I'm really excited to be sharing an amazing interview with Taylor Ivey. She's the brains behind Ellsworth & Ivey, which has to be one of the most chic and fashionable outerwear lines. I was first introduced to the brand after spotting one of her capes on Tuckernuck's website. Taylor and I grabbed coffee a couple of months ago and I knew I wanted to feature her incredible line on TCP... but I loved her so much and was inspired by her story as an entrepreneur that I wanted to ask her a bunch of questions to share!
Having personally dabbled in fashion last fall– and hating every minute of it because it was too hard!– I knew she must be up to something really special. The capes are gorgeous. Truly gorgeous. I tried one on in the restaurant and could easily wear it every day for the rest of my life. The epitome of luxury!!
Taylor is the founder, designer, and even models the capes on the website. And absolutely the sweetest! She has some seriously awesome advice for anyone who's ever dreamed of designing her own fashion line or starting her own company... or both. (Although, I have to say... her advice is pretty spot-on for life in general!)
1. When did you first know you wanted to be an entrepreneur and what was the point that really made you go for it?
I have always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My dad was a serial entrepreneur and from a young age my brother and I used to spend hours thinking of “inventions” and “new business ideas.” We spent way too much time trying to develop a hover board when we were in middle school and investing our allowance in Beanie Babies. My mom and step-dad also hammered in the idea that “can’t” is not a word and we can achieve anything we set our minds to. Anything is possible with hard work, passion and persistence. This environment certainly set the groundwork for wanting to be an entrepreneur and having the confidence to take a risk and just do it. To answer your question, I would say that for years I was just waiting for the right idea to strike me that I would have enough passion to pursue, through the good and the bad.
Ellsworth & Ivey struck me in college when I was studying at Tulane University. It developed out of the desire to wear certain clothes and not having the means to afford them. Because I have always sewed, I decided I would just make my own clothes. I spent the next three years day dreaming, designing styles and developing a brand. I decided to really go for it after I had made some money working a side job while living in New York in 2012. I had saved $5,000 and thought to myself, “Okay, I can do this, I am ready.” It actually makes me laugh now thinking that I started my company with only $5,000!
2. What is the inspiration behind Ellsworth & Ivey?
The collection was inspired by my grandmothers, Shirley Ellsworth and Marilyn Brown. They were very classic women who were poised, confident, and had a strong sense of style. Each one had her own lessons to pass down to me, from manners to values. They always believed that less is more and quality over quantity. In my designs, I wanted to create something that reflects those values in a contemporary style. Something that we could all wear, appreciate, and stands the test of time.
I am also committed to “Made in America” and our mission is to reinvigorate domestic manufacturing and create an offering of distinguished lifestyle pieces for the woman who values quality and craftsmanship. I am actually in the process of moving all of our manufacturing out of New York City to an incredible factory in New Bedford, MA, whom I feel strongly mirrors our commitment to the American Made movement.
3. What's the best and what's the hardest part about having your own clothing line?
The best part about having my own clothing line is working for myself. The hardest part about having my own clothing line is working for myself. I am my own boss and I make 100% of the decisions, I decide where the company is going, design our collection and develop the brand. On the other side of the coin, the fate of my company is completely in my own hands. I cannot take sick days or vacations, I am always on call. I am always been very critical of myself so I can sometimes be my own worst enemy. I am working on learning not to be so hard on myself and just let things go. When you make a mistake, because we all do, learn from it and quickly move forward. Do not dwell on it and let it consume you.
4. What was your favorite class in college, or the one that has helps you the most with your business?
Immediately after graduating I moved to New York at took Fashion Construction classes at Parsons, which helped me understand the basics of patternmaking and technical design. My teacher at Parsons introduced me to the factory in NYC that made my first cape sample.
A little advice, if you are passionate about a subject befriend as many experienced people in that industry as possible. Express your interest and build a relationship with them. Successful individuals are always looking to give back and mentor young people. Their advice and the opportunities that will arise from your relationship will be invaluable.
Another piece of advice, even if you are not a business major (I was a film and art history major), take some business and accounting courses in college. Understanding the fundamentals of business and accounting will give you a leg up as you develop your company.
5. Do you have a mentor? How did you meet her and how does she help you?
Yes, definitely. I was introduced to her through a relative and about a year into have my business. I am the sole founder of my company and work alone, so I lean on her to give valuable insight on important company decisions, bounce ideas off of and be a sound voice in my sometimes chaotic world. If you want to start a business, I recommend finding and latching onto a mentor!
6. I'm sure every day is different, but is there one thing you do that helps you maintain a routine?
When you work for yourself, it can definitely be hard to create structure. Developing some sort of routine in essential to getting your work completed in a timely manner.
The first thing I do in the morning while I am still in bed is read The Skimm newsletter. It always keeps me informed and makes me laugh, I really enjoy it and recommend signing up! I also try to work out every morning. It makes such a difference in how I feel and how I tackle the day. I do not usually drink coffee, but instead opt for a cup of hot water and lemon. Sounds weird but it is so good and helps me get my day going.
I am addicted to to-do lists and have adopted the Pomodoro Technique, which has really helped me. I have an ongoing to-do list I keep on my desktop and every night before leaving work I create a check list for the next day on a physical piece of paper (I actually print out the ones from the Pomodoro Technique ha). I have found that doing this the night before makes me feel more relaxed and on top of things. I tackle one task at a time and nothing else until it is completed, unless something incredibly urgent comes up. That way I give every task 100% of my focus.
I am also crazy about email folders. I sort and keep EVERYTHING. The only emails in my inbox are there because action needs to be taken against them. Anything that I need to follow up with in the future, I mark with a reminder alert on a certain date and file it away. I actually feel out of control when I have lots of emails in my inbox.
7. If you were to go back to the beginning would you do anything different?
Hmm, hard question. I think I would have tried to find and build a relationship with a mentor sooner. I did not meet my mentor until a year or so into having my business, and I know I would have benefited from learning from her right from the beginning.
8. How do you unwind at night?
I have never loved working out at night because I found it hard to develop a routine with our changing schedules. I like to go to sleep early so that I can wake up, work out and still be at the office before everyone else. You will rarely see a person who consistently go into the office early and is not successful. To unwind, I like to get in bed and watch movies (hence the film major). It can be completely mind numbing, but I love it!
When you start your own business, you need to understand that there will be sacrifices. Your social life for one. Obviously, going out and networking is a huge part of growing your business, but going out and partying every night will just not work. When I started my business I was working a full time job. I would get up at 4:30 every morning, work out, and spend from 6am-9am working on my company. On the weekends I spent the days in the library working and would go out at night. I could not afford to be tired because my company valued those few hours in the morning so much. I have never minded doing this because I am passionate about what I do and I genuinely enjoy doing the work. When you are thinking of starting a business ask yourself, will I enjoy working on this in five years? Am I willing to sacrifice my social life for this?
9. What do you typically wear while you work?
Some important advice I received early on is to “fake it till you make it” and “dress to impress.” I was actually told once that I was too nice and I needed to act more like a snob. While I think that may have been a little extreme, I could not agree more with the underlying message. You have to live, breathe and be the person you want to become. No one will do it for you. Even if you are not there yet, you have to start now.
I would say my typical outfit consists of skinny jeans, a silk blouse, Stubbs & Wootton slippers and of course, a cape. I try to keep heels with me in case I have a dinner meeting after work. Either way this is a great outfit that can easily go from day to night. It’s also comfortable enough for me to sit at my desk all day and work, which my body thanks me for.