She made the velour tracksuit an L.A. staple. Now she reveals her second act
How many times have you gotten super high and asked yourself: “How cool would it be if my vape pen and I were dressed exactly alike?” If the answer is more than zero, then first, consider dialing down your intake a little bit, and second, check out a new L.A.-based cannabis-and-clothing label launched by Juicy Couture co-founder Gela Nash-Taylor and her 32-year-old son.
Juicy Couture was founded in 1994 by Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy and leveraged a love of velour track pants into a celebrity-embraced, L.A.-defining global lifestyle brand that they’d sell to Liz Claiborne in 2003 for $56 million (with additional earnouts they walked away with north of $200 million). Although the duo has dabbled in the fashion space since (they launched the short-lived high-end Skaist Taylor label in 2012, followed by the more Juicy-like Pam & Gela line in 2014), nothing captured the hearts — and wallets — of the American public as Juicy did. (In full disclosure, my wife collaborated with Nash-Taylor and Skaist-Levy on a 2014 book project.)
Nash-Taylor is hoping that a second-act pivot to pot — alongside her son Travis Nash — will give them entrée into the insular world of California cannabis much the way Juicy’s success earned Nash-Taylor and Skaist-Levy a seat at the fashion table. Their idea? A lifestyle label that includes two premium pot products — single-use vaporizer pens ($34) and seven-packs of pre-rolled ½-gram joints ($40) offered in three strains: Amplify (a sativa), Offline (an indica) and Muse (a hybrid).
The Potent Goods packaging is sleek with luxury touches that include glass vials, fabric pull tabs and boxes that magnetically close with a satisfyingly solid click. An additional visual touch comes by way of the prints that adorn the packaging and the vape pens: a black-and-white snakeskin for Amplify products, a dark and dusky tropical floral for Offline and an allover PG logo for Muse. The prints carry over to a line of upscale unisex loungewear and accessories that includes drapey kimonos ($275), slouchy windbreakers ($215), crossbody bags ($50) and track pants ($220). Each piece includes a discreet stash pocket just the right size for a vape pen.
In advance of Potent Goods’ July 16 launch — the apparel and accessories will be sold online at potentgoodsla.com and the cannabis-containing products through the Amuse delivery service — I caught up with the mother-son potrepreneurs at the Hollywood Hills home Nash-Taylor shares with her husband, Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, to talk about weed-windbreaker coordination, getting high with your adult children and cannabis’ long but inevitable journey to Rodeo Drive. Excerpts from that conversation appear below.
What are your personal relationships with cannabis like? Are you big stoners?
Gela Nash-Taylor: I first got high at the end of high school — in the mid-‘70s really — and my first job was as a waitress in a truck stop, so I had my own private money for pot. … As I got older and into the professional world, I stopped [smoking cannabis] and started doing the whole wine-and-sipping-tequila thing. Then, right after cannabis was first legalized in Colorado, John was playing a concert at Red Rocks [Amphitheatre], and I went to a legal dispensary. I remember smoking and having this feeling of “Can I really like smoke this in public?” After that, I kind of got into vaporizers because I love the fact that I could go to a concert or some other long event and I didn’t have to drink all night. I could smoke very casually — what I call taking “gentle sips.”
Travis Nash: I was actually a good kid, raised with all that D.A.R.E. [Drug Abuse Resistance Education] stuff, which really hit home for me. So, I said no [to cannabis] until actually the week after I graduated from college. I figured at that point, what could go wrong?
Travis, where did you go to school?
Travis: I graduated from NYU with a degree in fine art and a minor in Slavic studies.
Gela: And he was on the national honor roll!
Travis: When I smoked for the first time, it was like the veil being lifted. I’d never experienced anything like that before — or since — and I kind of fell in love. I think it really helps with my anxiety and my stress levels, and it was just like that kind of relaxation I couldn’t find in alcohol.
When did you first get high together?
Travis: We might’ve gotten high together a few times when we were [at Nash-Taylor’s home] in England, but it wasn’t until I moved back here from New York [in 2018] and saw that she’d really gotten into vaporizers that I felt we could smoke together because, first of all, it’s legal [in California], and second [vaporizers] are easy to use properly. I didn’t have to think about making a fool of myself in front of my mom.
How did it go from casually getting high together to partnering on a cannabis brand?
Travis: After living in New York for 11 years, I was looking to move back to L.A. right at the time legal [recreational] cannabis was starting to be implemented, and I had this vision of opening an old kind of English-style cigar bar but for cannabis. I was reading all of the city ordinances in and around L.A. and realized that, at the time, you couldn’t really do that. So [my mother and I] started talking about things we could work on together, and it started with her love of vaporizers and kind of went from there. We decided to focus on a casual-use approach to cannabis; we wanted something you could smoke the way you would drink rosé. That was important to us.
