26-year-old besties Charlotte Greville and Danielle Mayer are no strangers to the fashion industry. They both work in it--Greville, as a stylist who cut her teeth working for Vogue Japan's George Cortina, and Mayer, a newly-minted designer out of Parsons who has interned for Rachel Comey and currently pays the bills freelancing. They're the scrappy upstarts behind brand new accessories line Best Friends Brooklyn, and they just launched ecommerce this week. (If you want to check out their wares in person, stop by their first trunk show at Thistle & Clover in Fort Greene, Brooklyn on June 22 or Cynthia Rowley, where they're already being stocked.)
As the name of the line implies, Greville and Mayer are indeed best friends. They even co-captained their Brookline, MA high school cheerleading team together, though you'd never suspect it to look at them now (see evidence above, left, and current photo of the girls in their studio, below). And they're also, duh, based out of Brooklyn. Another jewelry line out of Brooklyn? Yes. But these girls aren't Pamela Love-devotees. They've used their backgrounds and connections in fashion to their advantage, taking a cautious approach to a new line that's quite craft-based (think lots of wood blocks, leather probably to come); a pleasant departure from the skeletons and talons and gothic charms that have dominated the Brooklyn jewelry scene for the past few years.
I stopped by Greville and Mayer's studio (read: a small back room in Mayer's Greenpoint apartment) to find out how they're making it:
Fashionista: You guys are obviously good friends and both work in fashion--what made you decide to collaborate on a line now? Charlotte: Making things together has always been a part of our relationship. We always made little crafts projects together back in high school. And then we went our own ways and now we've come back together and thought, 'Why don't we actually make something?' I just love a piece that catches your eye. But with fashion, a lot of those eye catching pieces are uncomfortable to wear so I wanted to make something that was both eye catching and is a statement piece but is totally comfortable to wear. Danielle: I think it also helped that I went back to school to get a degree in design from Parsons. Then we were both really working on the same thing--our career paths were paralleling each other.
What are your fashion backgrounds? Charlotte: I've been styling since I graduated from college. I was lucky enough to know George Cortina's first assistant and they needed someone and from there, as long as I could say I'd worked for George Cortina, it seemed like I could work anywhere. And I've been able to keep growing and working with new stylists since then. But I always wanted to design too. It just makes me feel happy to make things with my hands. Danielle: I studied literature in college and worked in publishing for a while but I had also been into sewing and construction. So I decided to really pursue that passion and went back to school to get my AAS in fashion design from Parsons. While I was at Parsons I interned for Rachel Comey and since I graduated last year I've been working as a freelance designer doing design assistant work.
You've just started your collection but you're already sold at Cynthia Rowley and just launched ecommerce. How are you funding everything? Danielle: We started in our spare time meeting in Charlotte's kitchen after work and playing around with materials we both already had. We started experimenting and funding those experiments out of our own pockets as we went along. Now that we've got some orders we're putting that money directly back into the line. We haven't taken out a loan. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Charlotte: Time is the biggest investment. And we opened a joint bank account.
What's the biggest risk you've taken in starting the line? Charlotte: Converting the back room in Danielle's apartment into our studio. I pay rent on it! Danielle: I think deciding to do this and not having a super concrete plan and suddenly people are interested and are we ready for this? I think the biggest risk we've taken is to see where it can go. Charlotte: But it's our dream--I'd love for this to be my full-time job.
Why accessories? Charlotte: We can be our own factory. Danielle: To launch a clothing line you need a lot of capital to hire pattern makers and produce and all of that. We don't have to deal with placing orders [to produce accessories] and we can work around our not-always-set-in-stone schedules.
How would you describe Best Friends Brooklyn (BFB)? Danielle: It's been really materials driven--we started with wood and leather. Both of us are interested in the idea of craftsmanship--of learning a craft. That's why leather and wood appealed to us: you have to use special tools and it's like learning a secret code.
How did you learn? Charlotte: I went to a book store with my mother two years ago and she bought me a bunch of books about wood and leather working and I ordered a cow skin and some blocks of wood off the internet and just started making stuff.
Have you developed any best practices so far? Charlotte: We test out all our pieces before we pitch them. We give them to our hardest partying friends--you know those people who tend to beat stuff up and then we see how they held up, whether the length was right, did it bang into their drinks, etc.,
Do you have anyone you'd consider a mentor? Who has helped most along the way? Charlotte: For me it's Grace Koo, who used to be George Cortina's first assistant. She's been a total supportive older sister to me and any time I've had any questions or concerns about anything work related she's always been there. She was really helpful in figuring out which stores we should pitch our line to.
Where do you want to end up, ideally? What store? Unanimous: Barneys.
Click here to see Best Friends Brooklyn's full look book.