Designer Profile: Chelsea and Kaitlyn of Relique
This month, we have the pleasure of introducing our readers to the creative team behind Relique (pronounced “ray-leak”), Chelsea Carson (CC) and Kaitlyn Vasquez (KV). They talk to us a little bit about the history of their lingerie collection and how they balance their life with running their own lingerie business. Take a look:
TLJ: Tell us a little bit about Relique? The name, at first glance, oozes a back story. What’s the story behind the name?
CC: We are an independent lingerie company creating handmade pieces with an emphasis on being multi-functional and meant to be seen. We wanted to create lingerie that was unique but at a more approachable price point.
KV: There really isn’t that much of a back story with the name. When we decided to start this and began thinking about lingerie in general we kept thinking about sexy high end french prostitutes. That wasn’t the direction we wanted our lingerie to go but that’s just what pops into our heads!!
CC: A couple days later I realized that we both have french middle names (mine is Renee and Kait’s is Angelique) and I just fused them together to form Relique (ray-leak). It was pretty quick, there weren’t days and days of trying to think of a clever name. We are both really happy with it and it makes the brand more personal.
TLJ: When was Relique started?
KV: We started Relique in February of this year. We both have “real” jobs outside of our brand and things were really slow for us at the time. They are fashion industry jobs but anyone else who works more corporate jobs knows they can be very up and down. We both needed a creative outlet where we could do things we weren’t doing at work and it just started falling together.
TLJ: How did the two of you meet? Do both of you have similar backgrounds in fashion and design?
CC: We met at the University of Rhode Island freshman year when we lived down the hall from each other in the dorms. I studied fashion design and after college I freelanced and interned at Tommy Hilfiger, Zac Posen, and NY&Co doing production, pattern making, and technical design.
KV: I studied costume design and styling and then after leaving college I freelanced and interned on major movies doing costume styling and wardrobe and also styled models for a few independent fashion companies.
TLJ: Could each of you share details about your backgrounds and how each of you became lingerie designers?
KV: I’ve always been a fan of lingerie but it’s really funny to hear the words “lingerie designers” because I think neither of us really see it that way. I mean we know that’s exactly what we’re doing but I guess being young we never thought we’d ever have those words linked to our names. We just found a hole that needed to be filled and we wanted to fill it!
TLJ: The two of you note that vintage lingerie is a source of inspiration. Could you give us some insights and examples of that inspiration?
CC: We are both HUGE vintage fans and one day I went on a google bender looking at old lingerie and found Illisa’s vintage lingerie at Showplace Antique Center on 25th St. It’s become a great source in inspiration and Illisa couldn’t be any nicer she truly loves lingerie and what it evokes in people. We sat for hours looking through her pieces and just looking at the craftsmanship of the vintage lingerie was so inspiring because they really took the time to make everything and cared bout the detail that went into it.
KV: And me having a costuming background I studied time periods so when I see anything I automatically link it to a certain era. The vintage pieces that we saw were just so beautiful it really made us think about how we wanted our lingerie to be part of an outfit not just something worn under and hidden.
TLJ: What are the fabrics, special details and size ranges for your line?
CC: We use mostly cotton jersey and nylon mesh throughout the collection. One of the things we were really adamant about doing was something truly unique so we started reverse bleaching the jersey and found that great burnt orange color underneath. Once we found that the other colors came together quickly. While we were looking at pieces at Illisa’s we found a lot of the bras had this very different closure we had never seen before and really wanted to bring it back and incorporate it in everything. We later found a few other designers doing it and that it’s actually a bow tie hook and grommets. We also came up with the idea of adding grommets at the front and back of the knickers to make a detail that was not only decorative but functional in that you can attach our garters to them if you wanted. The whole collection is about versatility and being multi-functional so we found this to be a great addition. As for the sizes we do small through extra large on the website but as a made to order company if someone asked for a smaller or larger size we would accommodate for them.
TLJ: Living in NYC, the fashion district is home to supply shops for fabrics, laces, trim, etc, just about everything a lingerie designer needs to make some amazing creations. Do the two of you shop in this area for your fabrics/supplies? Do you enjoy the experience?
CC: Yes we try to get all of our fabrics and trims from the garment district in NYC to help out the industry. There is a big problem with the factories and shops shutting down because of rent and outsourcing. I personally have seen a lot of factories shutdown in the few years I’ve worked in the industry and feel that local government needs to take a bigger stand with trying to help these people. 100 years ago this is where almost all of U.S. clothing was made and we can’t let it disappear. Also when you buy directly from the shops you form great relationships with the people who’s businesses have been around for decades and they are extremely helpful.
