WASHINGTON — Little girls may be made of sugar, spice and everything nice, but that doesn’t mean their dresses need to be. In fact, a successful Kickstarter campaign is proving that many little girls prefer their clothes to be made with patterns of planes, trains and math equations.
It all started in 2013, when Rebecca Melsky’s two-year-old refused to wear anything but a dress.
“Occasionally we could get her in a skirt, but really just dresses all the time,” Melsky says.
But at the end of the day, when it came time to trade in those dresses for a pair of PJs, the toddler was more flexible in her fashion demands. Melsky even bought some of her PJs from the boys department because her daughter loved the patterns.
“In addition to wearing dresses, she also liked dinosaurs and robots and spaceships and things,” she says. “I thought, ‘Why doesn’t someone make a dress with a dinosaur on it — or a spaceship? Because she would totally wear that.’ And then I thought, ‘Someone should do that. Maybe I should do that. How do I do that?’”
She approached her friend Eva St. Clair, and soon after, the two Silver Spring residents launched Princess Awesome — a company that makes dresses with robots instead of ruffles and pirates instead of pink flowers.
To make their first run of dresses, which they sold at a church bazaar, the duo fired up St. Clair’s old Singer sewing machine, which she bought at a Goodwill store when she was nine.
“We sold 75 percent within a few weeks, and basically had sold out within a couple months after that,” Melsky says.
It was clear that the two Princess Awesome co-founders needed to grow their company — and move their production out of St. Clair’s basement. But securing a factory was an expensive hurdle, and so was printing their own cotton fabric, which is designed by a female rocket scientist.
Like many startups, they turned to Kickstarter and launched a campaign to raise $35,000. Melsky and St. Clair quickly exceeded their goal, raising close to $200,000.
“It’s just amazing how wonderfully it’s taken off. We’re going to be able to do five styles and more sizes,” St. Clair says. And since they reached their stretch goal, they’ll be able to launch a second line of dresses.
St. Clair says production will begin in May, and that the dresses should be ready by June or July. But for fans of their frocks, the Princess Awesome dresses can’t come soon enough.
“We’ve heard people say things like, ‘If only this existed when I was a child.’ Many, many people have said, ‘Why aren’t you making adult sizes?’” St. Clair says. “It’s not just validating, but we’re so grateful that people are so excited to be able to have this kind of product that they can offer their girls — that it’s something that they want for their children, just like we want it for our children.”
Both Melsky and St. Clair say that while they are excited about the success of the Kickstarter campaign, they don’t have any immediate plans to open a brick-and-mortar store. Instead, they plan to grow their online store and possibly sell in other retail locations.
“We’ve been contacted by boutiques all over the country, and we would be particularly honored to hang in some of our favorite shops in D.C., but we’re still working out the economics of wholesale,” Melsky says.
Watch what Princess Awesome plans to do with the Kickstarter money:
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