Pictured from left to right, designers and owners of roe + may Jackie Loughery and Katie Welty Fraser. Photos by Asia Morris. Images of roe + may's upcoming Sunday Kind of Love collection courtesy of the designers.
Two Long Beach natives and Wilson High School alumni, Katie Welty Fraser and Jackie Loughery, are living the dream right now—if you count that dream being working six to seven days a week to keep their budding women’s apparel brand, roe + may, on its steady upward trend.
“Jackie had moved home from Hawaii [...] and I was like, let’s start a brand,” said Welty Fraser, who has over seven years of experience in the fashion industry. “Of things that we want to wear and our friends want to wear, [clothes that are] effortless and cool.”
“It literally started on a walk over coffee in Naples one spring morning, and that was almost two years ago, that moment,” said Loughery.
The collection’s strong social media presence caught the eye of Leah Justman, owner of Place Showroom, an influential launching pad for budding brands as well as an ambassador for established lines, with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Dallas.
“She wanted to sign us immediately, and she told us she had a bunch of people showing interest; she told us she had a spot that was open and she just loved the story of two girls, Katie and I growing up together, living in Long Beach, naming the company after our [grandmothers],” said Loughery. “So she took a leap of faith with us and it [has] changed our lives.”
Another major turning point was when roe + may received a purchase order from Planet Blue, an international designer and retailer of women’s apparel known for its bohemian vibe and Southern California background. The two remember exactly what they were doing the moment they found out, now carrying the realization that their passion project had quickly become career-worthy. Loughery, whose full time job was at Nordstrom at the time, had to take a moment to imagine her designs being sold by a competitor.
"So here I’m working in retail at a retail store and I’m getting a company off the ground and someone like Planet Blue is coming in," she said. "Oh my god, it was a life-changing moment, definitely."
Since roughly January, the design savvy entrepreneurs have made roe + may their full-time job, a full turn around from their humble beginnings two years ago, when they were making bridesmaid dresses for friends’ weddings and posting inspiration pictures on their Instagram in an effort to create the lifestyle image that propelled them forward in the first place. Pieces from their collections can now be found in 60 stores and have been picked up by major online retailers including Planet Blue and Free People.
In Long Beach, you can find their designs at Twig & Willow.
“I think the hardest part was we started it from basically nothing,” said Welty Fraser. “Out of pocket, we had no investors, no capital, we’ve earned every dollar ourselves[...] We’ve worked hard together to structure it in a way that it grows in a positive way.”
Welty Frasure and Loughery are now are in the midst of launching their third collection, called Sunday Kind of Love, set to pre-sale online in mid-September and to begin hitting stores in early October. It’s based on partnership, warmth and holiday, three of the words the owners threw out to describe it.
“We love this collection, I love it,” said Welty Fraser. “It’s been one of my favorite [collections] that we’ve designed. We have some really good versatile, effortless bodies…We want it to be one of those lines that you throw on and you feel great; you feel feminine, you feel sexy.”
“We’ve always from the beginning tried to be a suitcase collection, that you can just take around the world with you,” Loughery chimed in.
The clothes are designed in Long Beach and manufactured in Los Angeles, while their latest collection was worn by a Long Beach model and shot by a Long Beach photographer, Samuel Black. Next steps include opening an office space in Long Beach, where the two plan to hire Cal State Long Beach interns, and continue to support local creatives, professionals and the community as a whole that has helped their own dreams soar.
"You have to just go all in and jump off that cliff, it's worth a lot of sacrifice," said Loughery. "And as someone once told us if it were easy everyone would do it and let me tell you it’s not easy."
“We have a lot of faith that it’s come this far, that I think it’s going to take us further because we have a strong work ethic,” said Welty Fraser. “We work really, really hard. We kind of have no option, we want no other option.”