What started as a project to make her young son a little more fashionable has turned into a cottage industry for Gilbert parent Uyen Carlson, one whose growth is fueled by her savvy use of social media.
Carlson’s decision to launch her online baby clothing line, Crew & Lu, began approximately a year ago when she wanted to provide her then-5-month-old son, Crew, with a sharper sartorial selection. But the options available in stores didn’t suit her tastes, so she decided to pull out the sewing machine and create clothing with a different sense of fashion than the average baby clothing.
“I didn’t want to be the typical mom; I consider myself the young, hip mom,” she said.
Her “hip mom” status extends to the material she uses to sew her clothes and the shoes she makes. The fabric is organic and made in the United States, while the shoes are made of 100 percent leather.
The advantage of the former, Carlson said, is that the material is soft and more comfortable for a baby’s skin, and she said the leather shoes aren’t quite as clunky as the baby sneakers purchased in stores.
“I find it’s the best for young walkers to learn in,” she said.
Carlson doesn’t have any formal training as a seamstress, but she developed her eye and a flair for fashion through years designing her own costumes as an ice skater. Those costumes are expensive — a decent outfit can cost upwards of $100 — which is why many skaters take the time to make their own costumes.
Another advantage of a skater making his or her costume is the ability to put one’s own personality into the outfit, and that trait has carried over to Carlson’s efforts with Crew & Lu.
“I guess I try not to follow a trend; I try to set a trend. I try to be original, and it’s difficult to find anything original,” she said.
That sense of originality extends to her creative process, which is based in part on a sense of spontaneity and instinct. Her designs can change from day to day: as Carlson put it, “If I’m feeling stripey, you’ll see some stripes in the future.”
A shade more than a year has passed since Carlson began designing clothes for her now quite large 18-month-old son, and the venture has advanced from a private design into a full-fledged fashion operation. One of the main reasons for the expedited growth is Carlson’s embrace of non-traditional sources of promotion, which have kept her advertising budget pretty low and drawn more attention to her products.
“My business pretty much grew through social media, and Instagram was my No. 1 push,” she said.
Carlson has used Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as part of her campaign, but the Instagram account is the key. She’s up to around 10,500 followers, and said the figure increases by 1,000 over a two-week period. She attributes the increase to the personal touch she adds to postings, with references to her life with Crew and her husband Lance.
The reasons she cites for the increase is the photo capabilities, and the audience that uses Instagram and Pinterest, as she said many of those users fit her target audience of fellow moms. The other advantage of using social media as a promotional tool is the minimal time investment. It takes time to put together one of her products — a pair of shoes, for example, is three to four hours if she’s cruising — and she does most of her sewing after her son goes to bed. That means she works many late night shifts, which often take her into the wee hours of the morning.
Fortunately for Carlson, Crew & Lu has grown enough for her to hire a new seamstress, and she said the long-term goal is to get her brand into shops.
“I want to be accessible to everyone,” she said.
For more information, visit crewandlu.com or call (480) 234-5311.
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