Jackson Heights resident starts fashion company

Peachi app helps users find personal style

By Jessica Meditz


In an age of online shopping, many people find themselves spending more time and money trying to find the look that’s right for them.

In fact, about 30 percent of online shoppers say they purchase clothing items in three different sizes, in the hopes that one fits.

With this knowledge, Justin Ramos, a Queens Village native and Jackson Heights resident, built the fashion company, Peachi.

Justin Ramos, Peachi founder

Peachi is an AI-powered digital dressing room application that’s partnered with 400 brands, allowing users to develop their own personal style.

It’s an interactive platform that offers various features to get to know one’s style, such as styling games, the ability to pin and save items, as well as photographing clothes already owned to determine what to work around.

Ramos, 31, attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he played baseball and football.

He said that while he’s a software engineer by trade, key events earlier in life such as his sports career are what inspired him to develop this app.

“My football coach was really big on the whole idea of ‘look good, feel good, play good.’ When I graduated college, I understood how to do that in the athletic fields, but thought about how that translates to a profession,” Ramos said.

“I said, ‘Let me build something that helps people look and feel great every day, so that they can be their best selves, and just feel confident when they walk outside the house.’ That’s how Peachi was born,” he continued. “I wanted to build a tool that really helps people understand their style and find great pieces for them in a much easier way than currently exists.”

One of Peachi’s most personalized features is its sizing calculator, which uses sizing data from various brands to calculate a user’s size in a different brand.

Because the program is only about six weeks into development, the sizing calculator is currently available for men’s sizing.

Ramos plans to expand the tool to meet women’s needs in the near future.

“We ask you a series of questions, such as what the brand of your favorite shirt is. If someone says they have a shirt from H&M that fits perfectly, or another one from Zara, they’d click on that. Then we ask what size that shirt is,” he explained.

“We’re able to use that information for a bunch of different brands, and figure out what is the best size for you. Then we send an email with brands that we work with, and the sizes you should wear in that brand,” he continued. “So we might say, ‘You said you’re a large at Zara, but you’re actually a medium at H&M. That’s a big problem we found, where sometimes you can be a large in one, but a small in another brand.”

While the brand does not manufacture clothing itself, it is connected with hundreds of big name brands including Balenciaga, Calvin Klein, Burberry and Adidas.

Peachi is participating in an accelerator run by Antler, a global venture capital firm with offices worldwide, including in New York.

“Antler has been really helpful. They have this idea called ‘first principles,’ which identifies what must be true in order for this vision of the future to happen. We know that people have issues right now shopping online, so that’s what kind of started us to go down that path of figuring out the problems people have,” Ramos said.

“We’ve been scientists the last six weeks, having hypotheses, asking questions, learning and just doing small experiments on each step,” he continued. “It’s really helpful to have people in your corner who have invested in and built a lot of businesses before, giving you guidance along the way.”

About 1,000 people around the world are currently using Peachi, and Ramos expects that number to grow.

Those interested can visit Peachi’s website, download the app on their mobile device and follow the brand on social media @staypeachi on Twitter and Facebook, and @keepitpeachi on Instagram.

Working to better the lives of their furry friends

Woman-owned Dog Clothing Business “Le Chien Bleu” opens shop during the pandemic

By Alicia Venter


Tucked away in the boutique-style shops at 145 Front Street, Le Chien Bleu NY is serving loving dog owners throughout the Dumbo area and beyond with custom designs for their furry friends. 

Beginning with a primarily online shopping experience, Lee’s has since expanded her business to offer shipping throughout the world. The store offers tops, jackets, dresses, hoodies, collars, dog beds, toys, and more for pets, each created with quality in mind to promote the quality of each dog’s life.

Le Chien Bleu, which translates to “The Blue Dog” in French, began as a hobby by owner JY Lee. Graduating from Parsons School of Design in 2007, the South Korean native was inspired by a coworker at her previous job as a textile worker to open an Etsy shop for dog clothes.

It wasn’t until she met client Anita Lee that the part-time passion that she ran out of her apartment grew into a full-time business. The owner of a Maltese and tiny poodle mix, Anita Lee’s dog, Benji, has hair instead of fur and needed the protection of clothes against the elements. 

I was online looking for clothes and I couldn’t find anything that was good quality, good fitting, and comfortable,” Anita Lee stated, continuing to share that she thought that independent designers or stylists could provide a service that more general animal supply stores were not. It is through this search that she was introduced to JY Lee, who she purchased custom-measured winter clothes from.

After receiving her purchase, Anita Lee, with her background in business, quickly recognized the growth potential due to the quality of products and offered her services as a partner. 

