There's really nothing like finding a brand that matches your ideal style. I remember finding Fleet Collection, full of fit and flare dresses and lace collars, for the first time and feeling like I had finally found one where every single piece was something I could see myself wearing. I also remember feeling devastated when I found out the brand was ending and worrying that I'd never find another brand that felt like it was made for me. Luckily, that didn't last long. Soon after Fleet Collection ended, Apricity came along from one of Fleet Collection's co-founders.
Eileen Chai started the brand a few years back, and I've been a fan ever since. Apricity breathes life into the most gorgeous vintage-inspired dresses in a stunning collection of colors and prints. They're all flattering on a variety of body types, and most importantly, they have pockets. They're the type of dresses that are easily worn with sandals for a casual day or dressed up for bridesmaid dresses. I've felt so lucky to have gotten to know Eileen over the years, and it's evident how excited each new piece she designs makes her. I'm so happy to get to share her story with you today!
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 started designing dresses in 2011 for a brand I started with a partner, Fleet Collection, and when we discontinued that collection to part our separate ways in 2015, I had to take a beat to think long and hard about what I really wanted to next. I had this incredibly rare and fortunate opportunity to really take my life in any direction I wanted, and (perhaps unsurprisingly), after much thought and contemplation, I knew that this is truly what I wanted to do. I love vintage, fashion and sewing, and I love being able to connect with my customers on a personal level. I started Apricity that same year, and just wanted to create a collection of dresses that is pretty and classic (because classic never goes out of style!) and wearable really for any day or occasion.
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: I started the collection with just 2 designs: the SUNDAY and the JANUARY dresses. I was really lucky that these designs were well received by customers, and the first batch sold out rather quickly that summer. With that, I was able to make new batches with new colorways, also add new designs to the catalog and really, just take off running. These designs are actually still in the core collection today.. I mean, it really is lucky that the first 2 designs I launched happened to be a hit. Trust me, it doesn’t always happen like that! Sometimes, there’s a fabric or color that I personally love love love to death, and the customers just hate it, so you really never know what can happen despite how carefully you plan in advance!
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting a business? Were you nervous to share it?
A: This is the 2nd business I started, so it does get a little bit easier, but...still not really! It’s the first business that I started on my own, so that aspect was a little terrifying and completely isolating. I think that was the first time that I really felt truly alone, even though I had a super supportive network of friends and family. My (now ex) husband was always really understanding and supportive in my projects and ventures, but we also didn’t really discuss my work too much. The same went for most of my friends. I have this circle of down ass bitches that I know will be there for me no matter what, but when it came to work, I felt like my challenges were singular to my own experience and didn’t really talk much about it. I honestly just felt like I didn’t have someone in the same boat as me, and discussing it was a futile exercise. So I kind of just bottled it all up, which made the anxiety even worse, and every decision I made became incrementally nerve-wracking. So yes, I was DEFINITELY nervous to share it! And I didn’t know what my Fleet customers would think about the new brand, and there was a low point of nerves, imposter syndrome, fear, uncertainty and self-doubt. I’m definitely glad that part is over, but yeah. I was nervous haha.
Q: Did you work another job while you were starting? How long did it take you to turn this into a full-time venture?
A: I’m sorry I keep going back to Fleet! Sometimes, I feel like Apricity is just an extension of Fleet because I was already completely set up to do this! I had my studio, I had the equipment, hell I even still work with all my old vendors and production team! Apricity is and always has been a full time gig for me, from the very start. I was simultaneously working on dissolving Fleet while I was started Apricity, there really wasn’t any downtime at all. For Fleet, I quit my job to do it. I used to do private label product development for an overseas cosmetics label, and eventually became the COO of their US based distribution branch. Wow, just talking about that now...that feels like a lifetime ago! But I left that gig to start my own business because I really believed that to produce full time results, I needed to dedicate full time work to it. I gave myself a budget and a timeline, and if it didn’t pan out in 6 months, then I would have to re-evaluate my goals and objectives at that time. Fleet because a full time venture within the first year, but man, was that first year WORK! I’ll tell that story another time!