Today we’d like to introduce you to Lia Glynias. Glynias shares the story of her humble beginnings as a daughter of first generation Greek immigrants who inspired her work ethic and desire to work in the fashion industry.
In 1919, Greek refugees Stephanos and Evangelia Constantinides settled in St. Louis and opened Progressive Dry Cleaners in the northern part of the city. Their oldest daughter, Olympia, worked as a seamstress until it closed in 2006 and passed onto her granddaughter and namesake Olympia (Lia) Glynias a love for style and dressing.
“There are few things I remember more vividly than playing dress-up in grandma’s closet,” remarked Glynias. “And in high school, I spent hours in the attic with my parent’s old clothes—ties, dresses, a leather duster from the 70s. Dressing was an opportunity to express and to play. I remember my grandmother telling us over and over that how we look when we leave the house is how the world will see us and treat us. And I wanted to use how I dressed to launch me to where I wanted to be.”
Where she wanted to be was New York City, the garment district in the center of Manhattan to be exact.
An opportunity with GAP moved her there and Glynias spent the next 12 years advancing from manager to national sales and marketing director, and eventually designer and private label director with brands Roni Rabl & Bombshell Accessories. She traveled to Europe for fashion shows and across the USA to work with buyers and retailers as varied as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus to Fred Segal and Hot Topic.
“I had a rare & lucky moment: I was young, Midwestern, with an immigrant work ethic and a European sense of style, and I was living on my own, which gave me freedom to travel. Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago were all centers for the apparel industry outside of NYC & LA and in the back of my mind, I wanted that for St. Louis.”
In 2014 the call to return to St. Louis became stronger. Olympia Glynias, the seamstress moved to assisted living as her battle with Alzheimer’s Disease advanced and granddaughter Lia knew it was time to come home. Her return meant that the newly incorporated company, LAUNCH, would come with her which was providing import and design services for international designers at the time.
After moving to The Hill in 2015, Glynias began a relationship with designer Nina Ganci,founder of fashion house Skif International, who would prove to be fortuitous. “Nina is a generous person by nature,” remarked Glynias as she recounted being invited by Ganci to show her lines at a St. Louis Fashion Week Shopping event and later expand into a pop-up shop in a building owned by the designer.
“I was amazed by the response of the women here. I knew no one was selling Nieman Marcus style at J Crew prices; it was a new idea and I didn’t have a big budget for advertising or a local professional network—I had just moved back. But what I found was an amazing clientele.”
LAUNCH Clothing & Accessories formally opened its doors at 2008 Marconi Avenue in June of 2016, carrying both local and international designer clothing. Since then, the brand has participated in a number of events, including St. Louis Fashion Week, The Factory Fashion Show, The Feminine Cartel, and Wonderland Runway and has been featured in the Riverfront Times, EQ Magazine and Show Me, St. Louis.
In 2017 LAUNCH Clothing & Accessories expanded online as www.love-launch.com and added a social media presence of more than 2k followers by 2018, which has more than doubled since then. Expansion in 2019 included collaborative work within the St. Louis fashion community and additional retail space in the city and county. On March 17th, 2020, LAUNCH closed its brick & mortar doors in compliance with the St. Louis shelter-in-place order and re-focused its attention. Making and donating masks while re-organizing and adjusting to the changing times.
“We’re going through an incredible time right now, and there is an opportunity to shape the future. In its own way, LAUNCH is part of that- leading, innovating and connecting through fashion, which affects culture. I won’t bring something I don’t love into the store. I won’t bring something common or easy to find everywhere. My job is to be the first to buy the best and share that with anyone who wants to do the same.”
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way? Growing so quickly just before the pandemic made the transition that much more difficult. What started as a moment where it felt like the bottom fell out turned into an incredible opportunity to pivot to online shopping and focus the business more than ever before. We are less extended; in-person shopping is not available like it was before, but shopping is more accessible now than ever. We have more than doubled the amount of merchandise customers can shop and it’s in the palm of anyone’s hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What should we know about your work? Launch offers boutique clothing & accessory shopping for women who’s lifestyle includes leadership, creativity and culture. Women who shop at Launch are looking to find stylish apparel that fits who they come to be, physically and socially. We’ve become known as the place to go when you want to make an impression because we work with designers who push boundaries and celebrate creative freedom.
At Launch, we are proud to cultivate beauty. We love colors and patterns but will always have an incredible black dress in stock. We believe in quality fabrics, quality manufacturing, and a quality experience because what we make matters—to our customers, to this planet and to us.
What do you like best about our city? What do you like least? I love that St. Louis is a river city with a rich history that is very connected to the land it encompasses. Our trees, parks and forests are treasures. I love the historical neighborhoods and the open-air markets. What I like least about our city are the close-knit pockets and communities that, while being wonderful and supportive inside of themselves, are also hard to break into and not always able to work well together. I’m not saying anything most people haven’t heard, but I am saying that we have the potential to find ways to work differently and more together in the future.
Link to publication: here