Gela: I like vaporizers — I like everything about them — so that’s why we have vape pens. And Travis likes to smoke flower so that’s why we have the pre-rolls.
How does building a velour tracksuit empire in the late ‘90s make you an authority on cannabis today? Snoop Dogg, Tommy Chong, even Seth Rogen all have weed brands, but they come with serious street cred in that arena. You, not so much.
Gela: I come with my point of view. I come with what I want. That’s how I’ve started every brand. Pam and I started Juicy because we were both petite, and we wanted the perfect T-shirt. Then we were obsessed with velour. That was my point of view, and it resonated. What’s important about any brand is that it has to be authentic, and this is authentically me. I can only say I am bringing my perspective as a consumer and as a designer to this.
Why launch a brand that’s both cannabis and clothing instead of just one or the other?
Gela: We wanted a whole world that worked together. When I think about cannabis, I think about a loungy kind of world and atmosphere. I feel like I am the OG godmother of lounge[wear] and athleisure in L.A. … With Juicy, Pam and I brought that lifestyle culture to the world. Nobody dressed like that before we started making these crazy velour track pants. … And it took the world by storm because everybody was ready to get a little more relaxed and casual.
With Juicy Couture you were making the clothes that you wanted and that happened to mesh with where the trends were headed in L.A. at the time, right?
Do you see Potent Goods as being a reflection of what people are looking for — luxury cannabis and luxury clothes under the same nameplate — right now? Or do you think, like with Juicy, you’re at the forefront of something that will catch on somewhere down the road?
Gela: I definitely think it’s not quite there yet [demand-wise]. But I think that will change — rapidly — once cannabis becomes legal at the federal level.
Los Angeles will be the biggest beneficiary of the money, which was proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to help cannabis businesses acquire permanent licenses.
It took decades, but all the big luxury fashion labels finally embraced the athleisure trend you and Pam were on a long time ago. Can you see brands like Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Hermès eventually having a cannabis component?
Gela: Once it’s [federally] legal, I think all the big players will see the zeitgeist and what’s going on. Look at [French luxury conglomerate] LVMH. They do apparel as Louis Vuitton, but they also do alcohol as Moët [& Chandon Champagne]. And I feel like this is a fresh world, the world of cannabis, and it’s just started. Or actually it hasn’t even begun. When all of those brands realize that they can add this to their repertoire, it’s going to open up a whole new world. I think there’s a long way for the cannabis industry to go before it gets to Rodeo Drive but I think it will.
I’ve heard you say that Los Angeles is in the DNA of this brand. How, specifically, besides the fact that it’s based here?
Travis: The vibe that we’re going for is very L.A., very Southern California. It’s casual but sophisticated. And California, in general, is open to new things, so there’s something to the idea of embracing cannabis and combining it with new things and trying to figure out how that will work together. That’s very L.A.
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Who do you see as your core demographic?
Gela: Me. I’m the core demographic. And Travis is the core demographic. I don’t think you can start a brand and not start it with yourself in mind. One of the biggest mistakes a lot of people make — even when you get really big — is to have the corporate people come in and start doing market research. I love the way these clothes feel. I love the way the vape pen feels when I hold it in my hand, and I think it’s a really good high. And it smokes really smoothly, and I think that’s going to appeal to other people. I’m not trying to be an authority on anything. It’s just my point of view.
Have you found any similarities between the worlds of fashion and cannabis?
Gela: When Pam and I brought tracksuits to the world, the fashion world went crazy. They were like, “Oh, my God, they’re anti-fashion. They’re killing it!” And I think this is the same kind of thing. We weren’t killing fashion. We were just presenting our point of view.
Do you think people will read this and think, “Oh, my God, they’re killing cannabis”?
Gela: You know what? The world loves to do that. But I honestly think that if you walked into our beautiful world and you met us and tried our products, you wouldn’t hate us.
Travis: There are people who have put their entire lives into this industry, created strains and done other amazing things, and I have nothing but respect for that. This is not an easy business. We learned that over the 2 ½ years of working on this brand. All we’re really doing is offering a different perspective, which I think can totally coexist in the cannabis space.
What advice would you give to cannabis-consuming parents and/or their 21-and-older children who might be contemplating getting high together?
Gela: You just have to take a deep breath and relax. It’s a pretty cool experience. People are out there walking in this world — mothers, grandmothers. It is no different than saying, “Hey, I have this amazing wine or tequila or whatever I want you to try.” I like that sharing aspect. I like sharing the experience of smoking with my incredibly responsible kid. He’s so deep and intelligent, and he’s diving into this world. It’s been a joy.
Travis: I think what’s surprised me most is actually how many of my mom’s generation actually did smoke cannabis, but it’s this thing they’ve just suppressed. Now they’re interested because it’s recreationally legal, so you need to make sure they start out slowly. If someone hasn’t smoked in 30 years, you don’t want to throw them in the deep end.
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