Traverse City Entrepreneur Clothing Brand Blossoms | Michigan News
By DAN NIELSEN, Traverse City Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – A 2019 visit to a museum dedicated to the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair prompted Brian and Anne Lewis of Traverse City to launch a clothing brand based on the word “hippie.”
Sales of shirts and hats sporting a variety of âhippieâ graphics began to sell out – slowly. Then a phone call changed everything, reports the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
âOne call literally changed the course of our business – when John Molner called,â said Brian Lewis. âHe said, ‘We want to partner with you.’ It was just before Thanksgiving.
âThere are times when an entrepreneur realizes something special,â said Anne Lewis. âThat moment came when John Molner, husband of Katie Couric and co-founder of Katie Couric Media, called us, completely out of the blue.
âHe wanted Katie Couric to partner with Stately Wear … because he fell in love with our French Hippie duffel bag. He told us that he and his gym bag are inseparable and that he literally takes it everywhere. John then let us know that he wanted to present the Hippie brand as an official partner with Katie Couric Media.
KatieCouric.com has become the first online affiliate of Stately Wear. That was three weeks ago, and it is no longer Stately’s only affiliate.
âWe are now on the verge of having over 200 affiliates across the country by the end of the year,â said Brian Lewis. âOn December 3, they launched their branded store with us on Katie Couric Media. Our website (traffic) has gone from 100 people per day to 10,000 per day. Our sales have increased by 1000% in three weeks.
Stately Wear is all about branding. The concept was born from a combination of two family trips.
âWe went to the Woodstock Museum in New York City, and there is a powerful connection,â said Brian Lewis. âIt’s very moving when you go there. You feel that power that comes from that hippie vibe.
He later said, âWe were on vacation with one of our kids in Georgia. We really wanted to find a way to connect everything – when you go from town to town to town – there is always a version of what people are selling, shirts and stuff. We really love the hippie connection of respecting people and respecting the planet. And we thought if we could tie that together on a local, national, and international basis, then people would be better off. “
The result is a collection of duffel bags and clothing, each featuring a graphic, the word ‘hippie’ and either a place name or a word that identifies a passion.
âIt’s the emotional connection with a modern version of the hippie,â Brian Lewis said. âAnd the passions: skiing, surfing, cycling. Or places: Colorado, California, United States, France. That’s what the brand is. Everything is based on the connection that the “hippie” has with love and respect for people and the planet. It’s a modern, iconic take on that hippie perspective of love for the planet and love for people.
These family trips took place in 2019. Brian Lewis and his wife, children’s author Anne Margaret Lewis, put the business concept together that same year.
âWhen we first worked on it, I contacted the former CEO of Calvin Klein – whom I didn’t know,â said Brian Lewis. âI sent him our designs and he immediately sent me a note back and said, ‘This could be the next Life is Good. “”
âAnd then the pandemic started. It is difficult to start a business during a pandemic.
So the company simmered in the background as COVID-19 raged around the world.
âWe didn’t really start (the business) until John Molner called us,â said Brian Lewis. âA friend of ours sent him a bag last Christmas. And Katie’s husband called and said, âI use it everyday. And everywhere I take it people love it, they comment on it and they want to know where they can get theirs.
Molner has some good things to say about the marketability of Stately Wear.
âI’m a huge fan of the Stately Wear gym bag and they’re a wonderful addition to Katie’s Shop,â Molner said in an email. âIt’s perfect for everything from daily trips to fishing trips. They are iconic, eye-catching, and of high quality.
Other people are also tapping into the hippie vibe. Lewis and his wife were taking product photos on the Old Mission Peninsula and a crowd of at least 30 gathered to comment on the branding and ask where they could buy the bags and clothing.
âWe were literally selling them in the back of our car,â said Brian Lewis, âand we didn’t have a lot of them, so it didn’t take long for them to disappear. “
The key to Stately Wear’s business model is that there is no warehouse full of products, which means there are no storage costs and there are no chance that surplus products will end up unsold. Each item is only produced after it has been ordered. The Lewisons work with two factories, one in California and one in North Carolina.
Manufacturing facilities have been occupied since the Katie Couric connection was established.
âWhen you order, this bag is made – one at a time. If it is a bag, hoodie, leggings or rashguard (a garment designed to protect against UV exposure), it is made one at a time â, Brian Lewis said. âThere is absolutely no waste. Nothing ends up in a landfill, which is a problem in the clothing and accessories industry. “
Stately Wear is owned by Lewis and a few investors involved in the clothing industry.
The company has no employees. Creative work is led by Anne Lewis and a freelance writer.
This isn’t the first business Lewis and his wife started in the area.
âMost people know me as the person who started Sleeping Bear Press,â said Brian Lewis.
He started the publishing house 19 years ago, around the same time he moved from Ann Arbor to Traverse City. He sold that business in 2003, but a principle he followed there is now at work in Stately Wear.
âFind a pattern and reproduce it,â Brian Lewis said.
Sleeping Bear Press has published a series of children’s books designed to help children learn the alphabet.
“Alphabet books have sold millions of copies,” he said.
The formula there was to create a primer centered on a subject. Titles now listed on the company’s website listing, for example, “P is for Putt: A Golf Alphabet” and “T is for Tutu: A Ballet Alphabet”.
Stately Wear works on the same principle. It uses the word “hippie” to link the clothing brand and offers variations labeled with place names or life passions.
â(John Molner) picked us # 1 in the gift guide,â said Anne Lewis. âYou can imagine my excitement. This shared our brand with millions of people via Katie Couric Media, giving me, who has always viewed Katie Couric as a female inspiration, the continued drive to achieve high dreams and goals for Stately Wear.
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