Miriam Alden and Brunette The Label: Babes Supporting Babes, Empowering Leisurewear, and Why Positive Culture Always Wins

by Alli Addison /

Published on

I

’ve got a girl crush on Miriam Alden. There I said it. And what’s not to crush? This powerhouse boss babe (in every sense of the word) has built an incredible clothing and lifestyle brand from scratch, created an unparalleled culture among her tribe, seeded what is destined to become the next big viral movement, and rides like nobody's business. She believes in complete transparency and is a walking and talking example of the importance of support and mentorship. Plus, she’s an animal lover through and through and possesses an infectious, classic laugh. Oh, and she wears sweatshirts. From one sweatshirt wearing gal to the next; profess your enduring love for leisurewear, and you will find yourself a friend for life.

Are you crushing yet? Well, you should be. To dive in deeper, I caught up with the woman behind the brand Brunette The Label to talk everything from horses, to launching her company, the thrill of the good vintage find, fears, expectations, inspirations, fuzzy oversized jackets, and babes.

NoelleFloyd.com: Let’s start at the beginning and talk about the early Miriam years, everything that shaped who you are today, beginning with the horses and riding.

Miriam Alden: I’ve been riding most of my entire life, minus some breaks in between. My mom, who is also a rider, originally got me in the saddle, and even today, we still ride together. When I was about seven years old my family moved to Canada. At that time, I didn't have my own horse and desperately wanted to continue riding. So my dad found a local barn for me to ride at through someone at work when I was about nine or ten. I got my first job working at that 30-horse barn mucking out stalls to offset my lessons and lease fees.

NF: Good old fashioned child labor, right?!

MA: Ha! I swear I ended up with tendinitis from that career. Anyways, my mom who is an artist and art teacher actually sold a painting to help me buy my first horse as I entered those pre-teen years. Oh! And I have to interject. I have never sold a horse. I keep them for life, just like a family member, and kept this one until he passed on. Even with my big competition horses; as I got older and entered adulthood, I needed to save some money, and at one point it came down to either selling the horse or keeping them and halting all competitions. So I quit showing.

NF: A hard decision, no doubt.

MA: My animals are extremely precious to me. After the love of my life, Annie, passed away at 26 years old, I tattooed the “A” from her halter plate onto my wrist.

NF: Tell us more about the transition you made — personally and professionally — once you entered adulthood.

MA: After Annie passed I felt I needed a break. I loved the horses, and I wasn't necessarily falling out of love with the sport, as you hear some young riders say. But instead I was realizing that THIS wasn't what I was going to do for a living. I always thought I would grow up to be a rider. But that wasn't the reality. My 20s were a challenge for me as I tried to “find” myself and figure out my way. And I believe when you compete so heavily as a child and junior, you end up almost being defined by that. But there is more to you, and I feel it’s important to step back and discover who you are beyond the young competitor.

NF: College life tends to really help with this transition and growth, right?

MA: It really does! So, I ended up going to business school, got involved in fit modeling and fashion, and it was at this time that I developed an interest in the fashion world. I discovered that I wanted to work in fashion, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. As I was fit modeling, I would be in these appointments and thinking how much I loved the business of fashion. I thrived on learning what were the retailers looking for, their different needs, how not to be pushy, sticking to your values, etc. I ultimately got a job working in a showroom.

NF: You’ve always voiced how grateful you are for those that have supported you along the way. How did your family and friends feel about you entering the fashion world?

MA: Ha! My dad wanted me to sell airplanes. He kept saying “you need to sell something bigger than clothes!” But much to his dismay, joking of course, I kept with the fashion. Obviously he completely supported me. I wrote a column (for his paper) and did some styling work. My boss at the showroom where I worked was amazing. He allowed me to dabble in so many different arenas, all while I was still working for him. And I think this is where the Babes Supporting Babes values really began for me. When it was time for me to move on, he let me start my business within their business.

NF: What did the early years of your business consist of exactly?

MA: Well, it all began with pashminas. I had bills to pay, rent to make, adulting to accomplish. So, I would drive around to local businesses, selling pashminas from the back of my car. I only had enough money to buy one sample set that I would take, show the retailers, pre-sell them, and then buy more. This is how my “business” essentially started. In 2009, I launched Brunette Showroom as a multi-brand fashion sales agency based in Vancouver, with a focus on Canadian fashion.

NF: What or who do you credit to the success and opportunity you had during this beginning stage?

MA: I had incredible support from people I had worked with, even people I had ridden with in the past, people that mentored me, let me tag along to trade shows, taught me about licensing, and manufacturing. Having these people in my corner made all the difference in the world for me. One of my biggest strengths has always been understanding styles that will work in the market. In the showroom, I didn't have big name brands. I brought things into the showroom that were not name or label driven but, instead, style driven. I knew they would sell. I can honestly say that I know the customer.

NF: After launching Brunette Showroom, what came next?

MA: The label. In 2014, we started doing media events for the showroom. I wanted to brand the showroom as its own thing, its own entity. I didn't want to highlight just the brands we were showing, but wanted to create a presence and emphasis on the physical space and the value system for which we stand upon. We did press previews, hosted people at various locales, compiled media gift bags, and such. My marketing director made these media backpacks for one event and spray painted ‘Brunette is the New Black’ on the back. It was purely conceived as a marketing tool for the showroom, but the phrase had a nice ring to it. So I attended a trade event and wore a sweatshirt printed with the same phrase. One of my retailers said she liked the sweatshirt and told me, “I can help you sell that.” So we made our first 12 sweatshirts, sold them, then made 24, sold those, and it snowballed from there. The sweatshirts eventually turned into a small collection, and we began showcasing it on the road at other shows.

