Living the Dream: Quincy Apparel


Name:  Christina Wallace and Alex Nelson 

Age:  Both 28

Location:  New York City

Education: Christina: BA in Mathematics and Theater Studies from Emory University, MBA from Harvard Business School; Alex: BS in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MBA from Harvard Business School

Job title: Christina: Co-Founder and CEO; Alex: Co-Founder and COO of Quincy Apparel

What they do: Ever wonder why your friend who is a 36D and you, a petite 32B, are both supposed to fit into a size small?  Christina Wallace and Alex Nelson clearly saw the dilemma millions of women face when shopping for work wear. To solve the problem, they founded Quincy Apparel, a fashion line that offers tailored pieces that are not only perfect for work, but actually fit off-the-rack. “We re-imagined sizing to take into account the complexities of real women’s bodies, accommodating different busts, hips, and heights.  This isn’t made-to-order; this isn’t custom. Instead these are sizes that factor in your proportions to give you a garment that drapes around your curves instead of hanging off of you like a box,” says Alex.  "Instead of using dress sizes like a “size 6” we use your bra size + torso length on tops (36A/B Tall, for instance) and your waist + shape + inseam on bottoms (like 28 Hourglass with 35” inseam).”

How they got their gig:  When Christina was twelve, she declared to her family that one day she was going to create a “tall mall” that only had stores that catered to tall people. “It’s tough enough to be a kid, but even harder when you literally can’t ‘fit in,’ so the mission of reaching people who are excluded by traditional sizes and shapes really appealed to me,” says Christina. While creating a fashion line was never the obvious career choice for Christina, being an entrepreneur was.  I got my current job because I created it.  And that describes much of what I’ve accomplished thus far – whether creating clubs that didn’t exist in college and then leading them or creating projects and expanding job definitions because there was so much more that I was interested in and felt I could do,” says Christina. 

Alex never thought she’d become an executive at a fashion company even though she loved the industry. She decided to pursue an engineering degree in college and then continue her education at business school.  It was through a consulting job that she finally came to realize that fashion really was a blend between math and art. “When I went to business school, I had my heart set on fashion and finding ‘my place’ in the industry,” says Alex.  “It was at that time that I learned more about startups and entrepreneurship. Immediately I knew this was my ‘in’ to the fashion world.”

Trail Blazers: Receiving their first five sample blazers is something both Alex and Christina will never forget. “I couldn’t believe how well they had turned out. When reality is even better than your dreams, it’s a bit overwhelming,” says Alex.

Tweet Me:  To stay fresh in the industry, Christina heavily depends upon Women’s Wear Daily and Twitter for inspiration and breaking news. “I follow a combination of magazines, stylists, blogs, and brands that I respect and when they think something is worth tweeting about I’ll usually click through to see what’s going on,” says Christina. She also likes to keep abreast of the comings and goings of the startup community in New York. “Twitter is perfect for that. Spend time finding the right people to follow and you’ll have an expertly curated newsfeed,” says Christina.

Day in the Life:  While no two days are the same when running a start up, Alex and Christina were able to designate daily tasks for themselves. Alex handles product development, merchandising, and operations, so her typical day often involves fabric swatches, updates from the factory, deciding what to reorder, fittings of new styles in development, and updates to the website.  Christina is in charge of marketing and PR, investor relations, business development, and all of their community outreach.  “My day often involves two to three ‘coffee dates’ with potential partners or investors, perhaps an interview for an article, writing a few blog posts, keeping tabs on our Twitter feed, maybe giving a speech for a conference or university, and, you know, taking out the trash and balancing our checking account,” jokes Christina.

"Wine" Down: “Some days a trip to the gym is exactly what I need to unwind and de-stress, and other days I’d rather head home for dinner and a glass of wine with my husband.  Usually the wine and the husband wins,” says Alex.

Hardest Part: Who would have thought the biggest obstacle to planning your schedule is you?  Giving yourself homework can be pretty challenging. I get to decide how to spend my day!  That means if I miss something or screw up or prioritize the wrong things, I have no one to blame but me!  I also have a hard time turning off and saying, ‘Ok, I’ve accomplished a lot today, now I’m going to think about my friends or call my sister or read a novel,’” says Christina.

This job’s for you if: you can do what you love as early in your career as possible. According to the girls, you'll be infinitely happier – and the things you worried about won't matter so much anymore when you're finally truly loving your life. “It's scary to make the leap and take a big risk,” says Alex.  But it gets harder the longer you wait.”

Lesson Learned: “No one is going to give you permission to do what you want to do. No one is going to know your secret dreams and tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, you are awesome, you should give this pipe-dream a try.’  So if you’re waiting for that, you’ll be waiting a long time. Instead you have to find the courage and the determination to just do what you want to do, even in the face of skeptics. Even when people don’t want to help you or they say ‘no’ or they give you that funny look that says, ‘I don’t think this is going to work but I’m not willing to say it to your face,’” says Christina.  “Nike was right: just do it.”