Hello Beautiful Souls,
I am so happy to be bringing the #Girlboss series back because it not only embeds the exact message I want to portray on my blog but it’s also so fun to meet all these wonderful women. It’s been way too long since I have been able to write one of these but I am thrilled to restart this series. Since it has been awhile, I will give a little run down on the purpose behind the #Girlboss series. I originally started this series on my old blog. The main idea behind #Girlboss roots from the actual book called #Girlboss written by Sophia Amoruse. My goal is to interview women who have made an impact on the world, this could be locally or nationally. Sophia Amoruse built her own empire through opening an Ebay shop, and her company “Nasty Gal” is thriving today. I want to highlight women like Sophia. I want to share their successes, but also look back on their pasts to show my readers that anyone from any background can become a #Girlboss. I want these women to inspire my readers, therefore, I search for these women in all types of fields. I personally created this series to put women that deserve recognition in the spotlight. I strive to empower other women on a daily basis, and if I can bring that theme to my blog, I am accomplishing my goal.
So, today, I present you with the very first #Girlboss on Pretty, Young & Motivated: Elyse Welcher. I can ramble on about how amazing Elyse is, but I’ll let her tell you.
What’s your story?
I am a maker, designer, and dreamer that likes to challenge myself and make things happen. I own two businesses; one, Littlewings Designs, is a lifestyle brand of handcrafted accessories for the self-empowered and creative minded featuring handbags, personal leather-goods, and leather jewelry. I also co-own a store and studio called Parliament, which is a collective of independent businesses that I run and own with my husband Jake, also a leather-worker, and our best friend and business partner Megan, a weaver and fiber artist. Parliament features the work from our handcrafted brands (Littlewings Designs, Harbinger Leather Design, and Adventure Textiles) as well as the work of 8 other West Michigan based makers with similar values and aesthetic.
I grew up Grand Rapids, MI, the older of two children. I was always a creative kid, and my parents always encouraged me to try anything I really wanted to take my hands to making. I learned to sew and got my first sewing machine for Christmas when I was 7 years old; from there, I never really stopped sewing. I was really into stories, and story-making, writing, plays, adventure games, and was constantly making props, costumes, clothes, for my (or my extensive American Girl Doll collection) stories and hijinks. As I got older, I applied the same skills to making clothes for myself, costumes for theater productions at my high-school, and formal gowns for myself and my friends. I also was really into band and played the flute, as well as wrote a book. I always had liked single-focus challenges, like the practice of learning to play an instrument, that art of mastering making clothing; I blame it on being a perfectionist. I was also really hard on myself when it came to grades and pushed myself academically; my parents encouraged me, but I was definitely toughest on myself.
I wanted to go into fashion after high-school, and after a year of completing my Gen Ed locally in Michigan, I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design to pursue my fashion degree. It was there that I really grew into the designer and business owner I would later become. At first, it was incredibly tough. I was a good student and pushed myself in high school, but I was among some world-class professors and creatives, and it really pushed me to grow. The fashion department was particularly competitive, which made me just keep pushing to work with new techniques and materials. I also got a first-time look into the reality of what a “fashion design” career meant, and was horrified by both the waste of the fast fashion industry (where most fashion grads end up working) and that you never actually make anything! I couldn’t wrap my head around being in a cubicle sketching on a computer for the rest of my life. It was during this first year at SCAD and coming to these big realizations, that they revamped their fashion department and added an Accessory Design BFA. I took the intro class thinking I would make it my minor; it was so hands-on, all based on making, working with materials, and then translating into sketches and documents for production. I found my niche; it was so process oriented, and I fell in love with making bags and shoes. I found a unique voice in my work as I immersed myself, and Littlewings Designs was launched as my senior capstone collection. I was also so lucky to have very supportive mentors and professors who encouraged me to forge my own way rather than heading to NYC like everyone else. 2010 was the unluckiest year to graduate with a creative degree; two years after the big crash and into the Recession, every creative company was on a hiring freeze or laying people off, and my class was competing against two classes ahead of us vying for those intro level jobs. Between that and the climbing success of Etsy and online sales, I said, screw it. What do I have to lose?
I moved back to Grand Rapids a year after graduating (I spent a year in Philadelphia as a free-lance stylist for Anthropologie), and in 2013 I launched Parliament the Boutique as a studio and storefront for my Littlewings Designs. That’s also when I met my husband, Jake, and it was pretty clear it was meant to be. We’re born two days apart in the same hospital, both leather-workers, both entrepreneurs. He and my best friend Megan were both so instrumental in launching Parliament, and as their creative practices grew alongside mine, we knew we needed more space and a bigger studio. That’s when Parliament became the collective it is today, run and owned by all three of us, and representing work from other local makers.
What inspires you?
