Marina in the Iris Dress
“Conceptualizing, ideating and creating a brand during a pandemic, it’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my career.”
Marina Larroudé is speaking fast, her voice buzzy and brimming with exuberance, on the eve of her brand launch. You can almost hear her smile through the phone.
The veteran Barneys fashion director and style.com and Teen Vogue editor has charged her entrepreneurial side into the forefront and is in the midst of bringing Larroudé, a brand she conceived to inject joy into fashion, to the public.
“Fashion is very much, ‘sorry, you can't sit with us.’ It’s how it has been my entire career,”’ she explains. “I wanted to break that code and I’m doing it through product. I wanted to create something with a level of design you can only find in the high-end market, but which is attainable.”
Marina in the Leslie Top
With that in mind, Larroudé launched with a focus on shoes and a smattering of handbags, with more product categories to come. Everything is made with an attention to detail and technology typically reserved for the highest end of the fashion spectrum, and is designed to be comfortable, long-lasting, and chic—all at an approachable price point.
“I think a woman doesn't buy things that are trending. You buy based on your needs. We all need a very good black sandal. We all need a great boot. This is how the line was built, around those staples you need in your wardrobe,” she says. “And I wanted to design the best versions of those out there.”
She’s not alone in this endeavor. Marina enlisted the partnership of her husband, Ricardo, a former financier who is now her full-time CEO, to launch Larroudé.
“He is my biggest mentor,” she says about him.
“After so many years, this industry really exhausts you, and when I am feeling like I can’t do this anymore or asking myself why do I this, he is always there. He was very supportive in the darker days and he’s a very resilient person,” she says. “I had difficult bosses or colleagues or people that throughout your life don’t necessarily want you to be successful. My husband was always like, look at the forest, don't look at the tree. Look at the big picture and keep going.”
Marina in the Gloria Sweater
While this is technically Marina’s first foray into entrepreneurship, her career has been a series of fearless risks.
She was one of the first editors at the now-defunct style.com (the original online home of Vogue) and helped to lead Barneys through challenging parts of its history as the fashion director. Even the way she began her career was an entrepreneurial-level risk—she moved from Brazil to New York with not a contact in her pocket or a friend in sight.
“I had just finished college, and I didn’t know how hard it was going to be. I knew nobody except my boyfriend. I was really clueless,” she says. “Thank goodness it was early on in my career so I didn’t feel the pressure, I felt like any other kid leaving college and starting out in New York.”
She has always been driven by change, and while her resume lists one success after the other, the culmination is actually a series of carefully orchestrated steps up (and exits, when she felt a position no longer challenged her).
It began with style.com, where she spent eight years and began on the men’s vertical of the site before she eventually rose to women’s market director. While she was on the ground floor of digital publishing, which sounds exciting in hindsight, in reality, it wasn’t a benefit at the time.
“It’s so crazy that people then didn’t think it was an advantage to be working on the website. People thought, she’s not at the magazine and she doesn’t have that magazine stamp,” she explains, describing a time when a print magazine’s website was seen as a less-than-worthy stepsibling, as were the people who worked at them. “Because of that, I knew I had to go to print in order to have a bigger stamp on my resume. And I tried. I interviewed a lot. And there were tons of jobs where I interviewed or didn’t get the position.
Finally, after almost ten years at style.com spent growing the site—which went from posting three stories a day to 30, according to Marina—and searching for her next job, she landed a dream role as the fashion director of Teen Vogue, a prestigious position at a blue-chip publication in the Condé Nast portfolio.
While it was the proverbial job a ‘million girls would die for,’ it had its drawbacks. For one, complete dedication was expected, which is de rigeur for any high-profile job in the industry, but as a young mother of two, it was a hurdle. It meant time away from her family (she spent two to three months in Europe a year) and giving her work as much priority in her life as her loved ones.
“I went back to work when my daughter was only 45 days old and I was so young, too, I was 29, and that was very hard. But I had to go back. I’ve had to leave my own birthday to go to a fashion dinner. I remember George [her son] being two years old and I threw him a birthday party on Saturday afternoon and I had to leave Saturday night to go to a Teen Vogue sales event,” she recalls. “These are not necessarily challenges, these are choices you make, but these are also the things you need to do in order to stay moving up. I paid my dues.”
Three years into the Teen Vogue job and she felt the itch again for growth and came to the difficult conclusion that as coveted as a role she held, it was not the right job for her.
“I had 15 kids working for me and I had to make sure everyone was happy and getting the job done while managing the stylists and learning how to deal with creatives. It was like being a mom, you know?” Marina explains. “I missed the creative input I had at style.com and having that immediate output.”
Marina in the Toni Dress
“I interviewed for that job for six months!” she says. “Can you imagine going to work at Condé Nast and then interviewing for another job for half of the year? Living through that for half a year was so stressful!”
She ultimately landed the Barneys job and found herself in a role that finally felt fulfilling, one where she created more than managed, where she influenced change instead of shepherded the status quo.
“Barneys was that balance and where I had to understand the business portion of the industry. It gave me a whole scope of customer desires and customer dynamics,” she says. “I was overseeing all the catalogs, choosing all the looks, shooting the looks. I was finding new designers and championing them. I was also working on the private label and that meant going to the factories in Italy. I had to go to all the stores, go to the trunk shows, meet the clients. It was everything.”
Ultimately, Barneys was teetering on the brink of closure, making her job there one built on shaky ground. She realized the truest path to success was something that belonged to and was created by her, entirely. The future looks bright through Marina’s eyes, though there are still moments that bring her back to being a young girl who had just arrived in the big city to discover her own destiny.
“We were shooting the Larroudé campaign in The Mark Hotel and I had that pinch-me feeling again, like coming to New York for the first time from that small town in Brazil. But now,” she laughs, “I’m creating my brand. It’s happening.”
Interview by Rebecca Suhrawardi