I ordered a couple of [items] from her and when I saw the product I said ‘oh my God, this girl is so talented. Then I said I had a crazy idea: here’s my resume. Do you want to work together?”

Their partnership combines the creativity needed for designing fashion-forward, stylish clothes as well as the entrepreneurial drive to expand as a business — and, more important than anything to Anita Lee, they are wonderful friends.

We are better than any type of relationship I’ve ever had,” Anita Lee said with a strong laugh.

Starting with the design of her website and pop-up stores in Williamsburg and SoHo, the flagship store opened in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, all the products for JY Lee’s clothes are made in the United States, with the fabrics sourced with “style and durability in mind,” according to their website. 

There are five major categories of fabrics that are described in their entirety on their website: the organic cotton top, the premium cotton top, the classic top, the resort top, and the velvet top.

Each item has a list of features that fully explains to customers the benefits of each fabric. However, this is not the limit for products. Recently, Le Chien Bleu has created a cooling jacket to reduce the effects of New York City heat on dogs because they don’t produce sweat to naturally cool themselves.

The business’s mission statement, as found on their website, highlights the importance of the quality of their products: “​​Creating stylish, practical and top notch quality products in its target markets. Providing market trends so we are able to source the most wanted and exceptional fabrics for your fur babies.” 

With each dog differing in dimensions of neck, back, and girth, it can be difficult to find the perfect size for one’s pet. As such, Lee does not simply sell clothes in different sizes to customers — she will tailor pieces to fit all different sizes of pets.

Among the customers that benefited from this custom, sizing is Alexandria Lau, 38, the owner of a French Bulldog. After following them on social media and “coveting over their products,” Lau soon purchased their products and was not disappointed.

What I like about Le Chien Bleu is that they have awesome unique prints, that are simple and classy, but also trendy and they can be tailored to fit my dog, a French bulldog with unusual proportions,” she shared with The Brooklyn Downstar Star via Instagram. “Now that I’ve received my items, the quality and look is top-notch. Very posh and would be happy to shop there again.”

Though they have certainly grown well beyond JY Lee’s Etsy account, neither partners plan to slow their dreams for Le Chien Bleu. JY Lee, recognizing the numerous exceptional animal supplies brands that are solely online, wants to carry more than her own brand in her next store, located somewhere in the city.

As many of these brands that she deems are high-quality — such as being BPA-free — are owned by women, JY Lee has considered carrying only female-owned businesses. This promotion of the idea of women in business is something Anita Lee greatly supports, stating that “we believe in girl power.”

I raised Benji like a baby,” Anita Lee said. “I believe we already have that clientele that are in the same boat as I am. We want to prolong [our dogs’] lives… to make their lives and human lives better.” 

Le Chien Bleu is open Tuesday-Sunday from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. For more information on Le Chien Bleu, visit their website at https://lechienbleuny.com or call their store at 908-274-1817.

Elmhurst native makes impact on sneaker industry

By Jessica Meditz


Sarah Sukumaran, founder of Lilith NYC.

The sneaker and fashion industries were always an interest of East Elmhurst native Sarah Sukumaran, but they were never something she thought she would pursue as a career.

A business graduate of Babson College, she found herself in the world of marketing and tech in New York, working as the head director product at Nike.

It was during March 2020 when she decided to quit her job and launch Lilith NYC, a Queens-based footwear brand for women and femmes in the sneaker world.

“Spending time at Nike, I realized that I wanted to definitely create shoes for women because for so long, I felt they were underserved in terms of selection, sizing and colorways,” Sukumaran said. “I gravitated towards men’s styles still as a 20-something-year-old, couldn’t get my size, didn’t care for the colorways dropped for women and the silhouettes had still been centered around male sport.”

Sukumaran emphasized that women spend more money on sneakers than men do, owning 80 percent of the wallet share.

Despite this, her time at Nike revealed that the industry is not moving at the pace that she would like, and feels that brands should make an effort to cater to their audience.

Lilith is Sukumaran’s outlet to reach out to other women who love sneakers and explore feminine identity and style through its designs.

“Everything from the brand top down is really through the lens of the divine feminine, because historically, everything has been either hyper masculinized or hyper feminized. In sneaker culture, the expectation for women is super sexually presented through campaigns or ads, or it was the opposite where you have to be a tomboy,” Sukumaran said.

“Especially in 2022, I question how we can express our gender, sexuality or style on a spectrum, and I wanted to do that through the lens of the divine feminine,” she continued. “It’s an energy that we all have, but it transcends the gender binary and doesn’t pigeonhole us the way the industry has wanted us to.”

Lilith’s debut silhouette, the Caudal Lure, is designed by Sara Jaramillo and named after a type of mimicry snakes take on to lure their prey. The shoe’s outsole resembles a snake’s tail.

