Leslie Kipnis Samovitz – Orignal founder of In Play Sales.
When I started out in the business in 1986, I, being an out and about single gal, naturally specialized in women’s clothing. It didn’t take long to see that the room for growth in that area was limited – I’m talking about the business as well as my closet space at home! What I saw was that the children’s clothing business was where the action was. Manufacturers were creating appeal by getting hip to what was happening on the streets, in the movies and in music.
So in 1991, I teamed up with Bill Gross and we formed In Play Sales Organization. Our strategy was simple but effective: represent big volume adult lines and scale them down for kids. By capitalizing on the fact that kids’ fashions are always six months behind the adult industry, it gave us the ability to clearly see what would sell and what wouldn’t.
Using our advice and expertise, we helped develop successful lines like Ton Sur Ton, Surf Fetish and Bisou Bisou. We then made history by helping to launch Cross Colours, the first urban clothing line to sell in mainstream stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales. As a result of the Cross Colours craze, I criss-crossed from L.A. to N.Y. as In Play continued to grow. Bill retired in 1993 and I continued to develop successful lines from the ground up.
In 1995, Gay Valdivieso joined In Play as my new partner and we developed Hank Player, the leading boys’ t-shirt line in the ‘90s. Gay left In Play in 1997 to spend time with her growing family and I had notions of starting one myself when I married my husband, Todd Samovitz, a former attorney turned screenwriter, in 1998.
In 1999, In Play’s already great fortunes took a turn for the better when I hired Sandra Martinez. The blessing of Sandra joining the team coincided with the news that Todd and I were expecting our first child (and that someone could help me during my bouts of morning sickness!).
But Sandra proved in no time that she was no mere stand-in; she was quickly developing into a shrewd, tireless and valuable asset to In Play. Todd and I welcomed the birth of first child, Dorie Ella, in 2000. During the next few years, In Play developed successful kids’ lines for Lucky Brand, Juicy Couture, Da Nang, James Perse as well as popular accessory lines, such as Diaper Dude. It was around this time that things got really busy. Todd’s career got a huge boost when WONDERLAND, his first produced screenplay, was theatrically released in 2003. In 2004, we welcomed the birth of our second child, Abby Brenna. It now seemed like the right time to turn the reins of the business over to someone else.