So much! But conversations, traveling adventures (large and small), and the materials themselves that I use to make my work. Fellow makers and the process of making, of creation. Also, the Law of Attraction. The idea that unlike how society tries to mold us into believing that we are powerless, we are actually very in control and have so much influence over our own lives. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have to “give it all up,” and be left at the whim of the world. Rather, we do luckily get to have so much say over our own lives and destinies, that those few instances where we don’t are rare invitations from the universe to learn and grow. We can change, alter, and influence our daily realities in accordance with our own will. So once you know what you want- what you’re truly engaged in “willing into being,” through your daily actions and energies- you can make it happen. I’m a big fan of the Law of Attraction, and that idea of constantly co-creating the life of your dreams along with the flow of the Universe recharges my inspiration battery daily.
A couple different ones:
1) This is from the Holstee Manifesto (and video, which is truly amazing:
“Life is about the People you meet, and the things you create with them. So go out and start creating- life is short! Live your dream and share your passion.” – The Holstee Manifesto
2) “Don’t think, just do.” -Isabella Rossellini, SCAD Commencement 2010.
Isabella Rossellini is an actress, model, writer, and filmmaker who spoke at my graduation ceremony in 2010. This was specifically in reference to your creative dreams- don’t overthink! When they light up your mind, just do them, and don’t let anyone get in your way.
Daily rituals or a look into your typical day?
Everyday looks different for me; I rarely have more than two days in a row that are the same. Sometimes, I’m in the studio, actively making my leather goods and bags. Other days, I’m doing all business management work- communication with clients, promoting, selling. Sometimes, it’ll be a Parliament day, and I’m merchandising the store or out on the road selling product at a show. Since no two days are ever alike, I try to maintain a couple of personal rituals:
1) My daily “session.” I set aside a chunk of time, usually an hour at night, for a quiet sacred session. This includes stretching and yoga, journaling, and meditation. It’s a deeply personal practice and space, and it recharges me emotionally, mentally, and even physically; it’s like running a “defrag,” of the head and heart before going to sleep.
2) I have been working to implement the “Getting Things Done,” model of productivity, pioneered by David Allen. This weekly organizational and planning method is very list and action-step based, and essentially creates a system to dump everything out of your head and onto pages, lists- whatever kind of delineated space- where is is thus captured and no longer triggering and/or distracting you from the task at hand.
Who is your role model?
On a local level, Rose Phillips of Conscious Clothing an organic and handcrafted clothing brand based out of Rockford, MI. She has made a full life career of her business, while managing to both maintain her high levels of quality and construction, while also being a mom to 4. She makes beautiful clothes and happens to be a beautiful human inside and out; I look up to her and hope that I can follow in similar footsteps on my journey!
On a larger level, Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge. She not only is a fabulous spacial designer and DIY crafter with fun, impeccable taste and style, but she also is such a strong leader among creative women. Between her feminist and LGBTQ activism, the positive digital space she creates on her blog, and being a pioneer of the design-blog movement, she is truly a power-house!
Is this where you thought you would end up?
Both yes and no. I had a hazy idea of what it meant to be a “designer,” and own a “fashion,” business when I was young that in some ways it feels like that dream, but other times it is so different. Did I see myself coming back to Grand Rapids, meeting my husband here, being a leather-worker with a shop specifically? Never. But did I think I would run a business… yeah, I’ve always had an inkling I would do that. And be a Girl Boss. I never could see myself working for someone else. I always imagined myself in charge when I was young, and that’s where I ended up. You could say I created my own reality that way.
Career or life advice for others?
Get out and live somewhere new! Whether in college or after, learn to find yourself in a new space and place. When you never leave home, it can be hard to fully grow, as your experience becomes a reflection, an echo-chamber, of so much of the same social programming that you grew up with. I learned so much about myself, my preferences, my creative style, by leaving Michigan for awhile. It’s not to say don’t ever go home after… but take some time somewhere else. You may fall in love with it, or you may learn just how much you loved home after all.
I met Elyse, and the Parliament team, last Spring when I interviewed her for a local event going on in Grand Rapids. I was instantly inspired by her style and authenticity. Being a person that wants to go into the Fashion industry, I found it interesting to hear her perspective. I found their studio and boutique to be so quaint and unique. I recently reconnected with Elyse to not only ask her to be my next #Girlboss but also to discuss me being an intern for Parliament. I am excited to announce that I will be interning with Elyse and the Parliament team next semester doing Marketing and PR for the store. Parliament is a growing company and I cannot wait to be apart of that. After interviewing Elyse for this project, I could not be more thrilled to work along side her. She is a successful business owner, beautiful artist and authentic person; I feel honored to have the opportunity to learn from such a hard working and inspiring woman.
If you want to check out Parliament, which I highly encourage you to do, I will add some links here:
Facebook: Parliament the Boutique | Website: Parliament | Instagram: Parliament the Boutique
Parliament is undergoing some amazing changes, you do not want to miss out on their journey, so be sure to follow them now and check them out if you visit Grand Rapids.
Thank you all for checking out the very first #Girlboss on PYM. I cannot wait to continue my search for bright and intelligent women. If you have a recommendation for my next #Girlboss, please feel free to reach out to me and tell me. Don’t forget to share this post with friends and subscribe, if you love PYM. I hope you all have a spooky Halloween weekend and I’ll see your gorgeous faces on Monday. As always, thanks for reading!
Be the game changer.