Walk A Mile in Their Shoes: Sheena Gao & Laura Krusemark

Have you ever wanted to know what it is like to travel for a living?  Well, our next two Stiletto Gals know exactly what it's like.  I had the opportunity to spend time with two amazing and very diverse women who have made travel a way of life and a business.

Stiletto Gal:  Please tell us about yourself and how you started your business.  What made you want to start a fashion brand?

Sheena & Laura:  After 15 years of working in Apparel Product Development with some of the leading retailers in the U.S., as well as mentoring many talented designers from Europe, Asia, and U.S.A., Sheena decided the time to launch a fashion line is now. Along with her talented friend, fellow fashion designer Laura Krusemark, they formed International Citizen Design House, LLC also known as International Citizen [i.CTZN]. It is a combination of both Sheena and Laura's passion for fashion and travel. i.CTZN is an edgy casual wear that is comfortable yet stylish like no other labels in the fashion market. With unique vintage military design details, including metal buttons, screen printing, calligraphy in various languages, garment surface distress, as well as patches from all over the world, i.CTZN designs definitely make a statement. These creative pieces are designed and produced for the intelligent, sophisticated, passionate, stylish world traveler who cares about the universe they live in.  They donate 5% of the proceeds from their International House Tee to Greenpeace International, a global organization that protects and conserves the environment as well as promoting world peace.
International Citizen is not just another fashion label, it is a lifestyle, it is a statement, it is a movement. Live, Love, and Travel. Each garment has the number 1111 twill tape as a part of the design details, as it is a symbol for well wishes of love, peace, and serenity in the universe.
SG:   What is your inspiration?  How does travel come into play with your brand?
Sheena & Laura:  The fashion brand is based on inspiration of Sheena and Laura's passion for world travel, as well as our personal commitment to the universal oneness through wearable art form of fashion. They travel around world for design ideas, fashion inspiration, and local art.
SG:   What are you most passionate about and why?
Sheena & Laura: Though both of us grew up in different countries with different background s-from the cosmopolitan city of orient -Shanghai to the bright sky farmland of America - Kansas; from a daughter of renowned Chinese architects to the child of hardworking American farmers, All the superficial differences become irrelevant when it comes to our creative spirit! Our passion for fashion and world travel has brought us together, the vision of the world has inspired us to create the fashion line that depict how we feel about ourselves - International Citizen!
 We both have parallel passion, education and experience in fashion, music, and art, and both love to draw inspirations from world travel. Since we met 6 years ago, we have become best friends, fashion business cofounders and music partners.
We also perform classical violin and piano duo under the name of La Libradolce, and the Mozart Twins. We perform for weddings, corporate events, private parties, and other special events all around the U.S.
SG:  What has been your biggest mistake or failure in business and how did you overcome it?
Sheena & Laura: The biggest mistake we have faced was being too trusting in the fashion business. After partnering with a small jewelry company from Orange County in developing a joined fashion line, this company took the designs from International Citizen and started their own apparel line. We learned the hard way to protect our intellectual property, and be more cautious in the competitive fashion market.
SG:  Can you give 3 tips to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Sheena & Laura: 
  • Surround yourself with successful people, who will guide you in the right direction
  • Network is your net-worth, get out and build a strong network for your business, it will make your life much easier when you have the connections.
  • Patient and determination! Success is not over night, takes time and hard work, follow your passion and turn your passion into determination, don't give up.
SG:   What kind of shoe are you and why?
Sheena: I believe that our choices of shoes represents the core essence of who we are. I love shoes and I have many different styles and colors, each emphasis a different part of my personality for different occasions. This particular shoe I chose is stylish, fashionable, sexy, edgy, smart, worldly and powerful. All the elements represent who I am and my ideal self.
 Laura:  I am an Equestrian Boot.   I identify with this style of footwear as it's embodies a story.  My history as well as a love of horses, which is where my family heritage comes from - a small town on the west side of Berlin -  Hohenburg - Krusemark known for great Equestrians.  It also reminds me of growing up on the farm in Kansas and racing our Arabian horses down the dirt roads!
I love the sleek silhouette as well as the classic colors of this boot.  Knowing that it's comfortable to walk long distances and still look strong, sexy, and stylish is the perfect combination in what defines my choice.
 If you would like to know more about Sheena and Laura or talk to them about their fun stories while traveling, visit their websites below.