Holed up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere Arkansas right after the pandemic lockdown began, I jumped on a call with Allie + Bess to hear their idea for a collaboration. After some months of back and forth on sampling and getting to know each other, the collection came to life. Using their statement materials, I chose to combine bright vintage colors for a signature look. Then we invited them to 78990 Élancourt to sit down and talk about the collection, all things entrepreneurship, being working moms, industry challenges and more.
Read the transcribed conversation below, the first of many #KKCafeChats
What led you to start your own brand?
Allie + Bess: We created Allie + Bess on a whim. We started making bracelets for ourselves, and had fallen in love with the vulcanite. We originally found this bead and loved it. We wanted to feel more elevated in our casual clothes, we wanted something that felt good and not cheap and we had a hard time finding that. We wanted more gold, and more of a lux feel than the other stuff out there. Originally we didn't intend to start a brand, we were really just making these for ourselves. We put them on Instagram, but didn’t tell anyone. Someone ended up finding the Instagram, and now here we are.
KK: From a pretty young age, I was always trying to make something. I think the creativity was always there. My senior year in college I was babysitting for a woman in Durham, NC. I was always making her and her kids things. Her graduation present to me was a trunk show. She said, “I want you to do this trunk show and bring your friends and all bring my friends from the community and I just want you to showcase what you can do.” I went to Goodwill and refinished a dresser, made some stationary sets on my printer, and had this trunk show. This really was an aha moment for me. When I graduated I wanted to figure out how to mass produce things and make a brand.
What attracted you to this collaboration?
Allie + Bess: I think both of us are really inspired by art, so I think that is a huge motivation in any of our designs. We love color and we like when you put something on and it makes you feel something. We wanted to start collaborating with some artists to expand our base. Katie was the first person we thought of because of the bright colors and mixing of patterns.
KK: It felt authentic. I really believed in what they were doing. We were similar, I understood what they were doing and it felt right.
2020 was a tough year, what was it like for you and how did you cope on a personal level and on a company level?
Allie + Bess: In January we still didn’t have our website. We launched our site in April. We were really focusing on wholesale, we truly thought wholesale was going to be our market. When COVID hit we could either stop everything we were doing, or pivot and figure out a way to make it work. We also put a huge focus on doing lifestyle shots, and creating our Instagram page. Everything is done in house.
KK: Having a decent size team was tough when working remote, but I was so happy with how it panned out and how well people worked together. Natalie and I are both moms, and that was really hard. We also moved three spaces into one right in the pandemic. We moved the brick and mortar, office space downtown and warehouse into our new space. There are still people that don't have their orders, so that has been a challenge, but I have been so thankful for our customer base and their understanding.
What does it mean for you to be a female founder? Have there been any challenges you’ve faced? What’s been the biggest joy?
Allie + Bess: It’s been a whirlwind. Allie and I both have daughters so it’s been really important for us to show our daughters that they can do anything and that they see their moms working and creating something at any age. I shouldn’t say it's a challenge, we haven’t really had any doors close because we’re women but I feel like some people don’t take us seriously.
KK: There’s just these dynamics where I’ve gotten over it, but early on, man, I felt like I was a beggar on the street. But, I think having a female partner, which I do and y'all do too, is such a saving grace. Understanding how life works with kids and family, I’m not sure a male partner would understand that.
What are you looking forward to in 2021 on a personal level & company level?
Allie + Bess: I think expanding our brand. We started with bracelet stacks and now we are working on manufacturing more stuff and designing more stuff so I think we are both very excited about that. We are obviously very excited about this moment right now and this collection. We’re still so new so just trying to learn, get our feet under us, and navigate this crazy world we’re in.
KK: I’m personally really excited about re-releasing some ready to wear pieces. We really went back to focusing on pajamas and loungewear. Until we get the fit right and the fabrics. We have so many products and capabilities is our strength. We are also doing some pretty cool stuff starting to dabble in with what we’re calling the bespoke...so people come to us saying, I want to design my own print for my hotel, so I want to talk to you about it, I want to you to do it but then I want it to be mine and so on. The wholesale opportunity that we wanted in 2020 is coming now so that’s great. This is the first collection I’ve ever had that we have had planned a whole year out. I am so excited about the next collections because I think when you do have time to plan out, it is so much better. Our march collection is all about COVID. What good came from it and what do we not want to lose. Also - the toile shop will just continue to grow!