In 2007, identical twins Alexis and Kymber McClay could not have been on more different life trajectories. After graduating from business and fashion design school and spending their first few years in the professional world, the then 24-year-old twins looked up at one another and came to the same conclusion: this is not what they were meant to be doing. Soon after leaving their previous professions behind, they put their business and creative minds together and decided to set out on their newfound dream of designing a t-shirt line. Thus, Naven was born! In 2008, the pair officially launched their clothing brand, Naven.
What started as a mere t-shirt line quickly grew into an iconic women’s fashion brand. Only two years after launching their brand, Alexis and Kymber’s clothing line was being worn by the likes of the Kardashian sisters, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Lopez–not to mention features on the covers of Shape, Seventeen, and Star magazine. Now, over ten years later, Naven is sold in hundreds of stores worldwide, including Neiman Marcus, Urban Outfitters, Sak’s, Planet Blue, Revolve Clothing, and many more.
We sat down with the dynamic duo and picked their brains on all things fashion, sisterhood, lifestyle, and entrepreneurship!
How did Naven come about?
A: We started Naven in 2008. A long time ago - feels like a lifetime ago. I went to Pepperdine and did marketing, and my sister went to FIDM and studied design. We always knew we wanted to work together, but we both had our own separate things going on at the time. So, we got bored with our jobs independently, and we always had a kind of hungry entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to work together, so we joined forces and started Naven. We started what we thought was going to be a smaller t-shirt line. We made a business plan, and our initial investment was only about $10,000. It ended up being a huge success! We sold to over 500 retailers and had these big collaborations. We really hustled our way up, and it grew into something big.
Back in 2008, did you think you’d be where you are now?
K: Honestly, the industry is so much different than it used to be in 2008. Like Alexis said, in 2008 we thought we were going to do a t-shirt line, and now we’re doing a women’s contemporary brand and we have three other brands. We always had big plans, but this is not where we thought we’d be. We were thinking we would open our own retail stores and have a flagship store.
A: And in 2008 when we started, Instagram did not really exist, so social media was not at the forefront of a business plan for fashion. We really focused on wholesale and getting into department stores. And that was our dream, that was our goal. Now, as we’ve evolved and the whole market has evolved, our whole strategy is really focused around influencer marketing. It’s no longer about who’s wearing it on the red carpet, it’s about who’s wearing it on Instagram and who’s blogging about it.
What’s the hardest part about working with your twin sister?
A: Working with a sister is really interesting. People ask all the time, “what do you guys bicker about?” My sister is the out-there creative designer, and I’m more of the sales and numbers kind of person. So, Kymber will design this amazing creative collection, and I’ll be like, “that’s not sellable, that’s not mass-market”. So finding the fine line between what the numbers are saying and still being really creative is the hardest part of fine-tuning our craft as sisters.
K: I don’t know if I would say that this is a hard part, it’s just sometimes challenging working with family, or working with a twin sister, we’re always brutally honest with each other. Which is such a great thing, but sometimes it’s hard to hear things you don’t want to hear, and admit when you’re at fault, or that you’re not managing something properly or that someone is better at doing a certain job than you are, and you have to focus on what you’re really good at. But having a twin sister, they will always be brutally honest and really point out what you’re not doing right, but that can be both the best and worst part of working with a family member.
A: With us there’s no filter. So being accountable for your actions and your mistakes, and not being stubborn and just saying “yes, you’re right” and “let’s make this better” and move on. Learn from it, instead of getting defensive. Finding the balance between honesty and not having a filter, and taking each other’s advice to heart.
Tell us about the connection between your brand and women’s philanthropy…
A: We’ve realized as we’ve evolved into women, we want to define our passion and turn it into a purpose. Being in the fashion industry for so long, it can be a very surface-level industry, women can be catty towards one another, and we just got to the point where we got fed-up with women and girls looking at one another as competition, instead of creating this sisterhood that should be there. So, we made it our mission to empower women. We partnered with a company called Global Giving, specifically to work with the Girl Fund where we help girls in developing nations get out of poverty by helping them with education, finding a job, and helping them with legal fees. We donate a portion of revenue from sales. But we have also found that doing little things day-to-day, keeping in mind that kindness is the best currency, to empower, support, and mentor other women really makes a difference. We try to live our life with that in mind every day, and share that message through Naven. Our vision is to create a global community of women who are beautiful from the inside-out, and reflect that in everything they do.
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