The Most Cape-able Lady: Meet Taylor Ivey, the Founder of Ellsworth & Ivey

Fashion is constantly evolving with very few pieces remaining constant. Meet Taylor Ivey, the mastermind behind Ellsworth & Ivey one of the most classic pieces of clothing own can add to your closet, the cape. Taylor is just as stunning and classic as the pieces she creates. Through years of side hustling she’s been able to grow her company and the awareness of her product into the hearts of consumers everywhere.

1. Capes to me are one of the chicest articles of clothing someone can own. What inspired you to start Ellsworth & Ivey and tell us a bit about the origin of the name.

I couldn’t agree more! Capes seem to have this incredible ability to make any outfit “instantly chic.”  They are a staple piece every woman should own!

At the time I started Ellsworth & Ivey, capes were not on trend – they were actually hard to find unless you went to a luxury brand such as Loro Piana.  Thus, I felt that there was a huge opportunity to create simple, classic cape styles.  I also had very limited funds (I started the company with $5,000 in savings) and capes were a one size fits most item.  Since they are not a fitted piece, the actual fit didn’t matter as much – which is a HUGE advantage in the clothing industry.  Basically, I was able to make one style (made to order) that could fit 80% of body types and still be classic enough to be worn by women of all ages.  I also wanted to focus on one niche item, rather than trying to launch with a full collection.  

The origin of my brand name, Ellsworth & Ivey, was inspired by my grandmothers, Shirley Ellsworth and Marilyn Brown.  They were very classic women who were poised, confident, and had a strong sense of style. Each one had her own lessons to pass down to me, from manners to values. They always believed that less is more and quality over quantity. In my designs, I wanted to create something that reflects those values in a contemporary style. So to me, the name quite literally means – “My grandmother and me” – designs we could both wear, appreciate and stand the test of time.

2. Ellsworth & Ivey is your “side hustle” how do you balance working a full time job and designing, manufacturing and marketing your brand?

I actually now split my time between Ellsworth & Ivey and another accessories company I co-run called Caruana Furs – so the side hustle has slowed down a bit for now!

That being said, Ellsworth & Ivey was my side hustle for the first three seasons I was in business, so I can certainly speak to how I balanced everything.  In short –  it wasn’t easy, but it was always worth it.  Balancing a full time job and a start up required quite a bit of sacrifice on my end.  I went out (much) less, spent every weekend working for a least 8 hours a day, woke up at 5AM during the workweek to get some hours in before my full time job, etc.  This may all sound painful, but I wouldn’t take it back for a second. Honestly, I genuinely enjoy working on my business.  It’s an incredible feeling knowing that your hard work is building something that is YOURS.  It’s also an incredible responsibility – my actions can make or break my business.  

3. Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs breaking into the apparel industry? What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve experienced so far? What’s been the biggest “pinch me” moment?

I’m sure this is true for most businesses, but everything in the apparel industry (in terms of manufacturing) seems to take twice as long and usually cost twice as much than you anticipated.  Just keep that in the back of your mind when you are planning! Here are just  more few bits of advice I have:

Start small! Find a niche and be the best at it.  Most well known designers started with one product – DVF and her wrap dresses, Ralph Lauren and ties, etc.  Trust me – start small!

Hire an accountant from the beginning.  This will save your life.  Please, just do it.

If you are not an expert in manufacturing, hire a production manager.  My production manager (shout out to Flora Yen) took my ideas and made my business what it is today.  I honestly had no idea what I was doing – she made everything a reality and taught me the ropes of manufacturing.

Surround yourself with positive people who will help you grow.  I have been amazed by the people who have stepped up to help me, and those who have not.  Starting your own business is not an easy task, so make sure your surround yourself with people who are going to make you a better person, friend, entrepreneur, etc.  This bit of advice goes beyond starting a business and is applicable to life in general.  You are the average of your five closest friends.  So choose wisely!

My biggest challenge thus far has always been cash flow. I am a self financed company, so this is a constant battle.

Biggest pinch me moment? My feature in Southern Living this past September.  I wasn’t even aware that I was being featured and my Fall collection was not online yet. I was on a flight to Nantucket and all of the sudden I received a FB notification asking when the Southern Living cape would be available on my site.  I landed in ACK, went straight to the library and spent the next few hours getting everything online.  I sold out of the cape featured within one week and had to produce more – I actually sold more capes from this one feature than the total sales from 2014!  It was an incredible experience that changed my business!

4. Where do you envision your brand in the next 5 years? Do you think you’ll break into any additional categories?

I envision Ellsworth & Ivey being more of a lifestyle brand than just a cape brand.  I have a very particular style and aesthetic and I would love to share this with the world in more ways than just capes, such as a blog, store, etc.  That being said, I run two companies by myself so time seems to be always against me!  

I will definitely break into additional categories…I actually will be for my Fall 2016 collection. I will be adding a line of blazers and silk scarves to the collection…as well as the long awaited children’s cape! I do already make sweaters and plan on continuing to do so.  

5. For the fashion wary, do you have any tips on how to perfectly style a cape?

Just own it! I think that sometimes people are nervous about wearing capes.  Don’t be! You look fabulous! I personally like to wear my capes open, almost like a vest.  Throwing a belt on your cape can also be super flattering – most of my designs come with belts.

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