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New York Called Allison Groedel

Ohio-born Ally Groedel has created a women's clothing line much influenced by her personal experience. This young, fun loving girl moved to New York City four years ago partly for love. She has since quit her corporate job, married, divorced, and started her own brand, Allison Collection. Most importantly? She is happy and absolutely loving her life as a single, young designer in the big city.As is most always the case, I met Ally through a previous New York City transplant I interviewed. Rachael Baxter of Lifestyle + Charity Magazine (who's story I featured here) wrote a story on Ally and suggested we get in touch. I met her at her apartment/office in the West Village, eager to hear more about her experience in the city and the creation of her brand.Ally grew up in Solon, a suburb of Cleveland. She attended Bowling Green University in Ohio for college where she majored in Business Marketing. After college she moved to Chicago to work for a communications technology company in sales. While she loved living in Chicago, her boyfriend was in New York City. Lucky for Ally, her job was able to transfer her and not long after moving to NYC Ally got engaged."My career in fashion really started when I ended up designing the bridesmaid dresses for my wedding. I had no design experience when I started. It was all trial and error," said Ally. Her bridesmaid dresses were a success so Ally began bridal design for friends and friends of friends. "From a business mindset I saw an opportunity in bridal because girls are crazy obsessed with their weddings and are willing to spend a lot of money," said Ally. While she thoroughly enjoyed designing for her own wedding, however, she quickly lost interest with bridal."My interest as a designer started as one thing and morphed into something else. When I was knee deep in my wedding I loved it but I realized bridal dresses were not really what I wanted to be designing," said Ally. Her first design experience solidified her desire to be in the fashion industry. Ally ended up quitting her corporate day job. "I was having the same conversations with the same people I couldn't relate to. I told myself I couldn't live life with regret so I took a huge leap of faith and started my own company."Through the bridesmaid experience she learned how the manufacturing process works and decided to create a contemporary collection labeled Allison Collection. She knew a couple of designers who gave her amazing advice and connections that aided her start and fortunately was able to privately fund her brand without outside investors. I asked Ally to take me through the different steps of creating a full collection.Ally designs nine months out. For instance, she is currently designing for Fall 2013, but consumers will not see it until fall of next year. Her design process begins with an inspiration board and color scheme. She then sketches her designs and brings them to her pattern maker. Here, Ally goes over measurements and creates a pattern on a piece of paper which she takes to her sample maker. She goes back between pattern maker and sample maker until they accomplish a final sample, which Ally takes to buyers. She then produces a certain quantity based on orders.Her collections revolve around the "AC [Allison Collection] girl". "What is she doing today? Where is she hanging out? My brand is centered around the city so I want my pieces to be versatile and timeless," said Ally. Ally designs things she would wear. "I love silk so it is silk heavy but I like to throw in unexpected elements like a dose of leather. At the end of the day I am my target market so if I won't wear something I am not going to design it for my customer," Ally said.One of my favorite things about Allison Collection is that everything is made in New York City. Supporting local manufacturing in the garment district is very important to her brand. Her factory is seven minutes away from her apartment in the West Village so she can easily keep an eye on quality control. "I want my brands to represent New York. New York pushes you so hard. I think to myself 'I am coming up with this, but so is someone else so mine has to be better.' Everyone has these grand ambitions to be the next best thing."Ally's future plans include a flagship store in New York. "If I open a store it will be in the city. This is a place so many girls aspire to live in and look to as their fashion inspiration. I would love to have a store presence here," said Ally. Although a store opening is a couple years or more down the road, Ally currently does whatever she can to showcase her brand, "I take my business cards everywhere and I ALWAYS wear Allison Collection."Two things Ally learned from her corporate sales position are resilience and persistence. "I would e-mail and call 80 people a week and out of those 80 maybe two would respond. Now I know I will have to call 100 boutiques before I get 10 meetings. My previous job gave me the thick skin I needed," she said. To expand her reach, Ally found a showroom to represent Allison Collection. She touched on the difficulty of finding amazing representation in a showroom. "It's tricky because you have to sit next to brands you don't really compete with but look good with," said Ally.When it comes to store presence, Ally believes slow and steady wins the race. She would rather grow organically than suddenly peak and fall. Each season she is placed in more stores and receives more recognition. "I have had fans send me pictures from boutiques saying they love my line. That is so fulfilling and rewarding. People don't always understand how much that means" said Ally.So back to the "AC girl" that defines Allison Collection, what is Ally doing today? Where is Ally hanging out? Like i said, since moving to NYC four years ago she has quit her corporate job, married, divorced, and started her own business. "It sucks to realize you married the wrong person. I got married too young but, luckily, only for one year and I still have my whole life ahead of me," said Ally. She recognizes she would not be in New York City or started her own line if it weren't for him, "It is crazy how life goes through these circles and you never know what will happen. You have to embrace it, move forward and not dwell in the past."You can shop Allison Collectionhere. Make sure to follow Allison Groedel on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. All pictures of me courtesy of the wonderful Sunny Chang.

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