So who is the power team behind Solstice…your background, your inspirations and how you came together to deliver such a blast-from-the-past brand?
I am the owner, Natalie Maddon. I do the designing and sewing for the company. I went to school for Fashion Design and have worked for other companies and in more recent years I did some bridal work making dresses as well as children's clothing. I own Solstice with my husband and mother. My hubby, Joseph, does all of our brand photography and styling. He has been doing fashion photography for a number of years for other brands so it only made sense that we team up and create our own brand. My mom is the brains behind the operation. She keeps my head out of the clouds, in compliance, and organized in terms of operations. More recently, I hired my best friend as my assistant and also a seamstress to help me keep up with orders. As we grow, I am sure I will need to bring on more folks to help me keep the business workload manageable. It is important to me that I have a close knit group of people surrounding me that will always have my families best interest at heart. The business started in my kitchen, where most of the sewing still happens.
What makes you so unique is the level of intimacy (no apparel puns intended) and connection you share with your customers. The made-to-order skivvy’s is a customer service concept that has been lost in a lot of brands these days. As your brand grows, do you find it more overwhelming to keep up with all the ordering action?
When I started Solstice, it was to make pretty things for my friends (and myself, of course). Last year around Christmas time I made my first bra. It was from this cool vintage floral fabric. I was pretty proud because sewing lingerie had always intimidated me. Im not sure why, considering I have made full wedding dresses. Anyhow, I posted a picture in the bra on my personal Instagram and my friends all wanted them. So that is what they all got for Christmas. The first renditions were not adjustable, I just did not know how to use the sliders and hardware. My friends had to come over and get measured. When other people started wanting them, I kind of panicked because I didn't know how I was going to make a range of patterns that I would be sure would fit these women without me measuring them myself. I made it my mission to figure out how to make these as adjustable as possible. That is why every strap in my collection has adjustable sliders. I started out mailing free bras and bodysuits to women I met on the internet and asked them for feedback. I adjusted my patterns accordingly each time. Once I felt comfortable with the sizing and adjustability I decided to make a website and offer them to the public. The response was overwhelming. Since then the company has grown more quickly than I could have imagined and we are all doing our best to keep up. The reason for the 4-6 week wait is that I refuse to give up the ability to customize pieces. I am working hard to get a ready to ship section of pre-made basics up on my site for things like gifts and such, but I will never remove myself so far from the production that I cannot keep up with the needs of those women who just cant wear a standard size medium bodysuit. There are so many shapes and proportions that just cannot fit the norm. I am also working to improve my skill set to include different size ranges and styles. As it stands, I've only been doing this for under a year now and quite frankly, I'm still learning. I feel very connected to the women who stick by me and support what I am trying to do and would never leave those big bottom, tiny top, long torso ladies in the dust.
Have you always been located in Arizona? If you were to relocate (or travel), do you guys have any bucket-list dream cities that would merit a Solstice road trip?
Arizona is my home and always will be. I have a huge family and we are super close. In fact, my cousins often help me cut fabric and sew hardware to straps. Its quite the family affair. Travel is definitely something we have talked about. More recently, we have started offering wholesale, which has brought up lots of conversation about travel. I want to be able to see the places carrying my pieces and get to know them better. As time permits, and I hire more people to help me sew, it will happen.
One of my huge bucket list destinations is Japan. I love their style and culture. I myself tend to just wear jeans and t-shirts, but my heart gets all fluttery about the off the wall fashions I see happening in Japan. I recently found these super tacky sequin ice cream cones that I so badly wanted to plaster all over my bodysuits. Sometimes my assistant has to gently remind me of my branding and that sequin ice cream cones just don't fit. I'm pretty sure I could get away with it in Japan though!
Written in your about section online, you have gloriously described your demographic, “The wild child. The tomboy. They day dream believer. The love maker…” Solstice feels much like a lovingly care-free lifestyle brand. Do you have any plans to expand your apparel beyond intimates?
For now, my plan is to get more established and recognizable with my staple pieces. I want people to see Solstice and know who made it. I want to get really good at a few things before I try to add anything else to the mix. I am working to expand slightly within my core designs though. Currently, I am working on nursing bras, camisoles, and boxer briefs for the men in our lives. I think if I were to expand to apparel that I would have to be more like wholesale relationships with other brands that I love. I'm a big believer in finding what I am good at and sticking with it. I don't want to muddy the water, if that makes any sense.
A question for your inner wild child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you ever imagine yourselves making groovy, velvety lingerie or was your compass pointed in a much different direction?
I've sewn clothing since I was about six or seven. I was raised with my grandma and she taught me to sew quilts and dresses for church. I was a quilting fool! When I was 17 and thinking of college I knew I wanted to go for fashion design so I went to FIDM in Los Angeles. I started college on my 18th birthday. While in school, I did lots of styling and high fashion and started a business with a couple friends but realized quickly that it took more than artistic ability and big dreams to run a business. So I moved home and went back to school and got a masters in Business Administration and Finance. That degree landed me a Finance Manager job that I did for almost 10 years before I realized that I was really side tracked from what I wanted to be doing with my life. I worked a very stable job that supported my family while my husband cared for our children and did freelance photography. I started Solstice while still working that job and just sewing all night after I got home from work. That only lasted able three months. I was exhausted and never able to hang out with my kids. I decided I had to just trust that Solstice was how my family was supposed to thrive and quit my job without even giving two-weeks; I had orders going past due every day I wasted at a desk job. There are so many opportunities for small businesses and new brands with tools like social media platforms and networking, but also much uncertainty.
Do you have any empowering advice for those looking to step outside their comfort zones, especially female dreamers and doers?
It's a hard choice to trust in your talents. I chose stability over passion for about 10 years of my life. I think everyone has a different threshold for adventure. I am one that is very calculated. I needed to have a 401K, savings, and a strategic plan of action. Thankfully, Solstice started as a whim and took off. It forced me to choose between the stability and the adventure. I was terrified, honestly. I was afraid of being selfish and following my dreams at the risk of not providing for my family in a way that I thought was sufficient. When I think of the amount of time I wasted chasing a dream of my kids having nice clothes and college funds, I cant help but sob for the time I lost with them. Now my children see me working hard for something I believe so strongly about. When we are fulfilling our true potential, the possibilities are endless. I see now that I was sitting by idle wasting a gift that was given to me. I hope that you dreamers and doers will find the courage to accept and share your gifts with the world, we all need it.