After revealing September’s qualification Grant Finalists last week, we’re excited to finally announce our qualification grant winner. Congrats Cathy Kellon, Creater of Ivalieu.
WN: Where does the name Ivalieu come from?
CK: I wanted a name that was evocative of an era when bloomers (aka pettipants) were commonly worn and I’ve always loved names from the turn of last century so I scoured genealogy sites and pored over lists of long-lost relatives. There I stumbled upon the name of my great-grandmother’s sister: Evelyn Ivalieu Nisewarner. I was immediately smitten and thought the spelling and sound of Ivalieu (pronounced “eye-vah-lou”) were love, love, lovely. To top it off, Ms. Nisewarner grew up near Lovettsville, Virginia, where I was raised, and later moved to Warrenton, Virginia, the area where my husband grew up. A name with personal significance that bridges the past and present? Check.
WN: What led you to design Ivalieu clothing?
CK: After my second child I realized that I had been avoiding wearing skirts and dresses, especially so during the summer. It was too bad, I thought, as a skirt or dress instantly makes me feel more pulled together and attractive and those can be elusive feelings when you’ve got wee ones. But they simply were not practical. It was nearly impossible to keep my private bits private with all the bending down to pick things up, the repeatedly getting up and off the floor with your babies, toddlers toddling along lifting up your skirt, not to mention bike commuting for work.
Then one day I was reading a blog post about what to pack when traveling and the female author said she takes several skirts and a pair of bike shorts to wear underneath to deal with the ol’ sticky thighs issue. What? I had had enough. We can put a rover on the planet Mars but the only options for women who are active but also want to wear a skirt or dress is to wear tight, compression undergarments or sweaty bike shorts? And don’t get me started on those nylon slip-shorts made with a thin elastic waistband and pleats. Ack! I decided there must be a better way to preserve some modesty while feeling and looking good.
I wanted to modernize the bloomers of old with new performance fabrics and thoughtful design details. And so Ivalieu Pettipants was born.
Well, that makes it sound easier than it was. In the time it took me to go from concept to market, my youngest went from toddler to kindergartner. I’m a geographer by training and have spent my career in the nonprofit sector. Without any prior experience in the apparel world and while holding down a full-time director position by day, I’ve plowed forward by sheer determination and asking for advice at every turn.
From sourcing fabrics to incorporating the business and building a website, I’ve learned a ton. And as of this summer, all the design and production elements came into place so that I was able to launch online sales in July – yeah! I’m also very happy to say that Ivalieu are being manufactured where I live, in Portland, Oregon – double yeah!
WN: What makes your clothing so comfortable?
1. Delicious fabrics (is that a thing?). I searched high and low for performance fabrics that are light and stretchy, that wick and dry quickly yet still behave like a slip (no clothes clinging, thank you very much). Not only are the materials I offer durable and comfortable, you can go from work to work out without a wardrobe change.
2. I designed Ivalieu with a wide yoke of a waistband that smooths but doesn’t try to squeeze you like you’re a sausage. No elastic, zippers, snaps or buttons = no pinching. It’s a waistband that respects you.
3. The Sport silhouette, since it’s the most fitted version, is made with inner seams running side-to-side instead of front-to-back. That means there’s no pesky seam running all up in your business.
WN:Where did you come up with the creative names for your fabric?
CK: One late night when I was building the Ivalieu website I realized that I needed colloquial names for the fabrics I’m using (e.g., “wicking #19003” didn’t have much of a ring to it). I decided I wanted all the names to come from a 1980s pop song. ‘Cause why not? And so all the fabrics have three word names drawn from the lyrics for “Safety Dance” by the inimitable Men Without Hats. Note: my husband was terrified I would violate copyright laws so my most popular fabric is named “Safe To Dance.” Close enough to still make me giggle.
WN: Where do you hope to sell your clothing in the future?
CK: I’ve gotten great feedback from customers thus far so I’m excited to roll Ivalieu out to broader circles over the coming months. Ivalieu are currently available for purchase online at www.ivalieu.com and they will be available wholesale to small and regional retailers in the U.S. after the holidays (I’m getting my line sheets all lined up).
WN: Any advice for other female entrepreneurs?
CK: Gosh, there’s so much advice out there for folks starting a business (maybe in 5 years I’ll feel comfortable dispensing advice on running a business ; ) so I’ll share the mantra that propelled me into, and has sustained me thus far in, this entrepreneurial adventure.
Not “fearless,” the adjective like, “Bungee jump off this bridge? No prob.” No, instead, “fear less” like, get rid of what’s unnecessary. Like, “You don’t need to be perfect, just the honest, reasonable best you can do right now right here.” Like, “Feel free to go ahead and do that cartwheel ‘cause you’re wearing Ivalieu.”
As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized my inner voice is actually pretty reliable. But to hear it, to be true to myself, layers of doubt and angst have to be peeled back. Whether it’s anxiety about rejection, embarrassment, falling short of perfection, or even minor criticism; social fear can make a mess of things.
Fear less. My little touchstone that set me down this path and a reminder that there’s strength and freedom in making mistakes.
Plus, it puts in perspective what really matters. When I find I’m second guessing myself, or otherwise feeling off-kilter in this business world it’s usually because I’m afraid of something that while it may not be pleasant, it also won’t kill me. As Frank Turner sings it (sorta), as long as I have family, friends, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food to eat, everything else is no big deal, right?
Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.
And if you’d like to vote for Cathy to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for her here.