Kiley and Sam of ELK Clothing Co. | All photos used with permission of the company
Meet Sam and Kiley: fashion pioneers and founders of ELK Clothing Co. After meeting while working at a local Free People store in Salt Lake City, Utah, the two visionaries combined their love for clothing, inspiring others, and creativity, and launched a brand of hard-to-come-across, quality pieces. Together they have worked to inspire others to take leaps in their creative careers and have shown what two similar minds, but different spirits, can accomplish. Delve into their story and find out just how much hard work it takes to make your dreams come true.
Hey Sam and Kiley. Thanks for sitting down to speak with Mad Sounds today. Can you start off by telling us a little about yourselves and how you got started with ELK Clothing Co.?
S: One morning [at work], we got to talking about life, love and all things in between, and the idea clicked. We were so passionate about fashion and empowering others that we knew we needed to start our own shop to do so. I had written a business plan for a class a few months prior, so we basically pulled that bad boy out and started making it reality!
K: We wanted to create a company that created opportunity for people who love fashion as much as we do to become a part of something that means more than just clothing. It's about distilling passion back into people, and letting everyone flourish and show off all of the amazing talents that lie within. It’s becoming a part of something that is all about regaining and strengthening confidence.
What does a typical day-in-the-life look like for the both of you?
S: Wow haha our lives are ... wild. I work three jobs aside from ELK ,and I will be finishing school this fall. I’m an avid marathon runner, so I try to squeeze in some evening runs when I’m free. Social life? Haha. I try to see my friends and family as much as possible, honestly! I’m grateful to have so many amazing, uplifting people in my life now, so seeing them when I have some minutes is the best soul food.
K: We work a lot … hahaha. Between my two side jobs and ELK, it's hard to take time for yourself, but when you do find the chance to sit down and unwind with some cute smiles and a glass of wine, it makes that moment unforgettable.
For someone who has never heard of the brand before, how would you explain its style and overall aesthetic?
S: We wanted to merge our two style inspirations. Mine being the '90s and Kiley’s being the '70s. We like to describe our style as "the lighter side of grunge."
K: Sam and I like to introduce our personalities as very real and easy going, and we try to express that in our clothing.
How would you describe your own personal styles? How do your own personal tastes play into what you sell on ELK Clothing?
S: Like mentioned before, I’m very inspired by the '90s grunge movement, but I’m also in love with the effortless, minimalistic look you see all over Europe. I bring a grunge, almost skater/tomboy edge to our brand for sure while tying in some classic, simple “grandpa” flare.
K: This is what makes us a great team because I'm all about that vintage, thrifted, embellished blazer. I get a lot of my inspiration from the queen of rock and roll, Stevie Nicks, and I love to play with a leather western-styled boot and a hand crafted bolo; anything that stands out and anything you probably shouldn't wear in 100 degree weather.
What does your creative process look like? Are there any specific things you do or places you go to in order to spark inspiration?
S: Honestly, I’m most creative during break-ups with boyfriends or any sucky time of my life, really. I get in this weird, angsty state of mind and I come up with my best ideas for some reason! I also pull inspiration from European cultures. I love the laid-back, slow-pace lifestyle of the Italians, but also the uppity “let’s get shit done” mentality of the Londoners and Parisians.
K: You'll find Sam “mooding out" on some Dashboard Confessional and art will pour out of her soul! As for me, I feel like my inspiration hits me very randomly and ironically. An outfit I see at 3 a.m. at Denny's, or a conversation started up on a smoke break with the girl who makes my chai in the mornings. I am for sure inspired by situations, or the way someone handles something that's emotional and turning.
Sam, you posted on Instagram about losing inspiration, and finding it again. Can you talk a bit about the challenges of maintaining and nurturing your passions?
S: Totally! I feel that creativity goes through ebbs and flows for me. I’ll go through spurts of time where I’m feeling creatively on fire. New inspiration and ideas just come effortlessly. The feeling is honestly euphoric! But after a while of these creative bonfires, it’s almost like someone just throws a giant bucket of water on it. It’s as if I’m drained of all innovation, and the rose-colored glasses turn to more of a shade of grey. Sounds depressing because it honestly kind of is. However, I have always found light at the end of the tunnel. I have always been able to pull myself out of these ruts by staying optimistic and associating myself with positive, motivating people. Who you spend your time with has such an effect on your well-being, it’s crazy. Choose wisely.
What is the story behind the name ELK?
S: Naming our company was probably the hardest part of starting, haha. Kiley and I spent HOURS messing around with different cheeky words, creating our own words, and raiding makeup counters for inspiration. We actually named it Hobson (my last name) for a few weeks, but it just didn’t feel right. Finally, we started playing around with last names of people close to us. One of my best friend’s last name is Elkins, and the second we came to his name it was like, BOOM. ELK! That’s it! He actually inspired me to pursue a lot of my dreams, including this company, so it felt symbolic in a way. But ELK also ties in our local Utah roots and it honestly just sounds dope, haha.
You’re both incredibly talented and creative young women. Do you have any advice for other young women or men looking to break into creative careers?
S: Thank you so much! I think the biggest thing is to just DO IT. The hardest thing for me was the fear of failure, but I have learned that if you pursue the things you are truly passionate about and give it everything you have, you WILL be successful. Yeah, you’ll have your ups and downs for sure! But if you truly love what you’re doing, it’s worth everything.
K: Everyday is a new learning experience for us, through our business and personally as well. We learn more about fashion and the deeper meaning behind what it means to be a woman and explore all the creative sides of ourselves ... I think one of the most important things I've learned through our career choice is to find people that inspire you and believe in you, and inspire them and believe in them: that makes you unstoppable as an individual and as a team.
Finally, how would you like to see ELK grow in the future? Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
S: Ideally, we want to grow into a major brand one day! We want to be right up there with Free People, For Love & Lemons, and WildFox. But we understand it takes time and a TON of hard work. We are stupidly obsessed with growing ELK, so we’re letting that passion drive us to make this a brand that girls and guys all over can pull inspiration from. More than anything, we just want to empower others and promote self-love. Our motto is “ inspire and get inspired." That’s really all Kiley and I really want to do … ever. As far as future projects, we are actually super excited to be starting designs of our own for this upcoming spring! Stay tuned ;)
K: One of Sam's and mine’s strong suits is bouncing off ideas in each other's heads. It could start with a new marketing tactic, and turns into a concept that we add into our platform. We are always trying to keep fresh, real life ordeals ordained under everything we are trying to accomplish, which is to grow, and stay confident, and manifest everything to you that will make you the happiest you can be.
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