Like most successful entrepreneurs, Alison Leibeskind, founder and creative force of fashion upstart Alison Beth Company http://www.alisonbethco.com , is an innovator with passion. Even as a young child, Alison displayed strong interest in designing, creating and painting rich silk textiles. In 2004, she fulfilled her dream by launching her own line of knit accessories, producing hand-manufactured hats, shawls, scarves, and handbags using the world’s finest cashmeres, wools, yarns and knits.
Alison combines her vast knowledge of visual arts with her business acumen in knowing where the industry is going and what the market wants. As a result, she is considered a designer-to-watch and regarded as an “influential designer and young entrepreneur within a highly competitive industry” despite being relatively new in the fashion industry. Her knitwear products are described by fashion publications as “unforgettable pieces instantly taking on a life of their own.”
Born to Design
Alison has always been a creative individual. Her family — whose members have excelled in various creative endeavors such as photography, writing, costuming, and manufacturing handmade draperies – nurtured her artistry. Thus, it is no surprise that Alison “kind of fell” into designing early on. She recalled, “As a child I would tell my mother, “You should only see what I dream.” As I grew older I realized that fashion would be the best way for me to realize my dreams.”
Alison loves bright colors, textiles and soft fabrics. The luxurious feel of knitwear has always fascinated her. She explained, “Since I was a youngster my senses have been particularly driven by sight and touch. I was visually drawn to knitwear because of its appeal, but my sense of touch was heightened by the richness of the texture of yarn.”
Alison developed her design talents and entrepreneurial spirit while attending the nationally respected textile & fashion program of Syracuse University. Alison said of that time, “I was unsure when it came time for college and having to commit to a major, and the idea of textile design seemed to be the best possible choice. Classes in fashion design overlapped my major and this allowed me to look at fashion with new eyes.”
The Birth of Alison Beth Company
Yarns and knits have always held a special attraction for Alison. In college, she developed a passion for knitting. She knew that she wanted to be a knitwear designer when she walked into a yarn shop one day and the variety of yarns instantly caught her eye. She recalled; “It was at that point that I immediately saw myself designing knitted accessories to compliment an outfit, regardless of what season it was or where you lived. I have always closely observed what other designers created and felt like I could create something different, something more appealing to the eye and with a softer feel to the skin.
In explaining her choice for her products, Alison explained, “In my opinion, accessories are what complete every outfit and I thought it was interesting that knitwear, depending on its weight, could become that special accent. Some of my accessories, such as the Hampton’s bandana and many of my shawls are terrific for summer days and nights. Likewise, my winter collection of hats and scarves can give any outerwear a boost and people will look great, regardless of the weather.”
All of the items in the Alison Beth knitwear line reflect a core fashion philosophy. Alison explained, “Each piece I design is highlighted by bright colors and wonderful textures and can be worn by any woman who has a spark and a spirit. I embrace all kinds of people and I didn’t want to limit who could and couldn’t wear my designs due to body type. Even pregnant women have enjoyed wearing my knitwear. More importantly, each of my designs has a personality compatible with my own. If my personality does not shine through in the product, then the product will never be marketed.”
Designing was the easy part; starting a business proved to be the real challenge. Alison quickly learned that launching a business is a complicated process, with all the preparations, planning, and expenses that it entailed. As Alison acknowledged, “I find the most difficult part of the business side is the time it takes to actually run a business. I love designing and coming up with new concepts for my collection so when I spend time focusing on the business aspect of my company, I find myself getting frustrated that I cannot focus more completely on coming up with new designs.”
“Since I never ran my own fashion company, I found that making the initial contacts was the most difficult thing,” Alison said. As a startup, she found it difficult to get in touch with companies that she believed made the best quality yarns. As her business grew, however, she started to develop important contacts and relationships with yarn distributors.
Fortunately for her, her family was very supportive of herself and her vision, and assisted her in starting the business including providing her with the startup funds that she needed.