Two yogi best friends, Brittany and Karah, founded this Phoenix based brand, 523, back in 2013. The two share a love for fashion and all things 70s. They got their name from the birthday they share, May 23rd . They are currently in the process of changing their name from the original 5two3 to a simpler 523. I stopped by their showroom in Old Town Scottsdale to learn more about the local brand.

 
 

You two met at a yoga studio and began sewing headbands soon after, but how and why did you expand into the apparel design business?

Karah: We had a trunk show in Sedona and we found this pair of pants that we both fell in love with. We were very inspired and were like -Oh my god I think we can make these.- We each bought a pair and loved them and said lets just start with this. The pants we ended up making are our -peace pants- with the rolled down waist. They are super flattering on everyone. We started with that, we've always loved fashion, and then it just expanded to rompers, shirts, and so on. Once you learn how to do one thing, you can learn to do it all.

Who would your ideal audience be and what would their characteristics look like?

Brittany: Somebody who travels, somebody that's probably going to a music festival on the weekends with their friends, up with trends - you can't be afraid to stand out in our designs, they definitely stand out, so it's not for people who just want a plain t-shirt. It would be for someone who wants something unique; we do our stuff in limited runs so they'll be one of [only] 50 people to have it. Somebody probably between the ages of 18-40...

Karah: ...someone who is out and about and wants to go to fun restaurants and go out with their friends.

How would you describe your brand essence?

Karah: We are kind of trying to target resort wear that is something comfortable, something that you could travel with - most of our stuff you can throw in your suitcase, it's going to be fine, and easily washes. It almost has a boho-rocker vibe. I've always liked edgier stuff - forever in black combat boots, studs, and I wear a lot of black. Vintage t-shirts - love them! And then there is this whole other boho side, so it is kind of edgy and sweet, boho and rocker. Everything is super comfortable though. There are no zippers and no buttons; so you can put it on in the morning, work in it, nap in it, and then go out in it. You can pretty much live in it.

What motivates and inspires your designs?

Brittany: We love the 70s.

Karah: Yes! We are so inspired by the 70s - and old movies.

Brittany: Yeah, like -The Witches of Eastwick- with Susan Sarandon and Cher and -Thelma and Louise!-

Karah: There are such cool trends in different decades that we are inspired by. We always see stuff and think -we can make a modern day version of that!- - not cheesy 70s but it-s still kind of inspired.

What is the future for 523?

Karah: Our line is going to continue to expand. We've only been doing clothes for ten months but have had the company over two years. It hasn't even been that long and we've come so far. We just hired Jen (pictured), who is helping out with designs, pattern making, and sewing. We are starting to work on spring 2016 right now. We are hand-dying all of our own fabrics, printing all of our own fabrics, and it is all made right here so our stuff is super original.

How does the fabric manufacturing work?

Karah: What we used to do is go to Los Angeles and buy rolls of fabric. What we are starting to do is create our own. You can buy your own graphics, Jen actually knows how to design graphics. Then you buy your fabric, and then you can have the graphics printed on it. We also do hand-dyed fabrics. We buy the fabric white, go to the dye house, figure out what colors we want, and then sometimes print on them after. We do the printing in Los Angeles.

Brittany: We have one guy we get the fabric from, one guy who dyes it, a girl that prints it...

Karah: ...and then another person ships it - we have three different people that we buy fabrics from. Our contact list is huge; and everybody's name is Sam (laughs).

You donate 5.23% of earnings to women in developing or repressed countries that are starting their own apparel business. How do you find these women and do you keep in contact with them?

Brittany: We find them from Mary, our third partner. She is an amazing entrepreneur and she showed us this website kiva.org. It's so cool - you can go on there and find people who are looking for loans to start their businesses. You can search by category and country. One of the women we helped was a woman in Malaysia that needed $150 for a sewing machine and fabric. I'm sure we could keep in contact with the people we've helped, but we haven't.

Karah: At some point, we actually want to start going to the countries and seeing them - maybe bring some of our fabric and get inspired by things that they are doing. We actually want to get involved but right now there is a lot of stuff going on, but for the future that is definitely something we both want to do.

 

 

The ladies from 523 are not only wonderful designers and entrepreneurs; they are philanthropic and are paving the way for Phoenix based brands. Continue to follow their story using the links below:

Web | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr

 

By: Allison Sherman

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