From two blocks to two continents, Seattle natives Claire Magruder and Monica Lowe are masters of long-distance friendship and career partnership.
“We’ll each boot up the computer at a specified time, make a cup of tea or glass of wine, depending on which time zone we’re in, and have our meeting,” Lowe said.
Best friends for nearly three decades, Magruder and Lowe, both 30, turned their shared passion for fashion into a business venture. Last August, the duo launched Queen Anne Clothing, a line of everyday and business wear for women age 50 and older.
Starting a business is a challenge for anyone, and this twosome is taking on the process from opposite ends of the world. Magruder lives in New York City, and Lowe currently resides in Australia.
With lots of trust and a little help from technology, these best friends are making their dreams of owning a business together a reality.
It all started at Queen Anne Cooperative Preschool. Magruder and Lowe met when they were 2 and have forged a close friendship ever since.
During their days on the playground, the ambitious duo was already on the hunt for business opportunities. They both recall early entrepreneurial efforts when dough and decorations were their choice products.
“Our favorite activity was creating businesses. We would host bake sales or try to sell interior-design services to our parents,” Lowe said.
As the creative twosome grew up, they bonded over a shared love of clothes and trends.
Lowe’s mother, Betty Lucas, noticed early signs of their interest in fashion. Lucas can remember the clothes-obsessed duo playing dress up, sketching designs and styling out Magruder’s little brother.
Magruder added, “We would spend hours discussing that month’s Vogue cover or browsing the new fabrics at Nancy’s Sewing Basket on top of the hill.”
While it was no surprise to family that Magruder and Lowe teamed up to pursue careers in fashion, it was not until years later that they decided to intersect the worlds of friendship and work.
Following high school, Magruder earned an apparel-design degree from Washington State University. She later moved to New York City, where she worked as the personal stylist to Martha Stewart and racked up an impressive A-list celebrity clientele.
While Lowe stayed in Seattle to study nursing, her interest in fashion heightened. Transitioning from the medical field to the fashion world, Lowe decided to pursue a degree in apparel design from Seattle Central Community College.
Living on opposite sides of the United States, Magruder and Lowe both started careers in the technical-design departments of large corporate companies. After some years, both realized they missed the creative side of fashion. They decided it was time to embark on a new journey together.
Magruder said, “Both of us felt like we had gotten to a point in our personal and professional lives where it just made sense to start a little something of our own.”
From there Queen Anne Clothing was born.
Two continents: No problem
Though they have limited communication due to a 16-hour time difference, the two women say they are prepared to take on this business endeavor.
Thanks to Skype sessions and shared Google docs, which they refer to as their “third partner,” they stay connected at every step. As a result of their lifelong friendship, trust plays a large role in their work dynamic.
“Since we know each other so well and for such a long period of time, it allows our partnership to stay strong without working in the same space,” Lowe said.
Both women have a lot on their respective plates. They are juggling multiple careers and changes in their personal lives. Rather than feel swallowed by the business launch, Magruder and Lowe work to maintain a balance between their personal and professional lives.
“We’ll often make time for Skype dates that have nothing to do with the business — just good old-fashioned gossip and a catch-up,” Lowe said.
Recognizing a need
Their harmonious partnership lends itself well to collaborative designs. They describe Queen Anne Clothing as a mix of their designs and what they believe a mature woman wants to wear.
Both style experts feel that women in the 50-plus age market are largely overlooked when it comes to fashion: While older women are often more capable of affording high-quality clothes, the designers feel that most clothes are made with youths in mind. Lowe calls this the “great irony” of the fashion industry.
“We are so tired of seeing dowdy options for women once they turn 50,” Magruder said. “The fabrics and style just seem tired and sloppy.”
A key source of inspiration for Magruder and Lowe is their mothers. Not only do they fit into the designers’ target market, but they also are a reason the best friends started the company in the first place.
“They kept asking us, ‘When are you going to design something for me?’” Lowe said.
Magruder and Lowe surveyed women in the post-50 age range about what they wanted and needed in clothing. That gave them something solid to work toward when they started designing their line.
For example, they noticed nearly all the women they surveyed felt self-conscious about their upper arms. As a result, every blouse and dress in the collection has a sleeve.
Overall, Magruder and Lowe want their clothes to be fashionable and functional.
“We want to create something special and pretty for women to wear while they pursue their own hobbies and passions,” Magruder said.
Now, they’re eyeing the next steps for their company.
The designers hope Queen Anne Clothing will be available to women across the country in local boutiques and department stores. But they prioritize customer engagement over expansion and never want the company to feel impersonal, they say.
Ultimately, the designers want to call this business their full-time job.
With both of their families residing in Queen Anne, they hope to eventually return to their Washington roots. They debuted the line with a fashion show and launch party in Seattle last November and eventually want to base the line locally.
Magruder said, “There is a growing fashion industry here, and we would love to become a strong part of that industry.”
To check out the Magruder and Lowe’s collection on-line, go to www.queenanneclothing.com.
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