If you follow The Everygirl on Instagram, you know it’s safe to say we’re a little bit obsessed with the fashion brand Ali Ro. The designer’s anorak has become our staple travel coat, as evident in our pictures from New York Fashion Week. So when we made plans to interview Kathleen McFeeters, the incredible owner behind our beloved Ali Ro, we couldn’t have been more excited. With praise from People Style Watch, Oprah Magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, and InStyle (just to name a few!), it is no surprise that Ali Ro is a new favorite in the fashion industry. Kathleen has quickly established Ali Ro as the go-to for any contemporary woman’s wardrobe essentials. With her perfect mix of simplicity and sophistication, women of all ages are donning her colorful, patterned frocks.
There are not many people who would be able to maintain a 2AM wake up call every day, but for Kathleen, that’s just another day in the fashion industry. Crediting her daughter, Alexandra, as the muse of her collection, it is clear that being a mom is also an important factor in Kathleen’s life. Even in the rare five minutes a day she gets to herself, Kathleen’s mind is full of visual creativity. In one of the most notoriously tough industries, Kathleen has successfully developed her passion into a full-time career. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse into the “reality show” of Kathleen’s office and see just what it takes to grow one of the chicest fashion labels for the modern woman.
Full Name: Kathleen McFeeters
Year you launched Ali Ro: 2007
Educational background: Fashion Institute of Technology
What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position?
My first job out of college was at 3M Company in the Advertising and PR department. It was such an unmemorable moment that I honestly have no idea how I landed the position… went on an interview?
How did you discover your passion for fashion design, and what made you confident about evolving it from a passion to a full-time career?
I love the overall creativity that goes into fashion! There is absolutely nothing that bores me in this industry, from the design of garments, prints, fabric, the sales and production area, I enjoy it all; even Street Fashion I find fascinating. My brain is overwhelmed from visual overload, and I love the challenge of looking for the next hot item.
How did you build your brand from the ground up? After you decided this is what you wanted to do, what were the first steps you took to make it a reality?
Watching the contemporary market and having a daughter and friend’s daughters coming of age, I said “why not?” The first step was having a vision and then finding the right design staff to execute that vision. I was lucky enough to be right.
Do you have a muse for your collection? If you could choose one celebrity to be the poster girl for Ali Ro, who would it be?
My daughter Alexandra is the muse of my collection. I would choose Taylor Swift as its celebrity poster girl.
As the CEO and founder of your company, your responsibilities are endless. Take us through a day in your life. What kind of schedule and hours do you keep, and how do you manage to balance non-work related activities with such high demands?
Are you sure you don’t mean, “when do you sleep?” Only kidding. Let’s see, well I wake up at 2am everyday, get out of bed and turn on the coffee, get back into bed and start answering emails. By 3am I am checking Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Style.com, clients’ websites and Google Analytics. I then meditate for 20 minutes before getting out of bed and getting ready for work. I wake my son for school and head straight to the office, usually arriving between 5:30am and 6:15am. From this point on, the day is endless! We have 51 employees on premises, and I literally go from fittings, to design meetings, to production meetings, to PR meetings, to client meetings, and on and on and on. I am lucky if I get time to sit down and have five minutes to breathe. However, someone always manages to catch me during that moment too! I leave work at 6:30, get home in time to cook dinner for my son and am in bed by 9pm.
As far as my social life goes, that is what my Saturdays and Sundays are for. But even then I just like to spend time with my children and relax.
There are so many young women trying to get into the fashion business. What advice would you give to them? How can they stand out in the competitive fashion industry and find their niche?
Come to a job ready to work. A young person should always be at work before their boss (not including me, of course) and leave after their boss. I would say to be open to learning new things and doing anything.
What retail stores carry Ali Ro, and how did you go about getting your designs on their shelves?
It is knowing people and making sure that your product is right. Ali Ro can be found at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, and specialty stores such as:
1. Montmartre – New York, NY
2. Olive & Bettes – New York, NY
3. Julian Gold – multiple locations in TX
4. Monkees – mulitple locations in the SE
5. Boyds – Philadelphia, PA
6. Barbara Jean – Little Rock, AR
7. Darien Sport Shop – Darien, CT
8. Warren on King – Charleston, SC
9. Tina Dragone – Westport, CT
10. Poppys – Atlanta, GA
When and how did you go about expanding your team? Can you tell us a bit about your office dynamic? What can a potential intern/employee do to stand out and earn a spot at the company?
My office dynamic is a reality show. It honestly is the most frightening thing.
For someone to stand out, they would need to be presentable, hardworking, ask questions and show interest, and be aggressive in what they want to pursue.
In what ways, if any, would you still like to see your career and Ali Ro evolve?
I would love to see Ali Ro go to all doors in the contemporary world. While continuing to grow our dress business, also expand our jacket, blouse and skirt business, eventually leading to the opening of our own stores.
Best moment of your career so far?
To be honest I have never thought about this. I am always in the thick of it all, but I will say that not once in my career have I thought that I have “made it.” I never take things for granted because every day is a challenge. You are always working for it and nothing is perfect.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
I would tell my 23-year-old self to learn to speak as many languages as possible, study abroad, take advantage of every opportunity, learn how to network at a very young age. The overall message would be to think internationally.