When local entrepreneurs, Keesha Scheel and Kelsey Lundie, were faced with the question of what to do after college and what career would be the most fulfilling, both turned to their background in fashion to begin their latest business together. With a goal to remain a sustainable brand and to instill the idea that you can keep up with trends without submitting to fast fashion, Scheel and Lundie took a leap of faith, left their day jobs and built what is now Orenda Lou. Orenda Lou is an online clothing shop featuring collections curated by the two entrepreneurs themselves. Focusing on e-commerce, the two now partner with sites like Depop and ASOS Marketplace, both of which are sites known for providing a platform for people to buy and sell preowned or vintage clothing pieces that now make up their collections. The two describe Orenda Lou as, “minimal streetwear with a touch of vintage,” gravitating towards styles that are comfortable and sleek.
303 Magazine: How would you describe your journey into the business side of fashion?
Orenda Lou: We both have backgrounds in fashion, specifically the retail side of things. We’ve worked in buy/sell/trade stores where we were essentially doing what we’re doing now, only working for someone else. Kelsey made the move to Denver in 2012, feeling unfulfilled working in the service industry and needed a change of pace. She started reselling clothes as a side gig and Keesha, fresh out of college and unsure of her next move, followed suit. We joined forces, taking the knowledge we had gained working in the fashion industry in previous years, and slowly but surely began to make a living doing what we love.
303: We see that you work with Depop and ASOS Marketplace. Take us through the process of how that came to be and how it works with your business.
OL: We always had the intention of opening a shop, but the idea of a brick and mortar deterred us because of how costly overhead can be. The eCommerce world was really appealing to us and we stumbled across the app, Depop, which is a third-party selling platform and decided to give it a try. We are stylists, so initially, we used Depop as an outlet to resell pieces we had leftover from styling projects. Within months, it really started to take off and pieces would sell as soon as we would post them. We started devoting more time to selling on the app and within a little over a year we were able to quit our day jobs and focus on expanding our business full time.
ASOS Marketplace found us. Someone from their curation team stumbled across our Instagram and thought our style would be a good fit for their site. We strongly believe in using more than one outlet to create multiple streams of revenue so ASOS Marketplace seemed like a smart move.
303: Would you consider yourselves designers? Or, what is the process of choosing clothing and styles you want to carry?
OL: We consider ourselves more as stylists more so than designers because we currently don’t design anything from the ground up. We do rework a lot of the pieces we find thrifting and our ultimate goal is to one day create a “cut and sew” collection using recycled fabric that we find. We thrift all over the Denver area and beyond to find pieces we want to carry in our shops. We are drawn to pieces that we would wear ourselves and gravitate toward clothing with masculine and feminine elements. That’s the balance you see within Orenda Lou as a brand. We grew up in the ’90s and that era strongly influenced our style.
303: What was your biggest goal when starting your fashion business? What motivated you to pursue a role in the fashion industry and specifically Denver’s fashion industry?
OL: Our biggest goal starting Orenda Lou was to be able to sustain ourselves doing something that we were passionate about. Sustainability is of major importance to us and that is why everything we carry is secondhand. Our goal with Orenda Lou is to show people you can be stylish and keep up with the trends without supporting fast fashion. Denver just happened to be the place we landed and the community here has always been very supportive of our vision.
303: How did you come up with the name?
OL: We wanted a name that we could grow with and didn’t want to box ourselves into the “vintage shop” category. We came across the term “orenda” and it just really resonated with us. Orenda is a force within all of us that can empower change. To us, it represents the inner light that we carry and share with others. As much as we loved Orenda, we knew it needed something more. Lou came to Kelsey in a dream and it was there in front of us all along as it happens to be both of our mom’s middle names. It just made sense and Lou represents our masculine side. The name really captures the essence of our style and who we are as individuals.
303: What would you say is the most fulfilling part of being a business owner?
OL: The most fulfilling part of being business owners has been showing ourselves that we’re capable of creating a life that we love and empowering others to do the same. What lights us up within our job is getting to meet amazing people and challenging conventional standards of beauty in the fashion industry.
303: Tell us a little bit more about the styling process, especially for photoshoots. Take us from start to finish of the whole process.
OL: We plan our shoots weeks in advance and keep our muse’s personal styles in consideration when picking pieces for the photoshoots. Our number one rule is we never make a model wear something that they don’t love or feel comfortable in 100%. We stockpile inventory for the specific model we’re working with and come together a day or two before the shoot to finalize looks from what we’ve collected. We’re pretty good about gauging measurement so we rarely have to do fittings. Out shoots are a whole vibe, so we like to coordinate locations with outfits. Sometimes we have the locations planned in advance and sometimes we just wing it as we go. As of recently, we’ve taken full creative direction and aside from styling, take all of our photos as well.
303: How do you go about choosing the clothing and models you want to work with?
OL: We have a really good sense of our style and who we are, so choosing the clothing is second nature to us. The same is true for choosing models. We have a clear vision of who would best represent our brand and be able to bring the garment to life. We’ve been really involved in the Denver creative community for almost five years and have been lucky enough to meet everyone we’ve worked with along the way. We gravitate towards — and love — unconventional looks so when we see someone that fits that, we reach out.
303: Anything you can tell us about the future of Orenda Lou? Any goals you have for the business?
OL: We have so many plans for expansion. The next step is securing a studio space that doubles as a showroom and creative space. We want to host pop-ups, both here and elsewhere and ultimately just have a space where people can come together. We’re currently rebranding our website so keep an eye out. We’ll be showcasing exclusive seasonal collections of our favorite finds as well as interviewing other artists who inspire us and are making waves in the Denver community.
All photography courtesy of Orenda Lou.