A few years ago, Miriam Alden, 39, was selling pashminas out of the back of her car to raise funds to launch her own fashion label. Her business idea was inspired by two things: her appreciation for comfortable, classic clothing pieces and her passion for empowering other women. In 2014, the Vancouverite founded BRUNETTE the label, the BRUNETTE Showroom, and The Babe List, a platform for celebrating other female entrepreneurs.
Here, we chat about Miriam’s career path, the ups and downs of running a fashion label, and why she prioritizes helping lift up other girlbosses.
Briefly walk us through your career path. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a self-funded entrepreneur who didn’t always know that I wanted to be in fashion. As a child, I was always designing things, so I guess it could have been a given, but it was probably around the age of 19 that I actually started to work in fashion, as a fit model, and later worked in many other aspects of the industry, such as writing, styling, and sales. When I started BRUNETTE Showroom I had to raise money, so I was selling pashminas out of the back seat of my car. I continued to work hard and there were times when it wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy, but we’re now sold at over 700+ retailers across North America and have collaborated with a handful of large brands including Juicy Couture, Nordstrom, Coveteur, and more. And it is for sure worth it. I love what I do.
When did you launch BRUNETTE the label? How has it evolved since?
I launched BRUNETTE the label in early 2014 with a vision to create clothing foreveryone, regardless of age, gender, or style. I wanted people to feel empowered by what they were wearing. When I started the brand, I wanted it to be focused solely on retailers, working to fill a void in the market for casual, cute clothing everyone can wear. The brand has now definitely evolved through product designs. Our first design was a sweater that read ‘BRUNETTE is the new black,’ and now you can find vintage printed tees, bike shorts, and basically all your basic essentials. The brand has evolved, but the vision has stayed the same. How we make people feel is the most important thing.
What inspired your focus on creating comfortable designer pieces?
Honestly, this is a great question. What inspired creating comfortable pieces was actually the need for it. People should feel empowered by what they’re wearing and comfortable. For me it is all about the community we have built and I am incredibly grateful.
Why do you think the shift towards investing in staple pieces rather than buying into trends is so important?
It’s important because it’s exactly how people are shopping – quality over quantity. People are looking to purchase an item that they love and will keep for a while, rather than something a bit more ‘fast fashion.’ At least that is my experience.
What’s it like running a fashion brand? What are the highlights and what are the challenges?
I love running a fashion brand. Being able to make something that you feel everyone will be empowered by is such a great feeling.
Some of my highlights are being able to keep my roots in the city where I started and collaborating and partnering with incredible brands like Juicy Couture and Nordstrom. Honestly, so many highlights!
There are always hurdles in business, but my team is so supportive and creative. I’m so lucky to have such a great team. My label was anything but an overnight success.
What’s a day-in-the-life like for you?
It definitely depends on the season. During the winter months, there’s a huge focus on trade shows, which includes a lot of travel. But overall, everything from creative designs to building team morale and meetings, to off-site meetings with potential partners, and team brainstorms. Plus, we have a flagship store in Vancouver, so we try to host as many events as possible. My days vary consistently, and I love that about my job.
How did the Juicy Couture collaboration come about?
Our team actually participated in a trade show in Las Vegas a few years back and their team ended up popping by our booth. I wasn’t in the booth at the time, but my sales manager Chloe was and basically poured her heart out for the brand—we’re huge fans! After that we set up a call with them, and the rest is history. My fascination with Juicy Couture started when I bought my first tracksuit in college and basically all of my friends who spoke at my wedding said that they could always find me in my Juicy Couture tracksuit. From there, we connected over the brands’ similarities, and they loved the Babes Supporting Babes messaging behind the brand. In February of 2018 our first collaboration came about and we’re actually currently working through something for this year as well.
Why is it important to you to show support for fellow female entrepreneurs? What was your vision behind The Babe List? What does #babessupportingbabes mean to you?
It’s so important to support female entrepreneurs! We launched The Babe List in 2019 as a platform to support all entrepreneurs, but I am a girl’s girl. I am one of three sisters and have always been really focused on working together to grow with other female entrepreneurs, so The Babelist has predominantly focused on female entrepreneurs. My brand’s mission is to change the meaning of the word “babe” to mean “someone who always assumes positive intent and goes out of their way to uplift others.” By supporting other women, we “uplift all babes, all day, every day,” which is actually our brand’s motto. I am always looking to actively promote and partner with other females in the industry, as one of my biggest motivations is building relationships with those I work with, on all levels.
Tell us about your philanthropic partnerships—for example, with One Girl Can. Why are these causes important to you?
It’s important to give back to the community and to do your part. One Girl Can is an organization that works to provide education and mentorship to young girls in Kenya. We’re always aiming to support and mentor young girls where we can, especially those who are not as fortunate as we are, which is why we decided to donate 100% of our online sales on International Women’s Day to One Girl Can. Babes supporting babes is something we as a team are very passionate about.
What’s next for you and BRUNETTE? Where do you see yourself in five years?
My goal in two to five years is for BRUNETTE the label to be more of a global brand. A large focus for 2020 has been to penetrate the European market, with a focus on growth in both Europe and the US. We’re very excited to share what’s next, including some exciting partnerships this year!