Jay Adams and Katie Doyle are the fairy godmothers of South Boston. Instead of making ball gowns, they make dresses, pants, knits, and blouses that work perfectly for every occasion, from board meetings to cocktail hours. Their line, Brass, refuses to sacrifice style for the sake of versatility. Jay sat down with us to chat about the hours that go into making sure their items get the most rotation in closets across the city.
I wake up between eight and nine, which I know is on the later side. But the reason is because at night, I’m usually up Skyping with our production manager, Abby, who lives in China.
At this stage in my life, my mornings really reflect that I live and breathe the philosophy of Brass. I don’t spend very much time getting ready because my wardrobe really works for my lifestyle. I’m able to put on my makeup, shower, and get dressed in under 30 minutes. My wardrobe has a lot of Brass in it, so it makes getting ready in the morning really easy. It saves a lot of energy so that I can think about what else I want to do in the day.
A big catalyst for Katie and I in starting Brass was around this feeling of wanting to look and dress and feel a part. Once you’re getting to be 27 and 28, you want to advance in your career, which likely means that you want to match your inner ambition to your external appearance. That should be possible even if you can’t or don’t want to spend money on designer clothings. The vast majority of women purchase clothing on impulse or because they have a specific event on the horizon––you know, this meeting, this wedding, or this conference. You end up buying these one-off pieces that don’t work together, so you end up with a closet that doesn’t really serve you. Impulse buys often come from a place of insecurity, like, “I need to wear something different every day”, which is so, so insane. That fear, like, “God forbid I wear a dress I wore to a wedding a month ago again and someone sees me in it.”
Life is just really stacked not in our favor, ladies.
We know that men go to places like Brooks Brothers and they have their uniforms, their suits. For women, cultural and societal reasons put so many other pressures on our appearances. We’ve heard from customers who say things like, “It’s easier for me to put together a two-hour presentation than it is for me to figure out what to wear to that presentation.” So that’s really been our ethos behind design is: making clothes you can mix and match easily, and pieces that women feel like they look good and feel confident in. From the very beginning with Brass, we were all about soliciting customer feedback. We started with just five dresses. We took feedback from friends about silhouettes, and that helped us a lot. It’s on us to style a piece of clothing and put it on different body shapes so women can think about where it might fit into their wardrobe.
I usually get to the studio around 10 o’clock. From there, because we’re such a small team, there can be any number of things I dive into. My day might start off with a meeting–– I handle more of the creative aspect of things, and Katie runs the finance and ops side of things. We’ll get together to talk about content, what we want to do in terms of email campaigns, digital advertising campaigns, or we’ll set up for a photoshoot.
It’s probably not a good thing, but lunch is very unpredictable for me. We’re either re-heating something from home, or maybe popping out to get something from Caffe Nero. If it’s a fun day, someone might be coming in for a lunch meeting, and if it’s a longer working day like a photoshoot or if our designer is here, we’ll get lunch all together in the studio space. This happens somewhere vaguely between twelve to four o’clock. My coworkers think it’s fairly disgusting, but I will start eating a sandwich at twelve and then finish it at 4:30. I’ll be like “Oh yeah, this thing!”
Throughout the afternoon, my work ranges from looking at fabrics to thinking about our upcoming line. It also includes lot of organizational things, like making sure we’ve pinned down a time for a fitting, and making sure that everyone who needs to be there is going to be there.
Katie and I, we do a lot of strategic work in the afternoon. We meet and talk about what we want to make happen for the rest of the quarter. If we met our goals or if we missed our goals, we evaluate why it all happened the way it did. We take all that information and think about the next quarter, and also the quarter after that. Because our lead time with production is fairly long, we’re trying to not just be plan for the quarter ahead, but really more annually and even further down the line.
If we have a studio appointment, it usually happens in the afternoon because women come in after work. Katie, myself, or Janine, our studio and community manager, will take those appointments. That’s a really fun part of the day because we love to meet our customers face-to-face and help them problem-solve. We ask about what feels like it’s missing from their wardrobes, as well as work dress codes. Hopefully they walk out of our studio not just with some new clothing, but with the feeling that they’ve learned something about their needs and personal sense of style. That’s really our goal. We want to encourage intentional purchases.
Depending on the day, we might have a beer or some wine around five. That’s a nice way to take me through the next hour and a half or two hours of work, after which I’ll usually head home.
I try to leave the studio around seven, but we sometimes have events in the space. In those cases, we’ll kind of stop late afternoon and arrange the space to pull out chairs or tables. If not, I could be meeting someone for drinks after work to network, or I’ll go home to my husband.
As a creative person, being in front of the computer all day can be kind of stagnating. That’s why I like to cook dinner when I can. It’s nice to go home and do something with your hands and be like, “Oh! I made something.” We eat around eight.
Afterwards, my husband Trevor and I will occasionally watch Shark Tank because it’s very entertaining. Sometimes it’s anxiety-producing for me. He’ll be like, “You guys should go on this” and I’ll say, “Hell no”. But it’s a nice way for him and I to connect about that stuff. You know, Shark Tank is a great show. It’s really gotten people in this country excited about starting their own businesses.
I usually get back on the computer at night to talk to Abby. We talk about production- related issues. She manages all of our vendor relationships and the two factories we work with over there and our mills. I go to China twice a year to visit our factories, and that’s been a big part of why we’ve been able to be successful. Those relationships and having those face to face interactions has been a huge deal. Abby and I also talk about samples, or, if I’ve sent her blueprints for the clothes, we talk about issues to make sure she’s clear on the intent, which she communicates to the factory.
I usually don’t finish up and make it to bed until around twelve or one. But, I chose to leave my computer in the studio for the first time ever the other day. I was like “Ok, I’m doing it!”
––As told to and written by Oset Babur for The Thirty-One Percent