A Latvian-born Loudouner who at one point in his life resolved to design racecars is now working to expand his online lingerie business to give customers an in-person chance to peruse items before swiping their cards.
Armands Kruze owns and operates his Lavinia Lingerie company out of an office in Leesburg’s Blockchain co-working space on Harrison Street. While his high-end, Latvian-made lingerie is shipped to customers around the world, Kruze is eyeing an expansion that would cater better to his local customers—by opening a retail storefront on the main floor of the Blockchain building, if town zoning allows it.
Kruze has operated Lavinia Lingerie out of Blockchain since November. Named after Kruze’s wife’s aunt, with a sound reminiscent of Kruze’s homeland, Lavinia Lingerie is made from Italian and French fabrics with sizing, pricing and comfort designed to appeal to all customers.
Kruze operates a warehouse on the first floor of the co-working space, where he boxes up online orders to send to places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, Russia, Scandinavia and Israel—where a huge clientele base lives.
Kruze’s hopes of opening a retail storefront at Blockchain—a building that was built as a Loudoun Water headquarters and then served as a Sheriff’s Office space before opening as a shared office space—hinge on town zoning rules.
Kruze said the Blockchain management team seems to be initially onboard with the idea as long as town regulations permit it to move forward.
“If zoning allows, I will be very open,” he said.
Blockchain Leasing Manager Lauren Pennell said her team understands that Kruze is on a mission to strike a balance between operating an entirely virtual business and bringing a brick-and-mortar component in.
“We believe Lavinia customers will be able to feel the difference and the live sales experience will accelerate Lavinia Lingerie’s success,” she said.
Kruze, who said he aspired to design Formula 1 cars in college, started Lavinia Lingerie in 2002 when he was living with his family in Manhattan. At that time, his wife had a subscription to a lingerie company that sent her a box of new items every month. Kruze said that lingerie was of poor quality, though. When his mom mentioned that the lingerie in Latvia was of much better quality—Kruze said the Eastern-European lingerie world is centered in Latvia—he hatched the idea to start his own company.
At first, he was working with a label that competed with Victoria’s Secret—a difficult business to handle. But after attending a lingerie show in Paris a few years ago, Kruze met some designers he liked and began making his own Lavinia collections with them.
“It worked out very well,” he said about taking that chance. “It’s not easy.”
Kruze sells lingerie made by other Latvian manufactures and designs and produces Lavinia Lingerie items alongside the main designer for the biggest lingerie company in Latvia, whom Kruze said “knows everything from A to Z [about lingerie].”
The most popular among his line of products are his see-through collections—collections Kruze said are especially popular with husbands browsing lingerie for their wives. Lavinia-brand lingerie is also popular among women looking for bigger sizes that can’t be found in other lingerie stores, he said.
Moving toward a future of more sales, Kruze continues to gather ideas and expand his reputation by attending Parisian lingerie shows twice a year.
Kruze said he also wants to start manufacturing his lingerie collections on his own, without the help of other companies. He’s even in talks with some Latvian lingerie companies who have shuttered amid the coronavirus crisis about taking over their operations.
“I can be better than Victoria’s Secret one day,” he said about his prospects for the future.