Owner of Twelve Fourteen Designs, Andrea Campbell is a faith based entrepreneur, wife, and mother of two based in Indianapolis, Indiana. She’s set out to bring couture inspired pieces to the wardrobe of curvy women.
Her love of fashion dates back to her childhood when she would get up every Sunday morning, and peek out of her window, anticipating the fabulous looks and styles debuted by the neighborhood women heading to church. Carrying around a sketchbook and Ebony, Jet and Essence cutouts while completely rearranging her Barbie wardrobe set was just the beginning of her journey. Once her grandmother taught her how to sew, there was no looking back.
Fashion became a part of her life and destiny, driving her to study apparel merchandising and fashion design at Indiana University and interning for established designer Nikki Blaine. Today, Campbell has developed her own clothing brand and hopes to enter the realm of apparel manufacturing here in Indiana.
Her latest creation (pictured below) is a pink tulle dress worn by Sierra Holmes and very much inspired by a recent Lizzo interview in Essence magazine! PATTERN had a chance to hear the ins and outs behind her growth as a designer and entrepreneur.
Khaila King: Describe your journey to fashion design and entrepreneurship?
Andrea Campbell: A year after I graduated in 2010, I had this urge to go to California, because that’s where I believed I was going to make it as a designer. Me and my fiance at the time moved out there and I thought, “this is going to be it.” The following year I had my daughter, planned my wedding and got married. We decided to move back to Indiana for more support from family. When we moved back to Indiana, I knew there weren’t many opportunities for me unless I went back into retail, which I did not want to do and I could not just be a stay at home mom. It is the hardest job in the world and I felt like I was running out of time. My daughter became my clock. Every day she was growing and I couldn’t just say, “well maybe,” or, “someday,” anymore. She was literally that thing that was screaming “now.” At the time, my husband was a security guard for what is now a shopping area near the fashion mall. Profyle Boutique was opening there. One day I was feeling stranded, because I kept hitting these roadblocks. I said, “Lord, if this is what you want me to do, you’re going to have to show me something today,” while waiting in the parking lot for my husband. The boutique owner, Wandini Riggins, walked up to my car and said, “Your husband told me you’re a fashion designer, I’d love to have you in my shop.” She had very high end pieces in her store and all I had was sketches. I didn’t have anything made. She said, “send me your sketches, I would love to see them.” I sent them to her and she said, “I want you in my store.” Then she gave me a tour of the boutique and showed me the section for my pieces. She said, “this is all you, this is your whole space.” Everything in school taught me that this was not supposed to happen and this is not how this industry works. God put me in a place to show me what I could be and it was everything I needed to know for sure that entrepreneurship is what I’m meant to do. The store is now an online boutique called Profyle Concierge. I haven’t worked with the boutique since 2016, but the owner and I still keep in touch.
KK: What makes your brand unique, how does it change the landscape of fashion?
AC: I believe that my clothes should work for you, not the other way around. We’re taught, “beauty is pain,” that we’re supposed to work your way into this and that. Especially since I specialize in curvy women, I wanted to bring back that joy of dressing. I wanted it to be effortless, especially because we’re all busy. With my line, each collection has a piece catering to every body type. On my website I try to have as many guides that I can give you, because I hate having clothes, even in my own wardrobe, that I haven’t worn in forever. It’s cute, but it doesn’t look cute on me and I paid money for this thing and it’s not working for me. It’s the other way around. I’m putting on this girdle and bra to make this thing work. I wanted to make sure that the clothes work for you, for your life, and they make you happy when you put them on.
KK: How has Indianapolis contributed to your growth as a designer?
AC: The people in the Indy fashion community have helped a lot. There are limited resources for fashion design here so those designers who found a way to thrive, that is very amazing to me. Also, I think that we’re very family oriented here. A lot of my support is from family and friends and then their families. People just want to see you win here. They love to see their own grow and bring more to the city. I hope to someday have my own manufacturer here and to bring those jobs and that skillset here. In the Midwest it is very hard. I’ve been trying to find manufacturing that started here, but it has been very difficult to find it in apparel. I think it is something that is needed, especially in this industry.
KK: Where do you find inspiration?
AC: Most of the time I find inspiration when I’m praying or meditating. When working with all of my custom clients and starting a new collection I cut everything off and meditate. I don’t like to look at other people’s work either, because sometimes when you’re trying to create, other people’s ideas get stuck in your head and I don’t want to be like anyone else. I just want to do what God gives me to do. I also look at a lot of couture runway videos and craft room videos. I enjoy watching the fabric making process, the dyeing methods and the construction of garments. I love the craftsmanship and the art of couture fashion. It’s not something that’s available to everyone, but I try to bring in those little pieces. Those are the things to me that make it special. Using that specific color or that kind of dyeing method and bringing that to regular people makes me happy.
KK: As an artist your work can consume a lot of your energy, how do you balance your personal life and your career?
AC: The thing I’m learning is, you’ll never be completely balanced. You’re just constantly prioritizing. Make sure that the people around you, especially your closest people understand you. My husband is the closest person to me and he’s very patient and he knows when to give me space. When we first met he was not into the entrepreneurship thing. I knew it was in my future so I said, “look if this is going to work you have to wrap your mind around it,” but when it actually happened, he was my biggest supporter. I think it’s because he saw me without it. When I wasn’t being an entrepreneur, I was miserable. I worked in retail management, operations and project management, but when I didn’t have any projects on the side that were creative, I was miserable and then I made him miserable. One day he said, “look whatever you gotta do, just do it.” I think that’s key, the people around you have to get you. They may not understand the process, or what drives you to do it, but they need to understand that it is important to you and to value it for you and accept that you need this. Also, it’s important to take that time each day to meditate, reflect on your life, and think about what you’re grateful for. You constantly have to reevaluate yourself and prioritize.
KK: Describe the greatest challenges you have faced while building your brand?
AC: When you say you’re going to step out in faith, you’re literally stepping into something you can’t see. I think dealing with the frustration of the process is very difficult, because you can see that thing on the mountain top, but that whole space in between you can’t. It is complete fog. Plus, when you become an adult you have all these responsibilities and you can get distracted from your vision. I wish I had more information about how to gain capital to start my business, because that has been the biggest obstacle. I value different skills, I want to pay you what you’re worth, because I want people to pay me what I’m worth. I’ve heard of pitch competitions and crowdfunding, but it always seems weird to ask for help in that way. I wish I had access to more resources and more information on how to pitch. Money is a resource that we all need, so that’s been the biggest frustration.
KK: What advice would you give to aspiring designers, trying to build their brand?
AC: Get to the root of why you’re doing it. Understand your why, especially when your why is bigger than you. It has to be bigger than you because if it’s just you, you will burn out really quick. When you see that what you’re doing is going to benefit others, even if it’s just employment, that’s something that’s bigger than you. When you know your why it gives you that push every single time. Also, educate yourself. That is the best investment you will ever make. There are webinars, business coaches and so many things that you can throw your money at, but you have to make sure the people you are investing in, are investing in you and align with your key values. Last, always keep God first. When I saw the Essence magazine story with Lizzo, I said, “somebody needs to redo that.” Sierra Holmes called me two days later and I realized that somebody was me. I had no idea Sierra was going to ask me to be a part of the shoot. It’s amazing to see God work. You see His work with other people, but when it’s you, it’s a whole different feeling. It’s scary, beautiful and ugly all at the same time.