Women in Business Q&A: Malyn Joplin, Founder, Made for Pearl

Growing up as the niece of Janis Joplin, Malyn Joplin accepted she had deep, significant roots in music history, but constantly struggled to find a deeper spiritual connection to her famous Aunt. A bold move out to California sparked a creative nerve in Malyn and drew her to fashion.
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Growing up as the niece of Janis Joplin, Malyn Joplin accepted she had deep, significant roots in music history, but constantly struggled to find a deeper spiritual connection to her famous Aunt. A bold move out to California sparked a creative nerve in Malyn and drew her into the world of fashion. After studying at FIDM and working with several up and coming brands, Malyn found herself embracing not only the powerful influence that Janis had on the world of rock'n'roll, but the colorful imprint she left behind in the world of fashion as well. Looking for inspiration in her family's trove of Joplin treasures and heirlooms, Malyn launched Made for Pearl to embark on a journey to rediscover her Aunt's magnetic style influence not only for herself but for the next generation of bohemian babes. Raising her growing family of three young boys with her husband in Venice, CA., Malyn's love for family and tradition is felt in every thread and her attention to detail to uphold her aunt's iconic look and spirit is fashioned in each and every season.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have been through quite a few things and have had to overcome some challenging obstacles at a young age. These moments have shaped me to be not only self-reliant but also empowered. I learned I was stronger than I thought and that if I want something badly enough, I can make it happen through hard work and perseverance. Some might call it "thick headed" or "stubborn," but I just consider it "finding a way." I have also learned to trust people to take ownership of their roles. I have learned that everyone has skills they excel at and that I cannot be an expert at everything. Over the years I have gained incredible insight into building a team I can full heartedly trust.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Made for Pearl?
Early in my fashion career I had the opportunity to work for a few newly launched businesses that went on to great success. While I was there I noted the positives as well as the challenges that new companies go through, which gave me great guidance in starting Made for Pearl. However, nothing can really prepare you in launching a new fashion brand. It is an incredible undertaking to turn an idea into reality, and you have to be flexible, nimble and open minded throughout the entire process.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Made for Pearl?
My biggest highlight in launching Made for Pearl was seeing the line in our first major retailer. The process of getting it out of the design studio and into the world for customers to actually touch, feel, and try on is a beautiful, yet exhausting endeavor. Another major highlight was my exploration of my Aunt's life. Each season Made for Pearl connects me with Janis in a totally new and exciting way and I enjoy seeing how expansive her influence was when she was alive, and still is today.

One challenge I continue to overcome is defending Made for Pearl to those who think we are licensing the image and name of Janis Joplin and here merely to make money off of her. I was born into this family, and Made for Pearl is my creative outlet. I have to remind myself that it's fair that everyone has an opinion, good or bad. That's what fashion is all about.

How is Made for Pearl shaking up the fashion industry?
Today there is so much fast fashion available to consumers looking to buy inexpensive, sub-par quality clothing. We strive to place Made for Pearl at the opposite end of this spectrum. We produce our collection locally in Los Angeles, hire talented artisans, and refuse to outsource our time or money. We manufacture limited quantities to avoid waste and make our pieces of heirloom quality so that they last across generations, just like Janis has with her music and style.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own fashion line?
To start a fashion brand is a lot of work, sprinkled in with a little fun. If you are willing to put up with the stress, put in endless labor and work, and carry the burden of expenses without losing your passion for design, then go for it! If you think it's going to be all fun then you should do a little more research before diving in. Also, finding great people to work with is key. Everyone needs to understand the brand's vision, voice, and future. If you work with people that don't understand or agree with your brand's fundamental DNA, your vision will not come to fruition.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is one of the hardest pillars to keep standing upright in your life. It is not easy and since I blur the two it often gets complicated. Since our company is small, I am on call 24/7, even when I am not at the office. This brand is near and dear to my heart, so I am always thinking about how best to take care of it. This is also a family business, so work and life are closely intertwined. One trick I've learned to help keep balance is to leave my phone in my car when I'm with my family. Then I can be completely present with no distractions.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
As women become more successful I think one of the biggest challenges they face is to match their success at work with their family, at the same time. Each role requires attention, dedication and time, and there are only so many hours in a day. Since launching the brand I have had three little boys. I am lucky to have very tolerant and understanding people willing to work with me. I also have team members that are starting their own families, so we all get to balance work and family together and offer moral support to each other as friends and colleagues. I see women make the choice to put off having children because the thought of leaving to raise a family, even if for a short time, will impede their progress in reaching their career goal. It may not be as hard as they think and if they really want it they can have both. Though it's not easy, it's doable.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has made a huge impact on both my professional life and personal life. I learn from watching the people close to me work through challenges, solve problems, and gain success. I use my observations to help me decide if I want a lifestyle like my peers or opt to take a different path. I try to surround myself with positive people that have something to teach me about my brand and myself. This effort also helps the focus and voice of the brand to grow in a very positive way.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I really admire Sophia Amorosa for starting and growing Nasty Gal so quickly. Her diligence and commitment to seeing her brand become an e-commerce powerhouse is admirable for all young women to emulate. She is incredibly accomplished, yet still grounded and approachable.

What do you want Made for Pearl to accomplish in the next year?
I am excited for Made For Pearl to reach more people next year. Our customers connect with the brand in a beautifully authentic way, and we would love to see more people get to experience this. I am also excited to officially launch our Pearlette Project in the coming year, and highlight powerfully creative women in various industries that match the spirit and energy of Janis Joplin in their own unique way. And we are also hopeful to collaborate with another brand to explore more of Janis' influence through someone else's eyes.

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