The Interview — Neely & Chloe Burch, Founders of Neely & Chloe
Stemming from a retail empire, Neely and Chloe Burch were groomed to be entrepreneurs from birth. Their father, Bob Burch and his brother, Chris founded the successful retail company Eagle's Eye prior to the latter co-creating Tory Burch with his wife, Tory. Both business and retail were instilled in the siblings at an early age. They accompanied their parents on work-related trips and were included in retail development conversations at the dinner table.
In 2014, Neely and Chloe, ages 23 and 22, respectively, purchased a 1930s airstream to create a mobile retail boutique featuring sought-after brands. In just one year, they held upward of fifty pop-ups on college campuses along the East Coast. Ultimately, this translated into intensive market research—they learned what these college students liked and wanted, but couldn't find: a luxe-like, timeless, and affordable handbag.
In 2016, Neely and Chloe formed a lifestyle accessories brand targeting the All-American, savvy shopper. Their offering includes timeless and seasonless styles with an accessible price point and the option for customization. Neely and Chloe continue to develop classic silhouettes and products that are directly informed by the customer. They generate product feedback via social media engagement in which they request preferences on everything from size, color, and embellishments. Now stocked in over 180 retail doors, the lifestyle brand has resonated with a wide audience beginning with ages 25-34, as well as a mature customer, who is now assuming 25% of their demographic. The Neely & Chloe showroom is based in New York City.
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What led the two of you to start Neely & Chloe?
Neely: Out of school, I launched a mobile retail concept and spent about a year and a half executing pop-up shops up and down the east coast. We always knew we wanted to create our own products. At first, we thought we would do it slowly over time, but for a lot of reasons, we ultimately decided to switch gears in a more abrupt way. Chloe was a merchant at J.Crew at the time, and we both felt like there was a pretty big void in the market for aspirational yet attainable products that felt sophisticated and tailored but also super unique for each one of the people that purchased them.
What’s it like running a business as sisters, and how do you divide up responsibilities?
Chloe: It's very easy, actually. Neely and I are only a year apart, and until we were 16 or 17, we shared a bedroom. We went to college together, we've always had the same group of friends, and we've always been very, very close. But we also have very different personalities. Neely is strong in some areas, and I'm strong in others, so we complement each other really well.
Neely: One of the best things about running a business together is that it really feels like there are no inhibitions—we're very much in sync about our priorities. Even if there are things we disagree on, there's never any hesitation about sharing our thoughts or opinions for fear of upsetting the other person. We may bicker from time to time or end up in a fight, but almost always, we realize that we need to make a decision, and it ends up getting resolved within 10 minutes. Being able to be super transparent and honest has been incredibly valuable for us because it really allows us to create the best final product possible.
In regards to how we split up the workload—I do better with bigger picture thinking. Whether that’s on the creative side or managing the financial aspects of the business. Chloe is really the executor of the two of us—she’s really good at keeping things running on a daily basis and making sure that everything that needs to get done is getting done.
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Can you walk us through a typical work day?
Chloe: What makes things fun is that we don't really have a typical workday. If we're in the office, we may be doing everything from getting wholesale orders to having design meetings and all different types of things. Every day really is so different. Some days we're at the warehouse, some days we're traveling for events, some days we're in the office, some days we're in different meetings all over the city, and some days we're at our back office outside of Philadelphia. We have a small but mighty team here in New York, and we always say that there isn't really a specific role for each person—it's kind of all hands on deck, all the time.
Where do you find inspiration for your collections?
Neely: A lot of different places. I think one area of inspiration that we talk about a lot, and it has certainly held true over the years, is our mom. She’s really sophisticated and has amazing taste that’s sort of stood the test of time. Something she always imparted on us is that it’s all about quality over quantity. Yes, trends are important, and finding ways to integrate them is great, but you want to integrate them in a way that feels true to yourself and true to your personal style. That has been a huge factor in driving the aesthetic of our brand as a whole. I would also say that travel is a big one. I really love traveling, and I do a decent amount of it. Going to new places, experiencing new cultures, and finding ways to integrate it into our aesthetic is always fun. Lastly, I would say older movies or period pieces that I’ve watched.
Chloe: I definitely agree with Neely about our mom, but even our dad provides inspiration. We’re currently working on a garment bag that we’re hoping to launch in the spring, and it’s literally inspired bag that my dad bought in the ‘70s and has been carrying ever since. We’ve always loved it, and now we’re taking the plunge and using it as inspiration for the next piece in our travel capsule.
