Advancing from online sales to a fully operational Tribecca showroom in three years, sisters Neely and Chloe Burch operate their accessories line, Neely and Chloe, with the vitality and style of quintessential up-and-coming New York women. When the Burch sisters set out to create a luxury leather goods and accessories brand in 2015, they were striving fill a market gap that they were frustrated with.
And yes, they are Tory Burch's nieces.
Photo by Bridget Badore | @bridgetbadore
“I think Tory is very inspiring for the way that she reached the customer and spoke with them. So I think if we can get a little bit of that, it would be great," says Chloe Burch.
Getting into the Family Business
Growing up in the Burch household was what any outsider may already expect from the famed name. The girls flourished from design and aesthetic inspiration. Outside of their aunt's success, their father began his career within the fashion industry.
“I think that fashion has always been in our family. Our dad was in the fashion industry for a very long time, he started a women and children's knitwear business. My mom worked at the company as well and that's where they met," Chloe explains. “Our cousins have a company called Trademark, which is an amazing accessories brand as well. And then obviously we have our aunt, who is so helpful and so supportive of everything that we do."
Neely remembers sitting around the dinner table talking about design and aesthetic with her parents, and whether it was art or clothes, “it was something that my father in particular knows a lot more about more than your average dad," she jokes.
Without a doubt, the sisters' childhood influenced their determination to create their own brand. Neely and Chloe are born and bred fashion industry darlings, with fingers on the pulse of their millennial target audience.
“I think that it's something that we've felt, as consumers. You want to know more and you want to know why the brand came to be, and there's not always a great answer for that other than its an austere aesthetic or this concept," says Neely. “We've really worked to create a brand that allows our audience to connect with us in a way that feels really approachable, that's something we've tried to integrate into our brand as a whole."
A Millennial's Proclivity for Minimalism
When Neely and Chloe imagined an accessories brand, they imagined one for themselves. Their brand emulates what they believed was missing in the marketplace, something that sits between luxury and fast fashion.
“I think a lot of it just comes from being millennial women, being young women shoppers and feeling frustrated by the fact that the options at hand were skipping the Ubers or bringing your lunch to work so you could buy something that really you couldn't afford that felt elevated and sophisticated and made you feel special," says Neely. “Or the options were buying fast fashion that didn't last or something that felt mass produced or over consumed."
Scrolling through the Neely and Chloe website allows for an experience that is a comparatively bare alternative to brands like Coach and Michael Michael Kors, who's purses lie within a similar price range. The massive difference is that Neely and Chloe accessories exist sans massive logos, labels or signature patterns.
One of Neely and Chloe's best-selling bags, No. 19 The Mini Lady Bag. Photo Courtesy of Neely and Chloe
According to Chloe, the brand emphasizes customization on all of their products, and with customization comes the ability for consumers to view the products as an extension of themselves.
“What our hope was, and what this has really allowed for, was for women to leave our store or our website with their bag feeling more about them than it does about us," says Neely.
Neely and Chloe were able to raise 1.25M in friends and family convertible debt. Neely recalls focusing on finding investors throughout 2015 and 2016, learning as she went. She spent months running to meetings with potential investors, all with different inquires about every aspect their business - which they had to quickly adapt to. “Neither one of us have any history in finance or background in that," says Neely. “There was a very steep learning curve, but it's one that forced us to get really intimate knowledge of every component of the business and put us in positions where, at times, there were questions we didn't have the answers to."
Along the investment trail came the alarming realization that many female founders and business owners have faced. The sisters were given a list of contacts that had a history with investments. “You look down and you realize, it's a bunch of men. There's just no reason why a lot of these names shouldn't be women's names," notes Neely. “It's hard to sit across a table and talk about a product that doesn't resonate with you because you're never going to be the person to use it -if you're a man and we're talking about handbags."
The Burch sisters realized that they had to approach their audience and embrace women investors. They had to create a way to reach their target audience, so they hosted a get together with women from their hometown, women who knew them and saw them as capable business owners.
“It was our first stop on the fundraising trail," says Neely. “We wanted to present a product that was for women, by women, to women. We have a few investors that came out of that night who have become really great ambassadors for the brand."
Today, the Burch sisters operate Neely and Chloe from a sunlit showroom. Right now, their focus is on expanding their customer base while remaining true to their brand story. “We've really only scratched the surface of the consumers that are out there for this brand," says Neely. “I think there's a ton of potential for growth. We've just started dipping our toes into the wholesale side, working with very select specialty store brands to tap into great networks of women and really spread the word about who we are."
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."