In August 2019, Dallas-based Allie + Bess launched their line of bold bracelet stacks with an initial investment of just $100. Today, the women-owned jewelry brand has announced its first collaboration—and grown its run rate to more than $1 million, despite operating mostly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allie + Bess, co-founded by friends Allie Wardlaw and Bess Callarman, uses globally-sourced beads crafted by Ghanaian artisans to create its polychromatic bracelets. The flat beads, also known as record or vulcanized heishi beads, come in an array of colors and textures that Wardlaw and Callarman use to individually design and hand make the bracelets in Dallas.
Though the styles vary—there’s a 6mm, Verbena, Nix, Flora, and more—each bracelet features five black vinyl beads to represent the co-founders’ five children.
Wardlaw and Callarman met while working in the healthcare industry and quickly became friends. Both busy and stylish moms, the women were constantly in search of a dynamic statement piece that could “take them from carpool drop-off to workout to happy hour,” but couldn’t find anything on the market that fit the description.
After learning about their now-signature vinyl bead, the two taught themselves how to bead and began collecting ethically-sourced materials from around the world. They expanded to add necklaces and earrings to the Allie + Bess line, and crafted new bracelets like ones made of hand-dyed and carved bone African beads.
But like many in the retail industry, COVID-19 hit hard.
“When the pandemic hit in the infancy of our business, we knew we had to swiftly adapt our business model to be cohesive to the new, uncharted landscape,” Callarman said in a statement. “So we transitioned to a direct-to-consumer model and worked with influencers to lift the visibility of the brand. We credit that initial success to thinking outside of the box and being nimble.”
Wardlaw and Callarman’s first collaboration with Austin-based brand and artist Katie Kime will combine Allie + Bess’ signature style with Kime’s artistic color palette. The Katie Kime for Allie + Bess Collection, just-launched in time for Valentine’s Day gifting, the co-founders say, features bracelet stacks in bright, vibrant colors that bring Kime’s designs to life.
According to Wardlaw, Kime was the perfect fit for the duo’s first deal.
“This partnership is a celebration of our two brands’ values of Texan female entrepreneurship, storytelling and artistry,” Kime said in a statement. “We can’t wait for consumers to get their hands on these beautiful new bracelets.”
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