Today’s popular sleepwear and lingerie companies need to wake up, and boss lady Juli Lee is the one ringing the alarm.
“Everything out there is either super sexy for a very young body or plain Jane white cottons or flannels,” explains Juli Lee, founder of JuliannaRae.com, an online lingerie and sleepwear company operating out of Burlington, Massachusetts, since 2005. “It’s as if everyone assumes once women hit 30, they just don’t care.”
It’s as if everyone assumes once women hit 30, they just don’t care.
In the kingdom of sexy and skimpy, Victoria’s Secret reigns as queen. But, when a woman, and, perhaps, her more mature body, isn’t interested in that look, her choices are limited.
“We’re a consumer-driven society,” continues the Somerville resident. “For those of us 35-plus, we actually have to spend more of our dollars on things like houses, medical bills and cars, so we don’t make it onto billboards and commercials as beautiful and sexy women. Instead, we are featured mostly as happy car purchasers.”
A fusion of Lee’s, her mom’s and her best friend’s names, Julianna Rae began with 30 or so styles of robes and pajamas to compliment the 30-or-so age group with lux fabrics and elegant fit. The line moved quickly into bras, panties and leisurewear, all designed for the mature, confident buyer who has graduated past Victoria’s Secret.
“By the time we’re 35, we have a much better sense of self,” says Lee. “How we define beauty and sexy is more intertwined with internal character and not with something you can buy off a shelf or online. That doesn’t mean we aren’t willing to spend on products we think will improve our beauty and sex quotient, but we have to be more convinced it’s worth it.”
How we define beauty and sexy is more intertwined with internal character and not with something you can buy off a shelf or online.
If a woman over age 35 is more comfortable in her own skin, Lee believes she should also be comfortable in her lingerie. She ensures this through mulberry silk in a high thread count, pure cotton and exclusively milled micro-terry.
Lee creates all the styles and patterns herself, channeling both her love of sparse prints and minimalist designs, as well as more dramatic and fun looks (hello, oversized paisley). Even the packaging is an exercise in sophistication—each order is a beautifully wrapped gift to yourself.
These details don’t go unnoticed by a loyal fan base. Julianna Rae boasts an incredibly low return rate (below 10 percent, compared to a 20 percent industry average) and a repeat purchase rate of over 40 percent in 60 days, despite the high-end price point (silk PJs hover around $200).
While this go-getting entrepreneur majored in computer science at MIT and later earned an MBA, Lee’s real success stems from her constant self-proclaimed “right brain, left brain conundrum.”
Translation: She has the enviable talent of being able to seamlessly transition between creative and analytical career paths. Lee worked in strategic consulting and business development for the Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft and EMC, as well as fashion and product development in the apparel industry at Victoria’s Secret and private labels for Talbots and Nordstrom’s.
“I have absolutely loved every job I have had, but I move onto each job because I miss exercising whichever side of my brain I’m using less,” she explains. “So, I will go from an analytic job to a product-oriented job. Then, I’ll get tempted with a job that has more analytic intellectual challenges. Then, I’ll get tempted with a job that has more creative challenges.”
Julianna Rae marks its 15th year in business with its new Moonlight Serenade, a small collection with which Lee challenged herself by designing in rich embellishments. The incredibly fine and complex patterns of European Leavers lace trim camisoles, tap pants, nightgown, a short robe and thong.
The company is also looking to expand with a small capsule of weekend bags, and whispers of a potential menswear line.
“Men tell us it’s not fair that only the women get great things to lounge around in,” she says.
Knowing Lee and her enthusiastic approach to a challenge, she won’t take this request lying down.