A pop-up shop hitting Edgartown this week represents a new way to shop. The Ellie Kai brand features made-to-order fashion that involves the customer, a consultant, and the Ellie Kai design team in the process of creating looks that are unique, yet more affordable than other bespoke options.
How many times have you been in a situation where you’ve found a dress in a perfect style but the color or pattern wasn’t quite right? Or vice versa, a great print but not the most flattering style for your body type?
This weekend, women will have the chance to try on and customize their choice of dress, top, and skirt styles at the Ellie Kai pop-up shop at the Vineyard Square Hotel on North Water Street.
Customers can design and order custom apparel with the help of an on-site consultant, or they can chose from a wide selection of ready-to-wear styles fashioned from custom textile designs in silk and jersey stretch. Among the 25-plus items available are dresses, tops from halters to long sleeve tunics, and a range of skirts.
Women can try on the sample styles to determine which design works best for them and then chose from approximately 40 different designs. The garment will be custom made and will arrive by mail within three weeks.
Ellie Kai’s designs are unique to the brand as they were created by a graphic designer and produced in Asia to founder Elizabeth Hostetter’s specifications. In creating custom prints, Ms. Hostetter draws inspiration from her travels throughout Asia. Customers can chose from approximately 70 different prints and solids. “I think we cover the spectrum from the brightest brights to the most neutral neutrals, from stripes to preppy to conservative,” Ms. Hostetter said.
The print designs tend towards subtly stylized variations on traditional ethnic patterns and sophisticated takes on preppy prints. Solids come in neutrals and custom colors focusing on the popular hues of the season.
Ms. Hostetter described the designs and fabrics as, “that sort of Northeast urban take on preppy. I think that was our core when we started designing this collection. It’s always been about really casual for daytime and a little dressier at night.” She designs the clothes to be ideal for traveling, noting that they are easy to pack, comfortable, and suit the resort lifestyle. The brand was founded in 2012, and, though most of the business comes from hosted home parties and trunk shows, Ellie Kai pop-up shops have appeared in Nantucket and South Hampton, N.Y.
Ms. Hostetter hopes to introduce new people to the brand through the temporary stores, and also to recruit new hostesses and consultants for what she refers to as “social shopping trunk shows.” At the trunk shows, a consultant is on hand to assist customers.
The Ellie Kai founder was inspired to create the label when she found it difficult to meet her own wardrobe needs. She and her family moved to Hong Kong in 2009, and she now spends summers on Cape Cod, where she was born and raised and where she still maintains an office and showroom.
“I found shopping challenging because I’m tall. I made some things custom and my friends all asked me about them. As soon as I explained that connection, the lightbulb went off. No one had taken that idea in customizing and wardrobe design to the next level.”
Ms. Hostetter is focused on creating styles based on what women are looking for in terms of wearability, flattering styles, and individual taste. “Some of the best ideas for styles have come from feedback,” she said. “I see myself more as a curator than a designer.”
The garments are designed, sourced, and manufactured in Asia. To avoid doing business with disreputable manufacturing concerns, Ms. Hostetter says that she did a good deal of research. “From the beginning we developed a business model of integrity. We make sure workers are given fair wages, have air conditioning, get breaks. As a mother of three I’m extremely concerned about the ethical side of production. I make it a point of the company to have a focus on that.”
Ellie Kai’s Edgartown Pop-Up Shop, Thursday, July 10–Monday, July 14, 9 am–6 pm, Vineyard Square Hotel, Edgartown. For more information, email email@example.com.