Episode #1285 The Great: How the Courage to Be Fearless Spurs Magic

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Emily and Meritt discuss their journey and friendship leading up to The Great, starting from serendipitously sitting next to each other at graduation to building two iconic brands and setting an example their daughters can be proud of.


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The Great

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Insights from Emily and Meritt

On Taking the Leap 

  • “We have been dreaming up The Great for many years; It’s a cumulation of everything we’ve done in one line. For us, the words The Great represent the beginning or end of something monumental in history. It also reflected that it was a great moment for us, like standing on the edge of cliff and jumping. It symbolizes where we are at in our lives. We are wiser, more confident and comfortable in what we do. We are more evolved as friends, mothers, and daughters. It all comes out in the product we create. We have less rules for ourselves and a more open mind for our designs. We cut out any negativity that we endured in this business to get here. It's really special to us because we get to say ‘I love this. Can we make it?’ and the answer is ‘Yes.’” 

On Design Inspiration 

  • “We pride ourselves as designers for marching to the beat of our own drum. For better or for worse, we don’t look sideways very often to check what other people are doing. We aren’t here to touch on every trend in the world. We’re trying to tell a story about the things that are inspiring and relevant in our lives. Themes are inspired and created consciously and unconsciously every season. Whether it’s a jacket at a flea market or jeans at vintage store, everything we design has to be based in something authentically vintage, worn, or nostalgic.”
  • “Nostalgia for us is really subjective. We were born in the same year, in the same region of Northern California, so we have a lot of similar memories. Those seeds shine through everything we do. When we design things that fall into those buckets - like a piece inspired by our favorite English teacher or the plaid shirts that our dads wore to work - it makes us feel good. Our nostalgia is ours but we hope other people feel it too."
  • “A piece is done when we both love it. We are very similar and different so when we both really gravitate towards something we know it’s hit the right place. We have to both answer yes to: Do you want to wear it? Do you feel like yourself in it? And, know that others will feel the same too. At the end of the day, we are trying to create real clothes for real people living real life. So much of fashion is about an event or an occasion. We are making clothes for the main event of your life which is simply living it.”   

On Creating Magical Worlds 

  • “Fashion is a way to express yourself. It’s an experience. When you wake up and look at your closet you decide who you want to be today. What is the narrative your life? Are you going to be adventurous or are you getting down to business? Are you cleaning out your house or playing with your kids? Fashion allows you to be the person you want to be. We try to take that feeling and make it more magical. In our shoots, we take things we wear our in every day lives and put them in settings that are more dreamy. People are looking to be in their own world but also channel a dream that is more imaginative and magical.
  • “Sometimes our best work comes when we have the least amount of time and resources and are simply surrounded by beautiful things. The more conviction we have putting together a story the more special it turns out.” 

On Fashion and Entrepreneurship

  • “The greatest advice we give people trying to break into the fashion world is: Don’t neglect the business side. You can have a million ideas every day but if you don’t know how to execute them, or know how to hire people who can, the world will never see them…. If we could go back in time and educate ourselves on the business side and manufacturing, we would have probably made different decisions and be in a different place today. It is helpful and important to be a business minded creative person and a creative minded business person. You make smarter choices on both sides when you have a holistic perspective. There are times when you are passionate about a piece with a low margin but it completes the story of a collection. It is completely valid and important to move forward with that piece.”
  • “The biggest difference being entrepreneurs is the freedom to say ‘Yes’ more. Saying yes is the quickest way to charge forward. Of course, we still say no, but it’s our choice. Being on the business side has been very eye-opening for us in the sense that we could have done a lot of things we wanted all along. There is less red tape that is sometimes unnecessary…As creative young adults, we were so intimidated by business and manufacturing that we put ourselves in a creative box. As we worked and evolved, we realized that we always had that business acumen. It's nice to be able to connect all of the pieces now.” 