Find out how Brunette The Label wears at the barn (Hint: these pieces will become your every day favorites).

I always had a plan to create my own brand, but the path that Brunette The Label started was extremely organic. We have gone from 12 sweatshirts to over 700 retailers, including majors such as Nordstrom and Myer in Australia. We’ve established amazing band collaborations with groups such as Goop and The Coveteur, as well as our own retail flagship store in Vancouver. Needless to say there has been a steep learning curve. But it has all been on the backs or the incredible support of our retailers, friends, family, and the many strangers who have embraced the brand and the values behind it.

NF: What challenges have you found in launching and managing your own business?

MA: For me, as the team leader, it’s been interesting to learn how to lead. It’s exciting, but different for my personality type. I’m a middle child who’s always been the peacemaker. So I had to create a stronger personality with this business. But while I’ve learned to be firm, I’m still deeply empathetic. I think you have to care to be cared about. And it has to be genuine. I want my team to care about what they do. And in return, I really care about them. I feel strongly about the experience and the company from the inside out. I care how people feel when they walk through the door, whether you are an employee or a client, whether you buy one sweatshirt or you’re a massive retailer. Two years ago we put pen to paper with our core value system. And what was interesting is my vision from when I started in 2009 was essentially the same as it is today.

NF: And what is that vision?

MA: To uplift all babes, all day, every day.

NF: Let’s talk about Babes Supporting Babes.

MA: I began by wanting to create a community where we could manifest a change in the world, shift peoples’ thought process, and start a movement or revolution, if you will. So I came up with the phrase. For me, what Babes Supporting Babes means is that there’s room for everybody. Just because you’re working on yourself and growing yourself in this world doesn't mean there’s no space for other people, and it doesn't mean you cannot support them. Our mission at both Brunette Showroom and Brunette The Label is to “create a community of babes that are empowered to cultivate what’s good in themselves and those around them.”

NF: And from this we’ve seen a social shift with #WEAREALLBABES and #BABESSUPPORTINGBABES.

MA: It has become such a powerful thing, and my team and I are really feeling the impact our vision is making and how that vision is resonating with the community. It’s giving people the confidence to follow their own dreams.

Self-care is uniquely individual. Get a glimpse into this babe's simple yet effective morning beauty routine.

NF: So what does the future hold for both your vision and the brands? What do you want to divulge?

MA: Oh, I can divulge anything! I’m a very open person and really have no secrets. We [launched] The Babe List onto its own platform. ... it features people that we think are doing amazing things and a lot about who supported them along the way. We want to dive into what Babes Supporting Babes means to them … I’m starting The Babes Club which is an affiliate program, and growing this in different cities, and working on the Babes Supporting Babes Scholarship Program. And then we are developing the Babes Supporting Babes Panel Series for students and people entering the workspace.

NF: And on the Brunette brand front, what can we look forward to?

MA: We [recently launched our spring collection. Last fall we launched] our first knitwear line. And then of course, we dove into outerwear [last] year, which I love! Take our Josephine for example, which is named after my beloved mare, an over-the-top, cozy, teddy-style jacket. It’s the perfect barn jacket too — I wear it while I ride all the time. No literally, I wear my Josephine while riding Josephine. Ha! And I’m loving our Florence Vegan Leather Moto Jacket with optional patches. Future goodies include art, in the form of vision posters, and home goods. We also just celebrated the one-year anniversary of our retail store in Vancouver. This next year we plan to make a big push into expanding our presence in the European markets and growing our collaboration efforts with other brands and companies as well.

Guess what, babes? Brunette The Label is available now in NF.shop

NF: You have been so career-focused the last 10 years. At what point did the horses start to make their way back into your world?

MA: About four years into starting my business, I wasn't riding. My horse had just passed away, and I was really having a hard time personally and professionally. I was looking for more, was feeling lost, and wasn't sure what direction to go. I’ll never forget, I was driving home and called one of my best friends to lament, and he said, “You need to start doing something again. What do you love?” and my response was, “I don’t remember.” Which is such a sad thing, but as I said that I was driving past my old barn and it was like a light bulb went off in my head. And it dawned on me. What I love was always the horses. And my friend said “Then you need to start doing that again, even if it’s just once a week, or heck, even once a month.” The shift of my life, both personally and professionally, really made a positive turn when I started riding again. So I started leasing a horse, and committed two days a week. And I fell back in love.

NF: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

MA: Probably would have started riding earlier. But other than that, no. I feel really peaceful with my past.

NF: Any final thoughts?

MA: Be kind, empower others, assume positive intent, remember to always be open-minded, and find that something you love and do it!

Read this next: Ride Like a Girl: Behind the Scenes of the March NF.edit Photo Shoot

All photos by Brit Gill.

Tags:

Written by Alli Addison

Rode-before-she-could-walk California girl Alli Addison spends her days in the whirlwind that is kids, husband, career, horses and real life. She favors Cubano-Style lattes, black and white stripes, gel manicures and a good pair of sweatpants. She also continues to ask Santa for a dappled grey jumper, year after year, to no avail.