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The design studio at Peace Love World's compound in Doral is in a frenzy. Summer and Fall 2015 has just gone into sample mode, ideas for Spring 2016 are starting to populate cork boards around the room, and a dozen or so staffers are busy working on a number of projects. Meanwhile, Alina Villasante, the founder, visionary, and creative heart behind the global brand, buzzes in and out of her office as she talks about ideas that hit her at 2am, just four hours before her first cup of coffee that day.
"So normally what happens before a season is that I start double guessing everything," she says. "Like, do we like this anymore? Maybe it's not relevant anymore."
It's just a typical day in the creative department at Peace Love World, where the brand's positive messages are first born, and then trickle down through other facets of production at the Doral-based factory. Almost all aspects of the luxury leisurewear brand's production are taken care of here, in a series of black-hued buildings that spans an entire block staffed by roughly 90 people.
We spent an afternoon touring Peace Love World's block-long compound, where Alina talked to us about the simple beginnings of her worldwide brand and what it's like designing exclusive collections for the NBA, Pharrell, and even Oprah.
A dozen or so employees work on everything from designing apparel to social media and marketing in Peace Love World's creative department. "This is a very important department in the company. I think it's a department that not everyone understands. They think we're always having a party," says Alina. "There are thinkers and creators here, and you have to kind of be away from everywhere else in the company."
Like any design house, the process is streamlined. They study trends and fashion weeks to make sure they're on target with color, body, and fabric. They then fill floor-to-ceiling cork boards with ideas and inspiration, and from there Peace Love World's in-house artist creates preliminary sketches of what we'll soon buy in stores. They sort through sheets of different fabrics until they find the right ones, and then it all goes into sample mode.
Currently, Alina and the team have a few products up their sleeves, starting with the Alina Villasante Collection, which is set to launch this year. "The Alina Villasante Collection is a notch above, it's more sophisticated, yet if I want to wear it with a pair of sweatpants, I can," she says from her office, where she often sits perched upon a balance ball chair. The collection is essentially laid-back luxe, using French terrycloth fabrics and fleeces that can be layered to seamlessly blend with one another. Fashion denim is in the works too. "This year I decided that I was going to stay true to what I love and not let others convince me to do what I don't love," Alina says.
Once the design team signs off on the sketches, they are then sent down to a small room with a handful of seasoned seamstresses who will put together samples and prototypes on vintage Singer sewing machines. Along the way, Alina has been able to keep those closest to her in the company, namely her family. "The father of my children is the president. We're different bosses for different things. He's more operational, I'm more creative. My daughter does social media and marketing. My cousin is the glue that keeps the company together. My dad is the controller. My son runs the warehouse."
Although she admits working with family isn't always easy, Alina admits she wouldn't have it any other way. "I wouldn't know how else to see them all the time if they weren't here with me," she says. "And it has its challenging moments, because you'll give each other attitude where that wouldn't happen with an employee. But I don't know life without that. That's the only life I know."
Once samples have been approved, the screen printing process starts. Peace Love World produces all of its merchandise in-house, which gives it a real "Made in America" vibe. Inside there are several screen printing presses with shelves of stacked screens imprinted with Peace Love World's catchy, positive phrases.
Peace Love World's fame may have spread across the globe, but the factory itself opened just a block from where Alina first got the idea for Peace Love World. Up until she and her then-husband Frank sold the aviation company they owned, Alina would have "love parties" where she would design t-shirts, pajamas and jewelry for her friends. "My friends would go out with their clothes. One of them was 'I love Alina,' and everyone was like 'who the hell's Alina?' So I made 'who the hell's Alina?' I started it just like that, not really knowing what I was doing."
After the company sold, she started making more T-shirts to pass the time. Her kids commissioned a few to sell, and were able to collect $85,000 in just two weeks. That was six years ago. Today, Peace Love World operates eight stores in Miami, one in Hong Kong, and has plans to open more in New York, LA, and possibly Brickell City Centre. Two international stores are slated to launch in Paris and Cannes by April. Her biggest focus at the moment, however, is on expanding Peace Love World's children's collection, her eponymous luxury line, and her gentleman's collection.
After the merchandise has been screen printed, the real fun starts: selling the products. Scattered throughout the first floor are several departments- accounting, web, photography, human resources, sales, and shipping.
Everything you see on the website is shot in-house. There's a separate photo studio inside the warehouse as well as a stark white runway where merchandise is modeled for Peace Love World's online shop.
The Peace Love World compound has a huge holding space, where merchandise is stacked in boxes and bins, ready to be shipped out. Several pickups are made per day, whether it's to Peace Love World's many Miami boutiques, to the brand's many third party retailers, or directly to you when you order from peaceloveworld.com.
Finally, after meandering through a series of connecting hallways and rooms, you enter Peace Love World's outlet, where there are rows upon rows of Peace Love World merchandise at a fraction of what they'd normally be priced.
Alina can look back on a few instances she knew she made it. "First, getting into Bloomingdale's, my first big box, was a turning point. Then getting into Nieman's, Nordstrom, Colette and all that. The Pharrell collaboration happened from one day to the next and I felt it was so close to heart because we were getting all these calls about Pharrell and the video and if we had anything to do with it," she says.
She's proud of her celebrity endorsers, like the Kardashians and Jennifer Lopez ("We didn't pay for them to love it. They just loved it."), however she does cite Oprah as the stamp of approval she needed to know that Peace Love World and all it represents is on the right path. "It was the most challenging order I ever had. It was the toughest thing I've ever done. It was the most rewarding thing I've ever done. And it's the most appreciated I've ever felt. I just felt [the team was] so aligned with my heart and soul it gave me that validation stamp that I was on the right track."
If the past six years are any indication of the future, then Peace Love World is very well down the right path.