GOING HER OWN WAY
Motley Collections owner Allie Baker was once on track to become a nurse–a career nearly the complete opposite of running “the real life version of the clippings we take from the magazines to pin on our mood boards,” as she puts it. Enrolled in the required science classes at university, Allie quickly saw it wasn’t a good fit for her. “I thought, ‘This is not me; this is not the type of thing I’m interested in.’”
Allie had several realizations pretty quickly. “I knew the only thing I had a genuine interest in was fashion,” she says. “I didn’t want to have a career to have a career. I wanted to do something I was passionate about.” And through this passion came the desire to do it her own way: “I didn’t want to work for anyone else. My ultimate goal was to own my own store.”
After graduating from the University of Houston, Texas in May 2016 and managing at a boutique in the same city for a while, Allie–who, smiling, describes herself as “impulsive”–left that position. In September 2016, she started Motley, completely from the ground up.
“Starting up a new company in general is a challenge; just the basics you go through with creating a business, and the instability in the beginning,” Allie says. “…you have some sales in one week, less the next–and you ask yourself, ‘Am I doing something?'”
But what makes Motley stand out, especially to me, is its (ironically) seamless synthesis. Composed of both contemporary and vintage pieces, the brand could easily appear as the “random collection of stuff” its name suggests. But it doesn’t. Rather, it’s a syndicate, with each selected item a variation on one theme.
Even more impressive, then, is Allie–the driving force behind it all, with an innate ability to spot and select the right pieces. Her own look is laid-back, consisting of sneakers, jeans, and vintage tees (she favors a Boston Celtics shirt “so worn down it has holes all in it; [her] boyfriend requests [she] please stop wearing it). But they key to her style is an openness to variety: “I’m versatile. I change my outfit from look to look each day,” she says. Unbound by the terms “sporty,” “rocker,” “girly,” and so on, she picks and chooses elements from each category, like her style icons Bella Hadid, Rachel Tyler, and Emily Oberg. Not only does this allow for endless outfit possibilities, but it demonstrates how fashion reflects one’s own personality: endlessly changing and unable to be described by a single word–unless that word is, of course, motley.
Allie collaborates with a small screen-printing company in Katy to bring her own t-shirt and hat designs to life, and otherwise buys wholesale from a vintage warehouse in Houston. Her curation process can best be described as, well, magic: “I can’t say why I pick what I pick,” explains Allie, “I just see something and have a feeling like I know I need to have it.” Motley is “like my own closet,” she adds. “I kind of go off of what I would wear myself. In the beginning when I first started out, I did it differently–I selected items I liked and could see other people wearing, but not me. And that didn’t work. As I began buying clothing I’d want to wear myself, I felt more confident in the brand.”
This confidence grew even more after Motley’s first pop-up shop at SXSW this past March. “It was a huge success,” she says. Not only did she make great sales, Allie was able to connect face-to-face with customers, who gushed over her collection. “So much of Motley is online,” Allie explains, “so it was really cool to see customers discover the brand and come and say, ‘This is really cool! Where are y’all located?’ That made me really happy.”
Behind her style, Allie is a dedicated teacher and animal lover. Last month she partnered with Jamie’s Animal Rescue, a non-profit organization based out of Katy that has been dedicated to saving abandoned kittens, puppies, and more since 1998 when its eponymous owner was just eleven years old. “My birthday was on June 1st, so it was like a present to myself. I love the whole idea of shopping to benefit someone else. It feels better when you can shop and it goes towards something else as well.”
In less than a year, Motley Collections has grown in leaps and bounds. From pop-up shops to photoshoots to charitable collaborations, the business has already achieved what takes years for some enterprises. Despite the brand’s rapid growth, at its core lies the unwavering principle upon which Motley is founded: authenticity. People are complex–and while we may feel pressured to project a certain image of ourselves, the truth is that is not sustainable. It gets tiring. Sporty, girly, preppy… why choose? We’re all motley collections. Let’s dress like it.