Welcome to 2021 with Goddess Directory! After a short holiday break, we're back, ready to tackle the new year, and more invigorated to share new small shops + connect with the creators behind them than ever. If there's anything you're looking to see, feel free to send over your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or let us know on Instagram at @goddessdirectory.
As much as I try to showcase a variety of styles with the brands I feature, I think it's obvious that my one true love is vintage and vintage-inspired brands. The good thing about this type of style becoming increasingly popular is that there are a ton of reproduction brands to shop from now. At this point, though, many of them are indistinguishable from each other and far too many have faced criticism for being problematic.
Thankfully, there are some that stick out as being worth supporting, and one of those is by far Ains & Elke Stylehaus. The vintage-inspired brand was created by Alixis Lupien, a military veteran, mom, and all-around badass who is running the brand on her own. Ains & Elke has gorgeous dresses, adorable full skirts, and more in a variety of fun prints and fabrics. Styles are size -nclusive, and it's clear that Alixis designs items that make anyone wearing them feel amazing. I loved getting to know her a bit better, learning how she got her start, and her goals for the future. I can't wait for you to as well! Enjoy!
My pick: we love a good Harry Potter-inspired dress that's cute AND doesn't actually contribute to the author!
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: I actually stumbled into this line of work. Having left the military and given birth to my second kiddo, I found myself with no job during one of the recessions. I had a bag of fabric scraps and a few old patterns laying around that I decided to fiddle with one day. After making my first dress and actually selling it on Etsy, I decided to keep at it, using my profits to buy more fabric and patterns. The rest is history!
Q: Was there a moment when you felt like this was something that was going to take off and become a success for you?
A: Honestly, I never thought it would be something I’d do long term. I’m self-taught (in sewing as well as business), so I only ever thought this would be a hobby for me. But after a few years of major growth, I saw that there was actually a market for what I was making. And once I started selling my sweaters, it was obvious that this was becoming a successful business.
Q: What were your friends' and family’s reactions to you starting to creating your brand? Were you nervous to share it?
A: I was never nervous to share it, because I live my life as an open book. My very small family was pretty supportive. They went with me to my vending gigs and tried their best to help me sell my wares!
Q: Is this your full-time job? If so, how long did it take you to transition into full-time?
A: Yes, this is my full-time job. I’d say that the tradition from hobby to job would have been somewhere in year 3.
Q: What do you wish you had known when you first started your brand?
A: I wish that I knew literally anything about the fashion market and how to create capital. Most businesses have an initial investment of major loan, but I’ve only ever used my own pocket money to fund this endeavor. I think that it probably would have been much easier if I had a large amount of money at the outset, BUT I can proudly say that I have zero business debt, which is pretty cool.
Q: Obviously, we’re in strange times right now so I have to ask everyone I talk to - how has COVID-19 affected your business and what are you doing to keep everything going during this time? What can people do to support you and others during all of this?
A: So, Covid has definitely affected some aspects. Shipping is ridiculous...sometimes, items will ship at lightning speed, and at other times, items will take what seems like forever. This also affects our materials shipments.
I would hope that people can understand and try their best to be patient. Since we are waiting longer for materials, it may take a little longer than normal to receive items.
Q: What advice do you have for others looking to stand out in the vintage-inspired or vintage reproduction space?
A: I would recommend that they find something, one thing, that they’re REALLY good at and perfect it. Then push push push that one thing. Make that one thing become synonymous with your business, so that people think of you whenever they see or think of that item.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about shopping small?
A: I wish that people would stop treating small businesses like Walmart and Amazon. If you buy small, it’s good to keep in mind that a person (not a robot) is hand making your item(s). Do your research before you buy ans make sure you’re buying the correct item, size, color, etc, because returns are very costly and damaging to small business.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: Currently I’m loving my Serpentine Seduction Dress!
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: I’d love to be able to hire full-time help, so that I can take a little more time off. Currently, I work 6 days a week, and about 10 or so hours a day, so I’d love to be able to scale that back a bit.
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
And there’s a ton of other small, female-owned businesses that I try my best to frequent as well!
Follow along with Alixis:
Follow Ains & Elke Stylehaus on Instagram