TLJ: What about the harder to find items, like the 1920s closures.
CC: The closure is actually a bow tie hook that is pretty difficult to find separate from the 2 other parts that come with it. This we have to buy in bulk from a vendor out of GA. Also, surprisingly, trying to find really good garter clips in the city is difficult. Most shops have the basics for making lingerie but when it comes to the more ornate parts the good quality ones are harder to find.
TLJ: Is there a specific type of woman you design for?
KV: We were really out to design for every woman, something comfortable but uniquely sexy. We didn’t want the typical “bells and whistles” of lingerie to get in the way of the options in which you can wear our line. Pieces that you can throw on that are comfortable and wearable throughout the day and when you come home later they’re still perfect for the bedroom It’s not about being thin or curvy either it’s about bringing out the confidence that is in every woman.
TLJ: Where can women buy your lingerie? What about store owners interested in putting a wholesale order with you? Where should we direct them?
KV: Right now we have a shop on Etsy where we hand make everything from start to finish. We are definitely available for wholesale orders but would have to put a 25-30 piece cap on it and need a longer lead time because it is just the two of us. If anyone is interested they should feel free to contact us at email@example.com!
TLJ: Looking at the offerings on your Etsy shop, I absolutely love, love the pink dyed Orion Chemise. What was the inspiration behind that design?
CC: It actually came as an extension of the Volans top! I loved the shape of the bra top and thought it would be great as a longer chemise. This garment, actually both of these garments, were intended to be the most multi-functional in the collection in that you could throw on the Volans bra top with a high waisted skirt to wear out or tuck the Orion chemise into jeans (with a bra underneath of course if you’re in public). We really wanted to create pieces that you could comfortably wear as part of an outfit. Everything is meant to be seen and we felt that with the popularity of sheer tops and over-sized tanks there wasn’t any lingerie out there that was less lingerie-ish and more like it’s own garment. Especially pieces that were affordable!! The pieces up on the site right now are our initial collection but we have a few more we’re working on that will be up soon to fill out our 6TILMIDNIGHT collection!
TLJ: Why the name “6TILMIDNIGHT” for this collection?
KV: Because we work during the day we really only had time to work on the line when we came home from our other jobs. We usually got home around six and would work on it til about midnight. It was personal to our situation but we also thought it sounded pretty rad.
TLJ: The two of you have your own studio in SOHO, correct? How long have the two of you been working there? What’s your normal schedule like?
KV: It’s our apartment actually on Thompson St!! We have dedicated a part of it as our “design studio” and it is where we make everything you see. We’ve lived there since August of last year but will be moving soon as we need more space! My schedule fluctuates at my “real” job so on my off time I work on brand related things and Chelsea has a typical 9-5 so when she’s off we do a lot of work together in the evenings.
TLJ: Obviously, since the two of you are working together, there’s a strong friendship there. How do the two of you share the responsibilities of running Relique?
KV: We are best friends and that definitely makes things a little tricky if things aren’t going too well but we’re both the type of person to just tell the other if somethings bothering one of us, which helps immensely!! We both have complete control over everything so when one of us thinks of something it’s always bounced off the other.
TLJ: Are there areas that one of you tackles almost exclusively? Could you touch on how the two of you work together?
CC: I do all of the pattern making and sewing. I’ve been sewing since I was 12 and pattern making is a big passion of mine so I tackle both of those areas myself.
KV: Because Chelsea does all of the sewing I made it my responsibility to deal with the packaging and final prep for all shipments. I do the labeling, tagging, and keep the order books organized. Together we both do the pattern cutting and both share equal responsibilities with the social aspect of the business; facebook, blog, twitter, and emails.
TLJ: The two of you are working hard. What do the two of you see as the next step for Relique?
KV: We hope that we can get some consistent ordering going on Etsy and possibly into some boutiques. Down the road we would like to make this our full time careers, sell to larger stores, add members to our team, and just build the brand.
TLJ: What’s the best way for any of our wholesale readers to reach the two of you? If any consumers are interested in buying from your Etsy site, what’s the URL?
All model shots by Nicole Carson
Photo of Chelsea and Kaitlyn by Jessica Bloom