One year ago, Kate O’Riley opened her doors in Greenpoint, a borough of Brooklyn, NY. Her shop, Line and Label, is unique from most boutiques. Not only does she carry top designers, she sells her own line of clothing that she creates in a studio in the store.
O’Riley worked in fashion design and production for almost 15 years before deciding to branch out on her own. She worked for four different designers in the city, most recently as a team leader at Harvey Faircloth. She decided that she wanted to be more independent and creative. Since she was a teenager, she has been a fashonista, going to the Salvation Army, taking clothes apart, and re-making them into her own, new creations.
Now on any given day, she is in the throes of creation, whether it’s a leather handbag, metallic gold shorts, or a cotton batik camisole. “It is what makes my shop different, that the person who owns the shop is the person who made the clothes,” O’Riley said.
But please don’t call her crafty.
“I never want it to look crafty,” O’Riley said. “It is important how garments are finished. Even though it was made in the backroom by me, I want it to look just as good as any other designer product.”
Everything she sells in the shop and online is carefully sourced.
“A lot of thought goes into what collections I want to bring into the shop,” she said. “All of the items I have in my shop are manufactured ethically. Nothing is made in China or India.”
All of the clothes are made in the United States with the exception of the Trine Vestergaard brand from Denmark and the UK-based Made brand of fair trade accessories from Kenya. In addition, she carries other local emerging designers and textile artists, who hand-paint the fabric.
“That’s something that’s important to me,” she said. “I know how many jobs and people it affects, and how much work that goes into making a garment.”
O’Riley also makes dreamcatchers, although this is not something she would have expected a year ago. She made one about three-feet across – “a symbol and statement piece” — for the opening of the shop using scraps of leather from her handbags, and it quickly sold.
“Every time I sell one, I end up making a new one. Whenever I sell one, the space seems totally empty,” she said.
Reflecting on her first year of business, O’Riley said it’s been a tough, learning experience. This is her first time working in retail, and the effort to get the word out through email alerts and social media is constant.
Despite not regularly meeting the sales targets in her business plan: “I’m still so optimistic about it,” she said.
When asked about making a new item in the shop, her process is organic and entrepreneurial, exactly her goal in starting out in the first place.
“When I’m merchandising from the other designers that I have sometimes I feel that something is missing. That might lead me to make something specific for the shop – ‘it’s summer, it’s hot, I need more shorts.’ Sometimes that’s how I’ll decide on something to make; start on something that would look great in the window or something that I personally would want to wear; sometimes it’s a creative point of view or sometimes from a total business point of view.”
I personally think her gold print shorts are one of the the cutest fashion items I’ve seen in a while. Cute might not be the description O’Riley would prefer. She calls her style rock-n-roll.
If you’re shopping for summer fashion, check out Line & Label’s online store – everything is on sale 22% through Friday to celebrate the June 22 one-year anniversary.
Images Courtesy of Line and Label