Both were around 25 when launching their first business in Chicago, Solemates. In true entrepreneurial spirit, they saw their youth as an advantage. Brian pointed out that when you are young, you have time to figure out the points of business that work for you.
Their advice for young entrepreneurs? Build a foundation with a good team, and if something isn't working in your business then change things up. In Brian and Autumn’s case SoleMates essentially became the testing ground and launching pad for the Sir and Madame product, enabling them to transition into a new location, an expanded brand, and continual growth.
The Sir and Madame storefront breathes the warmth and charisma of a deeply narrated apparel brand. Every detail stays true to their design aesthetic, “Classic with a Twist”.
To begin the design process, Brian and Autumn refer to an ongoing arsenal of images and choose the most visually impactful. Autumn reminds us, “We’re not designers by trade, we just like what we like.” From there, they create a story. That story will carry them through the entire design process. For the current theme “Wartime,” Brian says, “We both were just pulling a lot of images of war.” After sharing their collected images with each other the collection evolved into “Wartime All Day”, focusing not on combat gear but the everyday styling of citizens in times of war.
Of course we had to ask how it works to design and run a business with your significant other. As most design couples, the Sir and Madame team contribute their individual talents to the operation. Autumn brings retail management experience where Brian has more business experience. Autumn designs for the womenswear and Brian designs the menswear. The overlapping design decisions, such as fabric and trim choices, are shared. And when they need a tiebreaker, they always revert back to the original story for the collection.
We’ve noticed that Sir and Madame is pretty active on Twitter. When asked about it, Brian bursts into laughter and admits he began using it during the SoleMates days as a joke! Apparently after a few too-honest tweets, Autumn put up the Madame hand. No more tweets for Brian! Nowadays he enjoys productive tweeting for the store and constantly updates with new looks. Autumn values that Twitter enables you to stay connected with not only with customers, but also suppliers and manufacturers. “More important than promotion, is the ability to grow your support system and business community.” Above all, she feels it enables you to support people who are supporting you.
The Sir and Madame online store is gaining momentum but most importantly, it has increased exposure for the brand. Many popular blogs have featured Sir and Madame’s apparel and accessories as must-haves while the online shop is getting attention from international retailers.
On August 2nd, join us at Sir and Madame for singleneedle’s monthly Apparel Networking meeting.