Greenwich Look

Spring 2017

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QUICK LOOK Polo Meets Boho: BOOTSTRAPPING A LIFESTYLE BRAND By Nancy Better Five years ago, Elizabeth Goodwin Welborn flew to Peru from her home near San Francisco. The young mom was on a mission: to find a team of artisans to weave the perfect alpaca wool poncho. "I went blindly, with a whole lot of naiveté and guts," Welborn recalls. "I came into fashion with no experience and not one contact. I still feel like a detective trying to figure out the best places to make unique and high quality pieces." Today Welborn's company – called Stick & Ball, for how polo players casually refer to their sport – sells a broad array of apparel and accessories online and at boutiques around the world. In December, Stick & Ball opened a flagship retail store in Mill Valley, CA, which doubles as Welborn's design studio. The fast-growing line includes handcrafted ponchos, wraps and throws, vegetable-tanned leather goods and ethnic-inspired jewelry. With prices ranging from $69 for a t-shirt to $1,250 for a carryall, Welborn refers to her brand as "affordable luxury." An avid polo player who studied international business and Spanish in college, Welborn worked in the telecommunications industry before launching Stick & Ball. "My aesthetic morphs my love of classic equestrian, cowgirl, bohemian and South American gaucho," she explains. "When I create pieces, they reflect my love of town and country and can be easily worn in both places." Welborn sold her first ponchos from the side of a polo field, and she still enjoys connecting with her customers. "I spend a great deal of time on the road meeting with artisans, and visiting sales events and pop-up shops," she says. When she isn't working, or taking care of her son and daughter, Welborn can be found with stick and ball in hand. "Aside from design, my passion is polo. I play wherever I go!" STICK & BALL Extra, Extra! All the News That's Fit to Wear By Nancy Better Connie Carman never intended to start a major entrepreneurial venture. As manager of the gift shop at Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza, she watched used newspapers pile up around the hotel. One day she tried creating a tote bag out of them – and Couture Planet was born. Six years later Carman's two partners, Kathy Cormier and Michelle Kane, oversee a staff that produces merchandise sold in 15 states, and through Couture Planet's website. "Our products are definitely aspirational," says Cormier. "Maybe you can't afford the Manolo Blahnik shoes, but you can afford our bag with a Manolo Blahnik ad." Couture Planet offers four styles -- the Stella (large tote), the Coco (small tote), the Clutch (which resembles a rolled-up newspaper), and the Lauren (wristlet) – ranging from $38 to $90. The manufacturing process involves combing through recycling bins for clippings, then framing, laminating, layering and stitching them together. Each bag requires 30 to 40 pages, and no two are exactly alike. "Our best-selling bag was made from a Chanel No. 5 ad that bore a photo of Marilyn Monroe," Cormier says. "Customers went crazy for it. We'd love for Chanel to rerun that ad!" All of Couture Planet's bags are made by a team of female artisans at the company's headquarters in Lynn, MA. "It's really important to people to know where their merchandise comes from. Customers are always asking to visit our workrooms. It makes them feel good about supporting our products." As Couture Planet expands, Cormier's team is constantly hunting for fresh ideas. "Our designs are inspired by the images we discover," she says. "Luckily we just enjoyed a big victory by our New England Patriots. We can't make our Super Bowl bags fast enough! Beyond wanting to carry a bag with Tom Brady's face, I think people feel like they're carrying a little piece of history on their arm." COUTURE PLANET [ ] 012

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