Female Founders Series: Nelle Atelier & Madeleine Cohen

Brand strategy insights

Female Founders Series. Madeleine Cohen. Nelle Atelier.


Revolutionizing Petite Denim: Nelle Atelier’s Unique Approach to Jeans for Women 5’4″ and Under

The first brand I want to introduce you to this new year is Nelle Atelier. The average women’s height in the US is 5’4, and the average inseam for women’s jeans is between 28-32 inches. Make it make sense. It doesn’t! When I buy jeans, I either have to visit a seamstress to get the length adjusted or purchase them “cropped,” but neither solution addresses the knee placement or the right tapering for a petite height.

Recognizing this glaring problem, Madeleine Cohen set out to solve this issue by launching Nelle Atelier, focusing on jeans for women 5’4 and under.

I randomly came across her brand prior to the launch on another substack thread. I made a mental note to check back once they launched in November and signed up for email notifications. Fast-forward to their launch, and I ordered a pair of The Emily to see how it would fit.

Oh boy, did it fit! Prior to moving to the Bay Area, I had maybe 3-4 pairs of jeans. Now, I wouldn’t dare actually count and share because the number is embarrassingly high. So, I consider myself an expert given the number of brands and styles I’ve tried and had to get hemmed to make them work for my height. The pure joy of being able to put on the Nelle Atelier Emily Jeans without a second thought about alterations was far greater than I anticipated. They fit perfectly at the waist, are so soft yet sturdy in the feel and have room to move around and run after a toddler.

I will also be the first to admit that the purchase was a pure gamble. A new brand without many reviews and had to be purchased online, product un-tried? Tough. A price tag over $200? Tougher. But something ticked my fancy, and I am so, so glad I gave it a try because I wore them 4 out of the 7 days since they arrived.

If you are 5’4 or shorter (or taller even!), I cannot recommend Nelle Atelier enough. The brand currently consists of three different silhouettes (The EmilyThe Lea, and The Claire), each in two color ways. The fabric is supple, the fit is phenomenal, and the high-quality is apparent. These are premium jeans made in Los Angeles composed of Italian denim. I cannot wait to see what else Madeleine launches in the new year.


Q: Can you share a little bit about your background? 

A: I’ve been building brands through the lens of new product development, go to market  strategy and retail throughout my career – first at Estée Lauder throughout their portfolio, then at Casper and most recently at Bala during their pandemic surge.

Q: What made you want to launch Nelle Atelier? 

A: Standing in front of my closet, I tried getting dressed wondering why I didn’t like any of my jeans. I figured maybe I should start shopping for petite denim to see if that would help. I went online and googled “best jeans for short girls.” Everything felt like an afterthought at best, or oddly diminutive at worst. There wasn’t a brand that fit in with the rest of my wardrobe – but with a shorter inseam and the right knee and hip placement.

B: What do you feel makes Nelle Atelier unique?

A: From a product perspective, Nelle Atelier is different because we fit on a 5 ‘2 fit model. The product is designed specially for women below 5’4. We’ve adjusted rises, inseams and knee placement. We are extremely focused on quality. We source all our denim in Italy and the jeans are handmade in Los Angeles. We also focus heavily on brand and community. A lot of the time when you are selling a product that solves a problem it’s easy for brand and aspiration to become an afterthought. At Nelle, we are building a functional product AND an aspirational brand.

Q: What is something you wish other entrepreneurs in your field knew or understood about the industry?

A: Only 50% of your marketing budget is working and none of us know which 50%.

Q: What is something you wish your consumers knew or understood about the industry?

A: Be nice when reaching out to customer service! If you’re talking to a small brand you are most definitely talking to a real person!

Q: Can you share a little about any exciting launches coming up for Nelle Atelier?

A: We’re excited to expand into new categories. Anything that is a fit challenge for a short woman is fair game. When we decide on a category for expansion we look at all the different things we can do to make the garment fit her better. Sleeve length, pocket placement, overall proportions.

Q: Where can consumers learn more about you and Nelle Atelier? 

A: Follow us @nelleatelier and @madcoxo on Instagram.

Which founders are inspiring you in 2024? Message us to nominate your favorite founder to be part of our series.

January 11, 2024

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