On Being Fearless 

  • “Fearlessness is an incredibly important quality in a creative business and is a huge part of our lives. I use the word fearless every day in my inner dialogue. We always think about the business side but fashion is emotional. When you love something, there’s a reason. When we can make choices that help articulate and create magical and emotional products we have to make those decisions. Whether they are easy or hard, we always make a choice. A lot of what we hear in our collaborations is about graphs and numbers and what worked in the past. You do have to think about those things, but not listening to the noise and doing what feels right has helped us over the years.…If you make a bad decision and something gets messed up there will be another day and you will move forward. We have made the wrong decisions before, in business and in our personal lives, and survived. It’s always better to try things rather than wonder what could have happened.” 
  • “Every year, we have to come up with thousands of completely original ideas that people want to buy. When you look at it that way, you just have to do your best and put it into the world. Whether it becomes a massive hit and sells out or ends up on the worst-seller list, you take that knowledge and move forward. When you create so many things, you have the benefit of knowledge and insight so it becomes a combination as you grow. We have been really happy that a lot of our risks have worked but there are plenty that haven’t, and it’s important to recognize that. Sometimes we love something and no one else does. We are okay with that because it’s part of our process to get where we need to be.”  
  • “Our designs are so authentic to us that if we wear it and love it, and our friends ask us to make them a pair, we have to trust our gut. We have to shut off the noise and know that we have enough confidence and a strong enough track record that if we like it we know some other people will. We run the filters: Will my conservative friend or sister wear this? How so? Will my mom think this is cool? Would this be a great gift? We bounce those questions in our head and if any of them are yes, even one of them, we say proceed!” 
  • Every time you take a risk, if you feel it in your heart that it is right, the only thing you can do is hope for the best. We keep jumping off the cliff when we feel like something needs to exist in the world and hope that others will relate.”

On 18 Years of  Friendship 

  • “It’s really exciting when you creatively see eye to eye with someone and can share your discoveries. We sat next to each other at graduation and said ‘One day we should do something together.’ We did independent freelance projects after UCLA but always called upon each other to style shoots or go vintage shopping to find the perfect piece. We spent hours digging for gems, from Los Angeles to San Diego, that when we put them together shaped our point of view. We were young and had to do it on a budget. When you are forced to do that you really have to figure out what you love. We came up with the most amazing things that we still love and use today. Then, one day we looked each other and said ‘I think we need to hold hands and jump into this together. Let’s make business cards and say we’re a business.’ We never looked back.”
  • “Dreaming is really important to us. We spent so much time together dreaming of what we wanted to do, make and about the things we love. We still do. We dream together and try to make things come to life.” 
  • “When we were really young, Meritt helped me be confident enough to use my voice. Whenever I had an idea she always said ‘Let’s do it’. She really helped me become the person I am…That’s the great thing about our relationship. One of us can come up with the craziest idea that is either sheer brilliance or it turns into a laughing fit. Sometimes, it’s about demonstrating how something is going to work and making the other person love it.  We have to dig deep and find a really authentic love for what we are proposing which forces you not to hide behind any of your fears. You have a constant audience who is supporting your creative process. We really consider it a blessing that we can be fearless together. You’re going to have good days and bad days but no matter what you have someone supporting you to try.” 
  • “I am grateful for the opportunity to create every day.” 
  • “Particularly for our daughters, we feel like it is a gift that we can show them that they can dream, bring something to life, and work with their best friend and amazing people to contribute something creative to the world while also being a mother.” 

On The Power of Kindness 

  • Kindness is the greatest quality you can have. Fashion is competitive and can get really cut throat. There is an older generation that doesn’t have an appreciation for young talent or female talent. Empowering your peers, supporting other people, even when they are doing similar things to you, is the right thing to do. We can all exist in this world and it is important that we do…Kindness should be a part of your every day. Whether it’s giving your team a lot of creative input, being kind to the person who is delivering your UPS shipment, or the customer who just spent their entire paycheck and is eating ramen because they love your clothes. Being grateful and kind to all of the people who make your world go round is so important to us.”