“The fashion world is focused on how you look. I’m focused on how you feel.” ~ Kathleen Baxley, Creator of Mere Basics
One thing that entrepreneurs seem to have in common (aside from their fearlessness) is their ability to find solutions to problems. That is exactly what Kathleen Baxley did a few years ago, when she developed her line of luxury underpinnings, called Mere Basics. After spending twenty-five years in corporate America, mostly working on Wall Street, Kathleen would find a new city (Seattle), and a new purpose; helping women feel good about themselves from underneath. You will be inspired by Kathleen’s story …
MKG: You were not always involved in fashion and design. What did you do in your former life?
KB: I started out in magazine publishing and although I loved that and the creative aspect of the job, it was financially limiting. As a next step, I went to Stanford Business School, and from there ended up working in Investment Banking on Wall Street. I worked in Equity Research for twenty-five years. During that time, I noticed there were strong women with lots of style or lots of money (or both), whose wardrobe added to their swagger.
MKG: What inspired you to completely change course and design a luxury underpinning line?
KB: I was ready for a change and when my partner was moving to Seattle, I knew this my chance to leave New York and try something new. I have always loved fashion and creating different images day-to-day. It’s part of my fun. When I first moved, I decided to take time to figure out what I wanted to do. I enrolled at The University of Washington and took a course in “The Business of Fashion.” I began to seriously ask myself, what is the product that I have always wanted? I soon found my answer: A way to stay warm underneath fine garments. In all the years that I was working in the financial industry, I would dress up, and put beautiful outfits together, only to find that I would inevitably cover them up with shawls and wraps and sweaters because I was often cold. There was no regulated temperature in the offices. All of the joy of the outfit was taken away the minute I added the bulky, uncomfortable coverings. After a lengthy process of research, I launched Mere Basics in 2011.
MKG: Why did you choose cashmere? What does this luxe fabric have to do with how a woman feels?
KB: I have a large closet! Whenever I would reach into my closet, the thing warmest to the touch was cashmere. Cashmere is unique in that it keeps temperature better than other fibers. And because it is super-fine, it can add softness and warmth without adding bulk. Women spend money on their outside, but the most important thing is to take care of yourself underneath. Nothing feels better than cashmere and women notice the difference.
MKG: Mere Basics has taken off since its inception. What is behind its success?
KB: Mere Basics fulfills a very basic need for a lot of women; to help them feel comfort and warmth without sacrificing their signature style. This is a way for women to feel good, from the inside out. No matter what a woman is wearing on the outside, she will know that she is also taking care of herself on the inside. Women are hesitant to be good to themselves. But Mere Basics is about “being good to me.”
MKG: What do you love about your job?
KB: I love talking to people about the product and hearing how it makes women feel. I love when people come up to me and tell me how Mere Basics has helped them to wear the clothes they want to wear. Someone who wanted to wear a silk blouse, but never would because she wasn’t comfortable, can now wear that blouse. Or a person who wanted to wear a sundress, but would become cold and uncomfortable as the sun went down, can now wear that sundress. Women now have the solution. I find that completely gratifying.
MKG: How do you plan to grow your brand?
KB: In the near term, identify the core pieces and expand them, design new styles that are interesting and also functional, and add colors.
MKG: Is this everything you dreamed it would be?
KB: I am constantly learning. It’s very satisfying to have taken a situation from my own life and turned it into a positive solution for myself and for others. What has surprised me most is that people have uncovered a problem they never knew they had; adding warmth with light-weight, soft-against-the-skin products.
MKG: What is the best career advice you ever received?
KB: Just keep going; keep your head down and go forward. Everything you do for the first time can be frustrating, but don’t stop. Find the people who can help you and go forward.
You can find Mere Basics by going on line: http://www.merebasics.com/. Mere Basics can also be found at select Northwest stores listed on the website.