As a young creative, I always hated working in teams. I think there was an element of ego, and the stubbornness of youth that kept me from embracing the good that came out of partnering with someone with a different viewpoint. As an ideas person, I often felt like if I let my baby-idea go, it would end up as something I couldn’t recognise, and would take away my ownership. I struggled with this all through my design experience. There was always a desire to be right, which is, of course, impossible, in a very subjective field. This self-induced isolation held me back, and instead of fostering my creative spirit, left me really lost, alone with my ideas, which never came to fruition .
When Laura and I first started talking about going into business together, I initially felt overwhelming excitement, and incredible fear. I worried about how difficult I might be to work with, if I’d be able to let go enough to truly collaborate, and if my weaknesses would take us down, with our friendship as a casualty as well.
As it turns out, we’re all human, and Laura shared some of the same fears, (probably a little less neurotically?), and we decided to spend our first few meetings being flat out honest about strengths and weaknesses, probable reactions to certain situations, and feedback that makes us feel good or bad. We agreed to really keep the lines of communication wide open, even when it was awkward, or potentially maddening for the other person.
While our business is very personal to us, it had to stay removed from our friendship. Honestly, it all felt like the discussions my husband and I had before we got married, and Laura and I chose to take business vows as we entered this new relationship.
After we had ironed out all the emotional stuff, (which will undoubtedly wrinkle again at some point and need some attention), we were ready to really start building something together, and our first project was giving ourselves a name. We had discussed previously, maybe coming together to form a business. Because our times together were so often in discussion, on a couch, wine in hand, sweatpants firmly, (but comfortably...and beautifully), on, Laura initially jokingly threw out the idea of Sweatpants and Wine as a name, and I knew I was working with someone I could be myself with. More than anything, we discussed home, and what it meant to us, what it felt like, and we circled, ‘Beauty. Comfortably,” as the overall concept to which we were attaching our brand.
I’m not sure about all you other creatives out there, but in my old age, I’ve really become comfortable in the way my brain processes things. I used to feel horrendous pressure to come up with ideas right on the spot, and would clam up because that isn’t the way my brain works. Usually, I listen to information, do a little research, and when I’m making toast, or some other random task, an idea pops. I was indeed, making toast one afternoon for my kids’ ninth snack of the day, when the idea of Velvet Sweatpants jumped into my head. I just loved the juxtaposition of the two words- of luxury and the symbol for comfort that Laura had identified. It also reminded me of the blue velour track suit I wore every day to design school, and it all felt very full circle.
I remember texting just, ‘Velvet Sweatpants’ to Laura, so terrified that she’d hate it, when I loved it so much. I think her response was one of laughter, but we never really discussed it further than that.
Laura is the engine of this partnership. She has a fire in her that just drives her, whereas, as described above, my process is more passive. Laura’s engine is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, because it gets stuff done. She told me one night that she had been playing around with logo ideas and names, and we should meet. To sum up, Laura had played with many names and combinations, but mentioned ‘Velvet Sweatpants’, how she liked it, but was concerned with how it would be received. There had been feedback from friends, positive about the concept, and negative about the Sweatpants. Knowing that sometimes, the favourite idea has to be thrown out, and that these concerns were very important to us as a team, we decided to eliminate Velvet Sweatpants, and worked from the concept. We spent hours throwing ideas at each other, looking up how to say sweatpants in other languages, how to describe comfort differently, how to get that same tangible feeling from something else...cashmere undies, warm bath...hahaha. We ended up laughing so much, and landing back where we started. It felt reassuring to know we had exhausted the possibilities, and that ‘Velvet Sweatpants,’ was something we both loved and believed in enough to not worry about the naysayers.
Velvet Sweatpants decided upon, it was time to work out the logo. Laura and I have always been aware that our design styles differ, but have talked frequently about how beautiful our design babies would be. (More and more like a marriage...). Going into logo development, I knew Laura would lean toward a clean font, and I would go to all the fonts of my storybooks from childhood. I could imagine Velvet Sweatpants as a marquee in lights, but guessed that probably wouldn’t represent us both very well. We searched for a font that was both clean, but had a slightly vintage feel that added some character, but didn’t take away from Laura’s vision. It was our first collaboration of me dialling it down, and Laura dialling it up, and it felt neither like her or me as individuals, but like us, as Velvet Sweatpants.
After choosing the font, we wanted to come up with a symbol that would represent us. I had been stuck on the idea of a ‘V’ upside down as a good symbol of Sweatpants, and we took this idea and both played with some sketches. When we came together, we were close, and she asked me to let her explore an idea she had been working on. Using a program I had no idea how to use, (Photoshop 7 is my pal), she took all of our sketches and input and made the most perfect little logo I had ever seen. It was cute, smart, and layered. We had a pair of sweatpants, and the image of a home, created from adorable details of pockets and cuffs, all rolled into one. The high I felt that night for that logo was unlike anything I had ever felt individually, and that’s when I knew that collaboration would always make us stronger. We have such a varied skill set between the two of us that we can’t help but make each other better. Though I never wanted to admit it before, I need a good edit, and without one, I'm afraid I'm a bit much. Laura is my edit, and I think I'm her push. For the first time, I’m watching ideas come to life through her focusing magnifying glass. They aren’t MY ideas, they’re ours, and I can see how much better they are, influenced by each other.
Our logo and name, are our first design baby, and I couldn’t be more proud. Like a parent, I’m hopeful for her future, anxious about raising her, but trusting she’s going to be awesome! And, incredibly thankful for the partner by my side.