In recent months, one of the most frequent contributors to the comments section has been Karen Hickel, founder of Mirabilis Fashions. In my conversations offline with her, I found her to be a wonderfully wise person who has taken a desire for style and transformed it from a hobby into a thriving business. Check her out in her own words below!
My website is www.MirabilisFashions.com and everything in it is plus size and for sale. All of them are one of a kind items so they’re only available in the size listed.
I started to design and make my own sweaters way back when I was a plus sized teenager in the 70s when my clothing had to come from the “Chubby Department”. Can you imagine the horror of being 14 and seeing rack upon rack of matronly tent clothing that only came in black or navy? It didn’t get any better as I got older so I just kept making the sweaters that I dreamed about having. I was tired of my skinny older sister having all of the great clothes and I wanted special things that only I could have.
I started out working as a computer programmer as a youngster, moved up to the ranks of lower management, then I left that career to start a local nonprofit shelter for homeless people and was the Executive Director for a decade. It was a very public job that entailed countless painfully boring hours of sitting in public meetings so I made sweaters for myself while the politicians rambled on. Before I knew it women were asking me to make some for them too and telling their friends and I had more requests than I could ever fill. I eventually went back into IT management which allowed me much more free time and started picking and choosing plus size requests that would allow me to design fun and challenging things designed to specifically flatter plus size shapes. Another of my pet peeves was that larger versions of clothing designed for thin people aren’t necessarily all that flattering, remotely professional or age-appropriate for women over 40. There are days when only the black or blue suit will do but there are almost never occasions at work that require a belly top or hiphuggers.
I retired about 2 years ago, or at least I thought that I was going to retire. I have so much free time now and so many sweater designs in my head that I’m dying to make that I decided to expand from doing custom local work to opening an online boutique. I love it too much to stop and there are only so many sweaters that a woman can use in California. It was either start to garden in cashmere or open a shop. To be honest the business end of things is easy because it really isn’t any different from managing any other type of project other than that I don’t have employees to delegate anything to. At this point I can write budgets and business plans in my sleep. I’m still such an IT dork that I mapped out my first two years in MS Project and gave myself deadlines. What’s much more difficult is finding the niche target market online that just seems to show up locally through word of mouth. With very few exceptions my customers have been over 30, have professional careers and spend a significant amount of money on their clothing and are more interested in classic styles that will last them many years than they are in current trends. They like color and texture and luxury fibers and indulging themselves a bit and they’re anything but drab. They don’t mind being the center of attention for the right reasons. They also just happen to wear plus sizes.
All in all, diving into online sales with such a targeted group is risky but I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one with an inner teenager that wants something special that no one else can have .
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