What’s your advice for someone looking to start their own fashion label?
Chloe: Try and remain as flexible as you can. There are going to be a lot of things that don’t go according to your plan, so I would make sure that you always have a plan B and always think on your toes to make sure that you can come up with a second option if things don’t go your way.
Neely: Something that’s been important for us to remember is to celebrate the smaller victories as well as the big ones. Taking a moment to celebrate a placement in a magazine or a meeting that went really well or something that may seem small makes it a lot easier to get through the times that are challenging.
If you were to recommend buying one item from Neely & Chloe, what would it be?
Neely: I would recommend our Croc Mini Lady Bag, but if you’ve never purchased a piece from us, I think the Weekender Bag would be my top pick. It’s such a great staple to have in your closet, and it works so well for a weekend trip or short little day trip—I use it all the time.
Chloe: Probably the Travel Wallet. It almost functions as two bags in one—I carry mine as a clutch all the time when I go out for dinner. When I’m traveling, I often don’t need to bring another handbag because I can just grab my travel wallet and carry that with me at night.
How would each of you describe your personal style?
Chloe: Clean and classic. I’m definitely a ballet flats, skinny jeans, and a button-down or sweater type of girl. In the summer, I love a midi sundress with easy sandals. I try to clean out my closet, but I always end up wanting to keep everything that’s in it, so hopefully, that means I’m not too trendy. When Neely and I lived together, we used to come out of our rooms wearing the same outfit, and we’d have to play rock-paper-scissors to decide who had to change. I’m not kidding, and I probably lost every time.
Neely: I would say I’m a little less preppy than Chloe but still clean and classic, and I’m more likely to experiment with trends. I think there’s a lot of overlap between us.
What are your current beauty obsessions?
Neely: I had a friend chirping in my ear about the Augustinus Bader Night Cream. It’s not cheap, but I finally bit the bullet and bought it during Net-a-Porter’s sale. I’ve been using it for about two months now, and I really love it. Neither one of us is very big on makeup—I’m doing well if I wear mascara on a regular weekday—so I think I spend more time focused on creams and moisturizers. If you have really healthy skin, then you have work way less hard with what you put on top of it. I’m also obsessed with the Shiseido Waso Exfoliating Wash. I bought it on a whim, and it smells better than any other product I’ve ever had. When I finish it, I’ll definitely buy it again—that’s how I know it’s good.
Chloe: I’m also not a big makeup gal. It’s not that I don’t love it, I just don’t wear very much of it. Unfortunately, I am my mother’s daughter, and she’s gotten me on the Chanel beauty train, which is not good for my bank account. I’m a big fan of their lotions and undereye creams. They’re really great, and even though I don’t like to admit it, they’re definitely worth the price. Another thing I’m obsessed with is the Dyson Blow Dryer—it has seriously changed my hair and works way better than a standard one. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to invest in a new blow dryer.
What fall fashion trends are you most excited for?
Neely: Croc. I feel like we really hit the nail on the head with that one and are super excited about it being part of our line this season. I’m also seeing a lot of houndstooth and plaid—those are the two biggest things I’m excited about.
Chloe: Neely stole my answer with the croc. I’m very excited that we have that in our line this season, and I love the look. I’ve also seen a lot of these ‘70s style boots—the under-the-knee kind with a little bit of a heel that looks great with a skirt. I’m really excited about that trend as well.
What’s next for Neely & Chloe?
Neely: Our new collection is coming out mid-October, and we have some really fun stuff in store for the holiday season. We’re doing raw glitter on some of our handbags and some coated glitter on our smaller leather goods, which we’re really excited about. We also have a couple of new silhouettes, as well.
We’re also going to launch a limited-edition artist collaboration collection. We’ll be working with several different people to design prints and patterns and a few silhouettes, and we’ll launch super limited runs. They’ll be numbered in the way that artists number their prints. So if you want to get your hands on one, we’ll be releasing them every couple of months. That’s a project I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m really excited about it.
Chloe: We have some collaborations in the works. We’ve done a day planner for the past couple years with an artist named Inslee Fariss, and it sells out every year. We start getting emails about it in July—it’s crazy. We’re launching that in a couple of weeks. We're in about 180 stores now, and we’re looking to grow that even more.