You may have noticed a new sponsor on the pages of Great Lakes Prep, and ladies this one’s geared towards you. ThomasKelly is looking to put a prep spin on activewear. Whether it’s the Ladera Leggings ($92) with their gingham cuffs or the ruffled Malaga Mix tank ($64), ThomasKelly is crafting clothes that can easily transition from exercise to errands. It’s all made in the USA, too. Having launched less than a month ago, I caught up with TJ and Kelly Gamble to get the inside scoop on the brand, its founders and its future.
Great Lakes Prep: What is your background?
ThomasKelly: TJ was raised in Montecito, California and graduated from Colgate University in 2003. Kelly was raised in New Brighton, Minnesota and attended Boston University on a Division I basketball scholarship and graduated in 2002.
GLP: What did you do before starting ThomasKelly?
TK: Kelly worked as a real estate agent for Prudential California Realty in Montecito. TJ still works for a real estate private equity company full time and helps out with ThomasKelly whenever he can.
GLP: Why was ThomasKelly founded?
TK: Both of us have an entrepreneurial mindset and we always loved to brainstorm ideas and talk about how rewarding it would be to have our own business together. The original idea was to create a tie company that would feature the preppy style we fell in love with while attending college on the East Coast. Our plans, however, were placed on hold since we were in the midst of planning our wedding. It was not long after the big event when the idea of starting a clothing company again resurfaced. I was working out at the gym and realized the lack of fun colors, prints and most of all preppy style. I immediately went home and told TJ that “instead of doing ties, I think we should do preppy active wear clothing.”
Additionally, we both felt since women have such busy lifestyles, it would be great to create a line that looks stylish and can transition nicely no matter the occasion. Our motto is “to take preppy from exercise to errands”.
GLP: When was ThomasKelly founded?
TK: The idea came about in 2009. We were founded in 2011 and officially launched the company in July 2012.
GLP: What are some of the challenges you have faced?
TK: We both live very active lifestyles and we both like to shop, but in reality, neither of us had any fashion background. We had to do a lot of research on the industry through trade shows, books, interviewing business owners and taking classes.
I think one of the major challenges we faced in starting ThomasKelly was just to be patient. We knew we had a good idea, but we needed to make sure we didn’t make any foolish mistakes and we had to take our time. Once we had our basic designs and fabrics picked we did multiple sizing and sample runs just to make sure everything was perfect. We realize consumers have so many options today; you really can’t make mistakes in terms of sizing, manufacturing and quality of the items, because if you do, you will lose that customer forever.
GLP: Why did you choose the name ThomasKelly?
TK: We wanted to have a name with a sentimental meaning, but still capture the classic appeal. After going through a long list of names we realized our first names together as one word would be the perfect fit.
GLP: If there’s one product the brand is known for, what is it and why is it the company’s signature product?
TK: Our Bolero Boyfriend Cardigan. We believe it is our signature product because the design showcases our motto to take preppy from exercise to errands and taps into the preppy look that we love. It is the perfect piece for everyday life, from going to the gym, long morning walks, grocery shopping, travelling or even to pair with jeans.
GLP: What separates you from your competitors?
TK: We think we are unique because we are making preppy designs, with the latest fabrics, geared toward the active women in today’s world. We really do want to take preppy from exercise to errands.
GLP: Why should a customer want to buy your products as opposed to another company’s?
TK: There are so many options right now in women’s activewear clothing; however, we feel that we are truly unique in terms of the style, while sacrificing nothing in terms of quality, comfort and fit. We hope customers appreciate this!
GLP: What are the plans for the future of the company?
TK: We plan to continue selling direct to consumers through our website and through trunk shows up and down both coasts, while looking to possibly sell in some boutiques in key markets.
GLP: Bow tie or neck tie?
TK: TJ looks great in a bow tie! I know bow ties are officially back in style on the east coast and south east, however, they still haven’t totally caught on in California yet. However, we are trying to change that!
GLP: Best place for a weekend getaway in the summer?
TK: While living on the west coast our favorite weekend getaway would have to be hands down Napa Valley. It has all the great food and wine, while being incredibly relaxing.
GLP: What song is currently being worn out on your iPod?
TK: TJ-New Passion Pit CD
Kelly- Home by Phillip Phillips or Mumford & Sons on Pandora
GLP: Favorite venue to watch a sporting event?
TK: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -USC Football. Rich sports history, incredible school spirit, filled with traditions and we have family who are alumni. It is a great place to spend a Saturday in the Fall.