Somehow it seems strange to me that the big fashion entities we know and love today were, at some point, merely small businesses trying to make it big.
Long before Chanel developed into what it is now--an iconic fashion brand, a creator of bags and garments that cost thousands of dollars--it was just a gal named Coco peddling her new take on women's garments around her town. Well, it was Paris, but still. It's also interesting to think that, before they were in every mall ever built in America and abroad, big box retailers (any one of them) were not popular nor were they universal. There was a time when, if you wanted to visit a store called The Gap, you had to travel to its only store in San Francisco.
However, I'm not naïve. I know that this progression of a brand and company extends to every business. Anyone creating their own company desires global success--starting small and hoping that you've created such a hot commodity that you have no choice but to expand.
Yet, the fashion world always seemed difficult to break into. Saying you wanted to be a fashion designer was a bit like proclaiming you wanted to be a movie star or an astronaut; there are people that do achieve these goals, but the number is very small.
But I use past tense because in the last few years, there has been a boom in indie fashion. Now, more so than ever, the only thing a person needs to begin their venture into fashion is an idea that he or she is passionate about. Now, you can build a brand or label without having a formal education in fashion or without hundreds of thousands of dollars in start-up funds. Whatever you create, there's bound to be a target audience because people enjoy a whole mess of different things. And with technology, you can start selling locally and internationally all by punching some computer keys.
And that's exactly what one new Tulsa designer is doing. Colleen McCarty was co-owner of the 11th street café, coffeehouse and bar called The Collective. Upon its closing a few months ago, she was left unemployed and "heartbroken." She knew that she could go back into the restaurant management industry, but she wanted to do something different.
McCarty used art to purge her sadness; she printed some of her images on eco-friendly paper and made a few greeting cards. And everything moved from there. Those drawings became the foundation for what is now her own line of designs, Cloud Cover Creations, a name that McCarty came up with while driving one day and looking at a cloudy sky. It now also has an extra meaning to her--cloudy skies also provide bolts of lightning, a personal metaphor for her business.
McCarty's experiences at The Collective have trickled into her development of Cloud Cover Creations. Her experience with Photoshop, which she used to create print media for The Collective, is used to create her designs.
McCarty draws the images, scans them and proceeds to enhance them digitally with color. At this stage, she also adds backgrounds, vintage in feel and with "wallpaper scraps and patterns." Initially, the images used were "cartoon-like" animals such as birds, owls, kangaroos, deer and porcupines.
McCarty has found a delicate juxtaposition of childlike, imaginative drawings mixed with delightfully old-fashioned backgrounds. There are also a variety of vibrant color combinations to reflect any shopper's taste. McCarty said that she originally showed no control over what she created and that those were the images she happened to make. She wondered what she could do with them and who her audience would be.
On a trip to Lundeby's Eco Baby, McCarty visited with owner Tiffany Bjorlie because wanted to sell her greeting cards there, and she found another outlet for her whimsical designs: babies. Cloud Cover Creations now has a line of baby onesies, which McCarty says are ideal for moms who appreciate the indie fashion movement and value shopping locally. The animal designs and color combinations seem almost unisex, though as a happily childless gal, I could be wrong. Additionally, Lundeby's inspired McCarty to continue with the green creations. McCarty wanted a widely accepted product and something that wasn't a large investment. So she began printing her images on reusable grocery bags. Prices for both the bags and the onesies are easily accessible, with the onesies around the $20 mark and the reusable grocery bags at $25.
Cloud Cover Creations' fashion output extends only to the baby onesies and reusable grocery bags. The line still features the greeting cards, as well as large art prints. McCarty intentionally started small building Cloud Cover Creations. She admits there is still some trepidation of building the company after her experience with The Collective. She's been expanding her repertoire of images. She is interested in creating more adult-oriented items, too. Typical to many artistic professions, she finds inspiration in a wide range of areas. She focuses on pop culture, images that she sees locally and ventures to a variety of Web sites to see what resonates with other people.
In addition to expanding the images to more adult-friendly graphics, she's also looking to put her images on a larger selection of items. She's certainly thinking of adding them to adult t-shirts, though in addition to finding just the right image for an adult shirt--something "unisex and kitschy" --she's looking for the right company to print her tees.
She's also taking the company further throughout Tulsa. The Cloud Coverage Creations can be found at three area boutiques: Dwelling Spaces, Lundeby's Eco Baby (now located in Brookside's Center 1, 3516 South Peoria) and Ida Red. Taking the same approach she did with those stores--just going in and asking if they would be interested in her creations and if they would like to consign some of it--McCarty is also looking to expand the brand into more children and baby stores in Tulsa, as well as boutiques and retailers with an interest in eco-friendly products.
She's also expanding further with art shows. Currently, she has 16 prints up at Joe Momma's (112 South Elgin Avenue) up until July 1. The images not only showcase the direction in which she's taking the brand (the prints feature new graphics) but also its popularity. Thirteen of those 16 images have already sold. Expanding the art line, McCarty will also have a show at Club 209 in January.
And as it's important to do with any business today, large or small, McCarty has also taken Cloud Cover Creations to the Web. The inspiration to take her brand to etsy.com was through meeting Christine Crowe of the Tulsa Craft Mafia. Having always been interested in Crowe's crafting pursuits, McCarty was inspired by Crowe to take her brand to esty.com. McCarty admits she did have to get over her phobia of branching out to the online world. She says that while the online store, cmccarty85.etsy.com, hasn't helped her brand reach the national stage, she thinks it's a great way for people to see what her designs are like and determine if they want to own something from Cloud Cover Creations.
McCarty, and her Cloud Cover Creations, is just another example of how accessible local fashion is to buy and to create. And perhaps this brand will be another case of Coco Chanel, a successful brand with a simple start.
Share this article: