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Fashion & Friendship: Building Love, 49

Bea Barth

Bea's Story:

Kristina and I have always been fond of fashion and design.  We met in 7th grade and decided to share a locker because we had similar ideas of how to “decorate” it.  We helped each other pick out dresses and always got ready for dances and proms together.  We’d skip our high school classes to flip through fashion magazines at the local Barnes & Noble.  We both worked in high school and spent most of our paychecks shopping for designer handbags and clothes at Nordstrom and local consignment boutiques- this was of course before either of us had adult responsibilities.

Kristina took a position with Well Fargo in North Carolina a few years ago, but despite the distance, our love for fashion and design brought closer together.  One-day last summer, I called Kristina and asked, “What do you think about a starting a handmade lingerie store in Alaska?”

“That sounds AH-MAZING!” was Kristina’s reply.

I was frustrated at the lack of lingerie stores in Anchorage.  Victoria’s Secret had just opened their first store in the state, but I wasn’t a fan.  My biggest pet peeve has always been lace panties that eventually got holes because the poor quality/manufacturing.  One day, I saw an Instagram account from Europe advertising homemade lingerie.  The care and detail put into each piece was clear and did not look like anything you could buy at a store.  Each bra and panty was specifically sized and made to order for each client.  Having complete control over the design, sizing and manufacturing process of the most intimate pieces of clothing was so inspiring.  

With Kristina’s approval, we began brainstorming our business startup plan.  Kristina graduated with a Business Management degree from UAA and I had experience running a busy local moving company.  Our combined education, work experience and love for design and fashion made the decision to start our company an easy one.

Kristina handled the tedious start up process  while I searched for our first contract seamstress.  My coworker introduced me to our first seamstress, Jenny, at the end of 2016. Jenny has always loved sewing and mom of three young boys, so the idea of working from home and doing what she loved worked out perfectly.  We learned quickly that there are very few sewing patterns available for underwear that wasn’t from the 80s or 90s so Jenny has become a master at adjusting and creating patterns and is a crucial part of our design process.

In February 2017, we opened our online boutique before the Valentine’s holiday.  We didn’t have a large selection of products but we were excited to get our name out.  We’re still less than a year old and have so much planned.  Our main goals are to produce ethically and locally  manufactured products and to encourage young girls and women to stop using society’s standards to determine whether or not they should love themselves.  As Alaskan grown gals, Kristina and I share the love and admiration for natural beauty.  Through our products, we aspire to bring this out in each woman.

Kristina's Story:

Bea and I both grew up in Alaska and met in middle school.  High school brought us closer together when we shared a locker.  I remember thinking she was the perfect locker partner because we wore the same size shoe.  Naturally, our locker soon held more shoes than textbooks and even after freshman year when we could have asked for our own lockers we continued to share one throughout the rest of high school.

One of our favorite pastimes was to peruse all the fashion magazines at Barnes & Noble. Nordstrom then became our preferred escape where we attempted to replicate the looks we saw in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.  Bea was always the creative one and has a great eye for quality pieces.  Even with bed sheets, I'll never forget her lecture on the importance of quality; "some things you just can't compromise on Kristina."  When Bea proposed the idea of creating a lingerie line I knew immediately that it would be the perfect merger of our best characteristics.  I mean, what’s not to love about a lingerie brand that is fun and creative yet serious enough to guarantee quality and offer customization?

It seems like everything just fell into place once we started putting the concept into motion. Bea found Jenny who was able to translate the designs to fabric while I worked on setting up our sites and business license.  It was amazing how much support we encountered once the brand gained the attention of other local businesses and artists.  From print shops to photographers and our first wholesale partnership with a local boutique, we couldn’t have asked for better guidance and assistance.  That sense of community and commitment to partnership also reinforced our vision for the brand.

We are Alaskan.  We want our brand to reflect that.  The qualities indicative of a typical Alaskan are not dependent on our place of birth, but how we’ve chosen to band together in this state we call home.  We understand the importance of community and know that while we may be able to tough it out alone, the burdens of failures and pleasures of success are meant to be shared.  We are always better when we come together.

Therefore, Love, 49 will always strive to create pieces that are conscious of the many differences that make us human.  We will continue to customize and create with the goal of making a brand that is truly diverse.

I'm so proud of how far we've come just in the past few months and excited to see where this journey will take us!

 


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