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Lisa Bühler’s recipe for a successful women’s fashion brand with “main character energy” is simple: a laptop, a Wi-Fi connection, and unlimited free time. Add a departure from buzzy startup NastyGal (where she was a buyer), a tuxedo cat named George, and an intoxicating incantation — “Gah!”. Voilà, you have Lisa Says Gah!, the brand that The Cut proclaimed “a pandemic success story” last year for its meteoric rise at a time when many other fashion labels struggled and boutiques shuttered.
Even before 2020, fans came easily for Bühler. Since founding Lisa Says Gah! in 2015, she has turned her instinct for whatever pattern, silhouette, or accessory is Gah!-worthy into Gen-Z’s favorite e-tailer: Fuzzy coats with checkerboard patterns, oversized cardigans with bowtie pasta prints, sweater vests sporting hand-stitched mushrooms...Add a crocheted bucket hat, chartreuse handbag, or chunky heart bauble that doubles as a one-hitter and you’re ready to go scream about a short-lived relationship at the next Olivia Rodrigo show.
In this age of recycling styles from the early aughts, ’90s, ’80s (and even ’70s), Bühler has curated a covetable collection of anti-fast fashion pieces — designed by herself for her namesake label or select brands who share her commitment to sustainability. Bühler also gives back to local and national organizations: the San Francisco Marin Food Bank, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and the Higher Heights Leadership Fund to name a few.
Since launching her eye-candy-fashion emporium, Bühler’s amassed nearly 600,000 social followers and a product range that now includes a collaboration with Little Beast on pet sweaters. As of last month, Gah! devotees can shop the range in-person at her first brick and mortar store in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles — pet friendly, of course. Unlike the eager shoppers selling out sizes on her website, Bühler’s tuxedo-boy George was slower to warm. Here, she tells The Wildest all about the cat who made her a cat person — and when we can expect the next drop of pet sweaters.
Congratulations on your new store!
After eight years online, we finally did it. We just opened on Friday in Echo Park on Sunset, and it’s so beautiful. We worked with Adi Goodrich from Sing-Sing studio. We started with a concept of “anti-shop.” We didn’t want it to feel like your traditional department store.
It’s a beautiful, modest entry into the retail world. We wanted it to come across as a beautiful, comfortable place to walk into, and the clothing is the cherry on top. Adi was a set designer originally, so she knows how to make a space that feels like something you’ve never experienced before.
We love the pet sweater you made with Little Beast. Was pet clothing always on your radar?
It’s our first collaboration and our first product outside of human-wear. We’re brand-friends with Little Beast on Instagram. My amazing director of merchandising, Tori [Freedman] put it all together. We knew it would be a sweater — one human, one dog — that was easy for everyone to wear. The green check [design] was just so fun, and both brands are outgoing and playful. The check felt like it could fit in the green colorway and could suit a lot of people.
It seems like it did — it was a best seller.
I knew people would love it, but wow. It sold out the same day. We are getting a restock of the dog sweaters right before the holiday. It’s always fun to test new categories and see the reaction, and this is clearly a “want,” so it will now be a regular thing for us. We will definitely do a part two — introducing a few different colors or prints.
Does your cat, George, wear them?
He would look so cute in it. I might try to squeeze him into it. I did once put him in a shark Halloween costume, and he wore it for a bit, but you can put a leaf on him, and he freezes because he thinks he’s being attacked.
Is George your first cat?
Growing up, I had a Bouvier de Flanders, but I never had a cat. When I moved to San Francisco, I moved in with my now-husband, Louis. We went to the SPCA. We were just considering one, but we left with a cat, George. Louis grew up with cats and dogs, and he was a big cat fan. I had never really thought too much about cats before that, but I think I’m much more of a cat person.
What made that change?
Cats are a lot easier to take care of, except for the litter box, which I don’t do. I think I negotiated that ahead of time. I didn’t realize how low-maintenance they were: the no-walking, the self-bathing. You can leave for a short weekend, and they’re totally fine to be alone for a few days. You can leave food out, and they won’t eat it right away. Our cat doesn’t like human food, really.
How did you choose George?
We saw a cat before him that was really wild and energetic, and then we went to see George, and he slowly came out and was super sweet and cuddly. I don’t know if this is what you officially call it, but he’s a tuxedo cat. He’s very chic.
You adopted him the same year you started Lisa Says Gah! What was that like?
I moved in the summer of ’14. I started working on [Lisa Says Gah!] in the fall that year. I got all the business-license stuff, bought the website, and it launched at the end of January 2015. I didn’t have a job when I moved to San Francisco. Looking back, getting George made it very official that I was starting a new life here. In a lot of ways, I think George made it our home, our family.
How was the first year of adoption?
He’s about nine years old. We took him home, and he immediately hid under the dresser for months. It took him a long time to feel comfortable. He was not a kitten when we adopted him. He was a year and a half, so he already had a past. He was slow to get comfortable.
What is his personality now?
He’s shy and very sweet. You can scratch his belly, and he won’t scratch you. He’s very gentle with playing. He’s not a scratcher. But he is a hunter. He has caught mice over the years, and when a bird flew into our house, he launched across the room in full attack mode — it was out of National Geographic. It’s crazy to see those instincts come through.
And now you have two children.
He was our first baby. Louis is a good cat dad. He’s good at doing the dirty work. Now seeing him as a real dad, it’s an oddly similar parenting style. He is really sweet and gives George lots of attention. If George is being a jerk, Louis isn’t afraid to set him straight. He’s very involved in the relationship — caring and loving. He’s more the playful parent with George and the kids. I’m more of the “doing the job” [parent] and [am] less playful with George. But we have our sweet moments together.
How has George been with the kids?
One thing I remember in the beginning with both kids when I was nursing: He would come and sit and be a watch cat. He had an instinct that we were vulnerable, and he would be on guard.
I heard a lot of, “Oh, be careful: Your cat will jump in your baby’s crib and scratch them.” But I think he had boundaries and knows not to disturb them. Now that we have toddlers, he is really nocturnal. Little kids are scary. They’re running, poking, screaming. I wonder if, when the kids get a little older and have more control over their bodies, he’ll be more comfortable around them.
Does George come into the office with you?
Lol, no. I think he would be happy being in one room for the rest of his life. He’s not an explorer. He would go on the back deck at our old place and check things out. We’ve brought him out to our cabin in Mendocino a few times, where he’ll hide out until he feels like the coast is clear, but he’s mostly an indoor house cat.
Fashion without the constraints of gender? Paws up for that!
The Collina Strada designer’s pup is the ideal NYFW sidekick: He models, has great hair, and fits in a stylish bag.
Mackenzie Wagoner is a writer and editor. Her work has been featured in Vogue, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, ELLE, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, and more. She lives in New York City.