Who's That Gal: Katie Doyle of Brass Clothing
The JUGs are girly girls at heart - we love gorgeous dresses, shopping, and getting dressed up! However, we're always looking for ways to make our clothes mean something more. This week we're super excited to feature Brass Clothing, a Boston-based fashion startup that brings us clothes with meaning. Their dresses are high quality basics, ethically made without the markup. We sat down with Katie, one of the co-founders to learn more about their brand and their much-buzzed-about Kickstarter campaign.
You and your co-founder, Jay, have known each other since you were both 14! How long have you known you wanted to start a company together?
Jay and I have always known (independently from each other) that we wanted to start our own businesses. Even before Brass, we’d chat about cool companies we admired. Jay had some experience working on her own. She had done startup stuff in the past - she had a t-shirt company - and did some freelance design. And I’ve always been super interested in business, working for a small e-commerce company with a focus on branding.
We started Brass a little over a year ago. Jay works in manufacturing, and was really inspired after a trip to visit a potential partner factory in China. The factory (who we're now working with) just blew her away. They make clothes for designer brands like Tory Burch and BCBG. She was amazed at the beautiful garments they produced and was shocked at how much these garments actually cost before brand markup. Some of them are marked up by 8x! She came home and told me all about this factory and I said, “what if we started a brand of our own but didn’t mark it up nearly as high?”
We could not stop thinking about this idea of high-quality garments without the discouraging designer prices!
You have experience with online fashion retail and Jay has experience with apparel. What sparked for you both to venture out and start your own clothing line?
Jay and I have always loved shopping together. We’d go to stores and pull out a Vince or Helmut Lang dress and fall in love. It wasn’t the labels that we were excited about. The brand itself didn’t necessarily matter. It was the fabric, quality and fit of the garments that we were after. But, we were always discouraged by the outrageous price tags. As a 27 year old just starting out in life, I really had no business spending $400 on a dress. It was a real frustration that we couldn’t get something that was high-quality at a reasonable price.
How do you handle running your own company AND still working a fulltime day job?
We both have full-time jobs outside of Brass. I work in e-commerce at PlanetShoes and Jay continues to work in manufacturing as I mentioned earlier. We both work a lot of late nights. I work from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm at PlanetShoes and drive over to the Brass office where I usually work from 5:15 pm to around 9:00 pm. Luckily, Jay has a little bit more time to spend on Brass and actually works right next door, so she can pop in and get stuff done.
How do you split responsibilities... Is one more on the design side and one more on the business side? A little of both?
Since Jay’s background is in sourcing and manufacturing, she is really the product person on our team. She is the lead on fabrics and has a really good eye for design. She also heads up all of the communication with our factory in China. She’s really creative and does a lot of our graphic design work as well. My expertise is on the customer-facing side of the business. I handle marketing and our e-commerce operations.
How has being based in Boston influenced your brand?
People don’t expect a fashion-forward, online women’s clothing brand to come out of Boston, but they should because we're an awesome city of innovators. Technology is fundamental to Boston, and innovation is in our blood here, so we should be doing things that are forward-thinking - and that’s what Brass is.
Direct-to-consumer and transparency in the supply chain is a very hot topic in the fashion world, specifically the “slow fashion” movement. Can you tell us why these values are important to your brand? Why should our readers start (or continue) to shop this way?
Everyone should be shopping this way. I honestly think the most responsible thing people can do is pay attention to what they are buying and what they are wearing because there are a lot of harmful consequences to fast fashion. Fast fashion does a lot of damage; it’s simply not sustainable to be producing clothes at such volumes. People should be aware of that. It’s great that new brands like Everlane and Cuyana are encouraging people to think about quality, where things are made, and overall transparency.
How is Brass different from other super-transparent clothing brands?
We believe – and live by – the rules of transparency. But, it’s not what defines our brand. We are about MORE than radical transparency. We’re Brass – we’re about producing beautiful, versatile clothing that make you feel amazing. We want to make getting dressed in the morning easy: grab a dress, slip it on and feel great and put-together so you can get on with your day. Our customers are doing big things! They need to feel confident and beautiful with relatively little effort.
What tips would you give to those who want to turn an idea into a product or business?
Find a partner. It’s definitely easier when you have someone to bounce ideas off of and to collaborate with. It makes all the difference in the world.
How do you define the Brass girl?
Brass women (we’ve found that women of all ages are finding Brass) are ambitious and passionate. They care about how they look and present themselves, but they’re not consumed by labels. They don’t have time for that! Brass women are pursuing their passions and challenging themselves, whether they’re a mother, med student or entrepreneur. They do what makes them happy, excited and fulfilled. They're basically kicking ass at whatever they do.
What is next for Brass?
We’re currently running a Kickstarter to fund our spring line - we have 5 new dress styles that we want to share and we’re hoping to raise $20K.
After we close our Kickstarter, we’re hoping to explore the idea of expanding into accessories and other categories. We’re starting to develop some t-shirts and tops in our Fall 15 line.
What is your favorite bar in Boston?
I like every bar, haha. A lot of my current favorites are in the South End, like The Gallows.
Who is your style icon?
Ok, you’re going to judge, but I love the way Kim Kardashian plays up her best assets. She’s not my style icon per se - I’m still trying to figure that one out - but I do love how she owns her curves. I’m dying to see how she’d rock the Pencil Dress.
What is your favorite accessory to pair with a Brass dress?
I am a shoe person and am really loving the casual sneaker and Birkenstock trend that’s going on this spring. You’ll also notice, if you follow me and Jay on Instagram, that we have a thing for jean jackets.
What is your favorite song as of late?
Jay and I are really into Robyn right now. We also LOVE Fleetwood Mac.
Because we’re a book club, what are you currently reading?
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
COME MEET KATIE + JAY AT LADIES LOUNGE
Join the JUGs, General Assembly, and WeWork for a night of inspiration on the theme of design with our lovely speakers, Marilyn Moedinger of Runcible Studios and Katie Doyle and Jay Hallstein of Brass Clothing!
Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 6pm - 8pm
WeWork Fort Point
51 Melcher St.
Boston, MA 02210