The serpent, throughout region, culture and time, has been a symbol of the divine feminine, and this imagery is ever present in the brand.

As the daughter of Tamil refugees, Sukumaran expresses her culture through this imagery, since the Hindu goddess of protection is represented with a five headed cobra.

She simultaneously ties in her connection to Queens to the brand through Caudal Lure’s colors, concrete jungle green and amberlou brick.

The green pays homage to the grit of Queens and lush of urban life, redefining the urban jungle, and the amber-toned brick represents the bricks used by architect Louis Allmendinger for homes throughout Elmhurst, Sunnyside and Ridgewood.

Lilith NYC is currently online only, but Sukumaran said a physical storefront in Queens is a goal of hers.

She has participated with in-person popups, such as Queens Collaborative, to share the designs with locals, and hopes to release more colorways and a new design next year.

During Women’s History Month, Sukumaran embraces the fact that Lilith NYC is a women-run brand and commits to sharing women’s achievements through storytelling.

“Whether you’re a woman in tech, footwear or architecture, women’s contributions are constantly erased. They’re constantly overlooked, and sometimes attributed to men,” Sukumaran said.

“That’s why we named it Lilith; she was considered the first feminist because she didn’t want to be submissive to Adam. Historically, she’s been written out of history in a negative light, and so the name is to tell our own stories and men don’t get to dictate it.”

Magdalena brings French fashion, innovation to Williamsburg

Born in New Mexico and raised by her family in France, fashion designer Helena Pasquier has been to many places in her life. However, the only place that has ever truly felt like home to her is Williamsburg.
“When I got to New York I thought, this is where I wanted to be,” Pasquier explained in an interview this past week. “When I arrived in New York, the first neighborhood we went to was Williamsburg and I had a crush.”
Although she is relatively new to the Williamsburg arts community, Pasquier descends from a lineage of French fashion icons. Her grandparents were innovators in the lingerie industry, founding the famous Parisian brand Aubade.
“When I decided I wanted fashion to be my career, I spent a month with my grandmother to learn,” Pasquier explained. “I think it was genetic matter. It was in my heart.”
Along with her brother Paul, Pasquier launched the fashion brand Helena Magdalena last year. The brand’s name combines the first names of Pasquier and her grandmother, and reflects the family’s long standing commitment to innovation in the world of fashion.
Helena Magdalena follows the simple mission statement of “Slow Fashion, High Value” and is committed to making small runs of highly individualized pieces with unique fabrics.
The brand’s flagship project – The Alchemy Line – features hand-crafted pieces made with high-quality recycled fabric, metal details, and gemstone buttons. All of the brand’s work is hand-sewn by Pasquier in her Brooklyn studio.
“The whole process is very fluent,” Pasquier explained of her work with recycled fabrics. “For each piece, even if it’s going to be the same pattern, it’s going to be a different fabric. That’s the part that I really enjoy. It is very unique and there is no chance of running into someone who is wearing the same exact piece.”
Pasquier hopes that the individualized pieces will be empowering, especially for women. To this end, many of the pieces in the Alchemy Line are meant to evoke the imagery of female warriors.
“I want women to feel powerful, and for women to be powerful nowadays they feel like they have to dress like men,” Pasquier explained. “I want to try and make the feminine powerful versus trying to find the power by dressing like a man. I’m trying to make clothes that are feminine but that will never restrain you.”
Much of Pasquier’s work is with private clients who she meets in her Brooklyn studio, but a limited supply of Helena Magdalena pieces are available at Malin Landaeus, the vintage shop at 157 N. 6th Street in Williamsburg.
However, Pasquier insists that Williamsburg continues to inspire her work. Since founding Helena Magdalena, Pasquier has had multiple chance encounters with jewelers, fashion designers, and other artists in the neighborhood who she hopes to collaborate with in the future.
“I just love the community that there is here,” said Pasquier. “It is a big city but it feels like a village. Everyone knows you, everyone is creative, and everyone can use each other’s help.
“That’s not really the case in France,” she added. “Everyone is more about pulling each other down.”
Going forward, Pasquier also hopes to share her work more directly with the neighborhood. Last October, Helena Magdalena held a COVID-friendly fashion show in the streets of Williamsburg, with a runway, models, and all the other bells and whistles.
Satisfied by the success of that event, the brand now plans on organizing seasonal pop-up events to share more of their work with Brooklynites.
Despite the roadblock of COVID-19, Pasquier has confidently been able to remain focused and excited with her craft.
“For me, working during the pandemic was not that complicated,” she explained. “It actually brought some new and refreshing things to the world of fashion.”

Visit helenamagdalena.co to see more of the brand’s work.

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