The Fighting Eel Bosses Reveal All, Including the Next Collection to Hit Floors
Fifteen years in and you know Lan Chung and Rona Bennett have some stories and secrets to share about their successes, struggles and that one time their factory got raided by the FBI … wait, WHAT?
Rona Bennett (left) and Lan Chung
Photo: David Croxford
Fighting Eel has been cranking out chic knits since 2003, developing a cult following of fashionistas who live, play and slay in their sexy, simple, buttery-soft designs. But, for the most part, Rona Bennett and Lan Chung prefer to be in the sunlight and out of the spotlight. So, when I chatted with the duo, I was surprised by some of their answers. Find out everything from the valuable life lessons they’ve learned and the B word they hate to their best moments and a new print that you’ll want (right now!).
First off, any New Year resolutions?
Rona Bennett: To follow my muse and to relax more.
Lan Chung: Live more, worry less.
You gals have survived the retail jungle for the past 15 years, what do you credit your success to?
RB: Working hard, being tough-skinned and just going for it without being afraid to fail.
LC: Pure luck. Just kidding! We work hard and don’t know how to accept no as an answer. We don't cry over much, we move on quickly because fashion is fast-paced, so you learn to keep moving.
Being business partners and close friends is often a challenge. How has your relationship survived, and succeeded, over the years?
RB: We give each other space, but we also think similarly when it comes to business so we haven't had too many fights. Being able to swallow your pride and do what’s best for the business is important.
It seems like a new collection is released every month. Where do you find inspiration for each?
LC: For the past couple of years we’ve had floral prints in almost every collection—heliconia, red ginger, orchid and tiger lily—most of which I see when walking around my neighborhood, hiking, and at farmers markets and flower shops. The styles don't change every collection. We listen to what customers want and we bring back favorites from previous collections. We may add on a few pieces here and there, but the prints really give it a new, refreshing look.
What will the next collection feature?
RB: Well, this cute protea print is coming out later this month. I really love it, kind of wish I did it in more colorways. And there’s a black and tan vertical stripe that’s going to do great.
What fashion trends do you look forward to seeing in 2018?
LC: Looking forward to seeing more check prints and geometric lines that will pull away from the usual florals. Continue to see lots of jumpsuits, which are my absolute favorite—I call it the adult onesie. Ultraviolet is the color of 2018, so we’ll probably incorporate shades of purple and lavender in our collections.
How would you describe each other’s styles?
LC: Rona wears what’s comfortable and easy. She’s pretty much a shorts and T-shirt kind of gal, occasionally a dress. But they have to be bra-friendly, or braless-friendly. Lol!
RB: Lan’s style is always changing. She’s pretty current and always looks put-together. Right now, she’s into earrings. I’m going to say she prefers being bra-free as well. I think we design more and more bra-free styles over the years. Bras are awful!
What’s your morning routine?
RB: Feed the cat, meditate, journal or read, go out in the garden and pick some greens for a smoothie.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
RB: I would love to be a sculptor, a drummer or design houses.
LC: A job in a volunteer abroad program to help and give back to people.
What’s one thing that people don’t know about you?
RB: I'm learning to play a magical instrument called the handpan (YouTube it).
LC: I want to open a Mexican food truck!
What has been your most memorable moment in the past 15 years?
LC: Cutting the wrong dress color combo and remembering it was not cute. And then suddenly it gets featured on Eva Longoria in all of the tabloids, and it became our best-selling dress ever! What do we know?
RB: My worst and best memory is when our factory got raided by the FBI right before we were going ship our first order to Barney’s New York. The guy in charge was like, “We are confiscating these clothes!” Lan, with her 5-foot-2-inch body, blocked him and said, “You can’t! These are for Barney’s!” Of course, they raided the WRONG factory! Everything was fine in the end but for a split second it was simultaneously the scariest AND funniest moment.