Hello fashionistas! First, let me introduce myself! I’m Nicole Heavin Campbell, CEO & Co-Founder of Kalliope Kids, Inc. – A Vintage-Inspired Clothing Line for the Modern Child. My best friend since high school, Jennifer Cobb Jones, and I founded this business both to pursue our love for fashion, business & entrepreneurship, and to inspire others through philanthropy, individuality through fashion, and children’s charity & outreach. Most of all, we get joy from making people smile when they see or wear our designs!
Every great designer has a compelling life story. The one I see most includes a love of dressing up their dolls or Barbie’s when they were little. I’ve often wondered why I didn’t love playing with my Barbie’s as a kid, if I always loved fashion the way I do now. I’ve pondered, “What would my story be when Kalliope Kids becomes successful and our dreams really do come true?” What would I tell our fans? Well, it just dawned on me that I’ve loved fashion my whole life, despite the lack of Barbie fashion!
I was browsing Facebook & my intern Lauren had posted a picture that said, “We believe that playing dress up starts at 5 and never really ends”. I completely agree! It got me thinking about how much I’ve loved playing dress up my whole life. I was literally obsessed with twirly dresses, faux fur stoles, heels, pretty antique pill box hats with bows & birds nest veils, antique jewelry and lots of it! I’ll never forget choosing my favorite pale blue Easter dress specifically because I liked the way it twirled!
I obsessed over real fashion, going through my mom’s clothes, shoes and especially her jewelry. I grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s, so everything was big, chunky, colorful, and sparkly. I dreamed of owning my own pretty sparkly rings, earrings and necklaces. I would teeter around in my mom’s heels and dreamed of wearing her teal prom dress one day. Even as a teenager, I would sneak into her closet and put on her amazing silver strappy heels with a twirly dress or pretty nightgown and prance around like I had watched Baby do a hundred times in my favorite movie, Dirty Dancing.
My Mom, Granny and Paw Paw loved to take me and my friend with them when they went shopping at the local Bealles department store. I couldn’t have more than 5 years old. I saw these FABULOUS shoes with chunky heels with clear plastic mule peep toe (SO in at the time). I HAD to have them. Aren’t shoes every girl’s weakness? So, I asked my Mom for them. When she said no, I asked my Granny. When she said no, I asked my Paw Paw. I was so determined that I put my hands on my hips, cocked my hip with my loose wavy pigtails swinging and announced to anyone within earshot of my loud mouth, “I’ll NEVER give up!” All three of them failed miserably in attempt to squelch their laughter. My granny silently picked up the shoes, walked to the counter and proceeded to buy them for me!
It was a similar story when I discovered all the new rage in footwear — jellies (flats made of clear plastic, often in bright translucent colors & glitter embedded in them). I HAD to have them, and my mom was determined that they were “tacky” and looked cheap. “But MOM!!!! Everyone has them!!!” I would argue. She never cared what everyone else had or did, so my argument was completely ineffective. Luckily, after what felt like eons of begging, she understood how badly I wanted them. When I couldn’t decide between the pale pink glitter and the turquoise glitter, she got me both! Yessss!
In elementary, whenever I went to a friend’s house I loved to see what gems they had to play dress up in! At one house, they had these two matching peach twirly dresses with a ruffle along the bottom hem and neckline. I loved to spin around and make the dress morph and change into pretty fullness and back again! I would get to their house, put on one of the dresses, make one of my friends wear the other one and never take it off for the entire sleepover. That includes sleeping and playing in the mud. To this day, I hope I didn’t ruin the dress!
I still enjoy the creative challenge of dressing my plus-size, voluptuous body in the most fun, young, appropriate way possible. Flattering comes first, then fabulous fashion! I embrace and love my curves and hope to help more women & men embrace their beauty & body the way they are. Everyone is beautiful or handsome in their own unique way. I want to inspire confidence in children, and hopefully the men & women that we touch with our story!
Jennifer and I find inspiration everywhere when we design – including nature, fabrics & trims, antiques, the enthusiasm of children, thought leaders, and people. What’s your story? What do you love? What inspires you to be GREAT? Tell us!