacity. She was raised in Florida and worked at her mother's clothing boutique from the age of 15 (coincidentally, her mom's store was also called "Monique's"). She started buying accessories for Monique's, and her mom couldn’t help but notice everything her daughter bought, sold!
Monique brought that good fashion sense up to New York. In her early 20s, she spent a day trying to sell her necklaces a street booth in SoHo. She didn’t have any left to take back home with her that night.
"I made more money that day than I did in a week at my regular job," Monique says. The rest is history.
You can find Monique's designs at some major department stores. Check it out here.
And yes, she's still selling on the streets of New York City.