If you are anything like me, at times you wish you could change some of the elements of the clothes you see…and then they’d be perfect. If only the pattern were different, or instead of a boatneck, that dress came in V-neck. Well now you can do just that. Developed by Liz Hostetter, who currently lives in Hong Kong, she came to the realization that customers should be able to be a part of the design process out of need. As a very tall woman she was having an extremely hard time finding anything that fit, but saw gorgeous fabrics in Hong Kong and started having her clothes made to order. Then the idea came, “why not allow other women to design what works for them?” Her company Ellie Kai, which is headquartered in her hometown of Cape Cod, offers seasonal pieces that give women direct access to the design, manufacture and purchase of their personal wardrobe.
The summer collection is comprised of 33 essential patterns ranging from dresses, to tops, to skirts. The shopper specifies fabric, color, and fit from those patterns. Items are sewn on demand, and ordered either online or at trunk shows in consultants’ homes across the country (which can be found on the website). Pieces are reasonably priced, ranging from $115 to $200, and shipping is free. Ellie Kai features styles, easy-care fabrics and custom textiles that reflect the sophisticated and trans-continental lifestyle of Ms. Hostetter and now boasts over 6,000 clients in 28 states and is growing due to it’s unique business model. The clothes are designed, sourced and manufactured in Asia and sold through trunk shows across the country. Incredibly the garments are shipped in just 3 weeks!
Unlike other direct sales companies, Ellie Kai’s ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing model owns every part of the process – from design concept, fabric sourcing and production (overseen directly by Hostetter herself) all the way to the company’s own sales network and clients. Sales consultants, who run the social shopping trunk shows, work directly with clients to select and customize each basic style. The garment is then ordered online through the website, elliekai.com, and sewn on-demand to a client’s specifications at Ellie Kai’s ethically monitored facility in Schenzhen, China.
So where does the name Ellie Kai come from? Ellie is a nickname for Elizabeth (Liz), and Kai has many meanings around the world including “strong”. Not only does the company allow women to have their own businesses, part of it’s mission includes investing in education, literacy and leadership programs for women and girls and supports two key charities: “A Better Chance” (ABC) in the United States and “Room to Read”, with an emphasis on projects in Bangladesh, India and Laos.
I can’t tell you how impressed I am by the company, what it stands for and most importantly the quality of the garments. Why wouldn’t you want clothes #madeforme? Be sure to check out elliekai.com. You will have tons of fun designing your own wardrobe. I did!
– Lauren Dimet Waters
Photos: Chip Riegel, Second City Style and Ellie Kai