Weston Voices: Janet Kraus, Co-Founder and CEO of Peach

Janet Kraus, from the Peach website

Yesterday, the Weston Owl sat down for a zoom chat with Weston resident Janet Kraus, co-founder and CEO of Peach, a fashion brand focused on helping women thrive. Kraus’ dry sense of humor and infectious energy had the conversation moving from the joys of entrepreneurship to parental mentors to regional shopping preferences, and the challenges of Covid in a relationship shopping experience.

Origins

Peach’s origins lie in undergarments–unmentionables, as your grandmother might say–or the “bra shopping problem” as Kraus would say.

“Let’s face it: shopping in retail stores for bras is not any woman’s favorite thing. But what if women could shop in the privacy of their own or a stylist’s home? We [with co-founder Derek Ohly] discovered that this was rewarding for stylists and clients both,” said Kraus.

“Unfortunately, when I did the math, it was just not worth it financially for just this one product.” So the brand grew and Peach found its success in the ath-leisure space by finding a niche not occupied by brands such as Lululemon and Athleta.

“A typical Peach client has had a baby or two, lives in the suburbs, does 19 things in one day, and considers herself a fashion-forward person, even if it was in her “past” life pre-kids,” says Kraus. “This generalization is not always true, of course, but what most clients have in common is that they want a simple performance outfit that can go from gym, to work to dinner out.” As it says on the website, a Peach outfit is a success when all the wearer needs to do is change shoes and a handbag to go from daytime to evening out.

During the zoom video, the Peach CEO showed the Owl just what she meant–wearing a black “performance jacket” which had small petal adornments. “While Kate Middleton might have petals all over the place for this year’s trend, Peach is not committing to that–this jacket will be wearable for years, not just a season.”

“Peach clothing is about being three things: stylish, comfortable and versatile, with the latter being our key differentiator.” The muse for Peach? The paddle boarding mama who loves a social get-together, and doesn’t have limitless time or money.

An example of the versatility is a dress coming out in Peach’s summer collection. With print on the inside and solid color on the outside, a scoop neck in front and high back, it can be worn inside-outside-upside down, as a certain children’s book author would say. A single dress can be worn four different ways–there’s one you’ll want in your roll-aboard when things re-start in travel-land.

“On the environmental theme, I would never profess our clothing to be sustainable. But we are working to make it “conscientous” by allowing women to buy fewer items overall–and work that clothing harder,” says Kraus. “We want these to be the clothes you use again and again–we’re not in the space of party dresses for single use. I would counsel people to go rental for special occasions.”

Covid Challenges

Peach was built on a personal stylist model–clothes sampled and bought in private homes during get-togethers. With Covid restrictions canceling inside gatherings, Peach had to think up a new way to get their clothing out there. Peach pivoted by starting “Live” on their site. Clients can now attend live shopping events (or watch the recording)–this recent one from January 2021 shows off the early-spring collection:

Clients sign in from their stylist’s link (which gives the stylist credit for sales) and then see new items demostrated by the “spokesmodel.” A chat room to the left gives users a feel of being in the room with their friends, and to the right, there is more clickable information about the clothes. A pivot, indeed, to a new interactive platform.

Over time, Peach has learned much about how women shop. Some regional differences are not unexpected: the south and midwest like more color, New York and New England like neutrals, unless they’re heading to the Hamptons or Nantucket and then the colors splash in.

“One of the more surprising things we’ve learned is that it’s not uncommon for two or more women at an in-home event to buy the same leggings or sweater. But in the south, it is very unusual for women to buy the same pieces at events. We think it’s because they have closer social groups–they may expect to see a shopper friend at the gym the next day and don’t want to be in the same leggings.”

Role Models and Life Learnings

Janet Kraus’ role models were her parents. “I had no idea growing up that my mom was one of the most powerful women in retail banking. Only when I looked at the cover of a Wall Street Journal one day and it had a little drawing of my mom did I realize exactly how high level she was.”

“My mom was very humble, calm and had a certain gravitas. She really focused on people she met–she would remember everything about a person. She taught me much about getting rid of the “I-ism” that affects so many–how much more rewarding it is to truly converse with other people and find out what they are passionate about”

From her mother, Kraus learned that having both a really big career and being a good mother was possible. “My mom told me that you need to let go of things that don’t matter. To her, there were three biggies–work, family and gardening.” And to make it all fit in, some of her advice was particularly pertinent: “If you’re going to have a job, have a short commute.” How else will you make the softball games?

Kraus’ father, an entrepreneur, inspired her in a different way. “Imagine how it was in the 70s to have your wife with a bigger career than yours,” she says. “But the buttons almost popped off his shirt with his pride about his wife.” He firmly believed that a woman could be anyone she wanted to be–“I had no idea what sexism or bias was until I got to college,” says Kraus.

About being an entrepreneur, Kraus says “I have a saying that you can choose anxiety or frustration. Frustration is having to navigate working for someone else–there may be obstructions that you have no control over and no way to get around. Anxiety is part of life s an entrepreneur, but it is something you yourself can control.”

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For more information about Peach, please see their website at http://www.discoverpeach.com.

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