Houston sisters Kailey and Kaygan Tissue don't believe in a lot of fashion rules. "When it comes to clothes, I don't have a lot of rules," said Kailey, with a glance at Kaygan, who nodded in agreement. "It's about wearing clothes that make you feel great. Part of that is knowing what looks good on your body, but fashion is about making you feel great--so you should wear what makes you feel great!"
Kailey paused, and then added, "Well--except for wearing leggings with short shirts. I'm all about leggings, but a little bit of modesty is good--leggings call for longer shirts!"
Born and raised in Houston, Kailey and Kaygan Tissue present a united--and fashionable--front. As we spoke in the home retail space from which the women run their online boutique, Kissue, Kaygan was relaxed in a black jumpsuit, while Kailey wore a floral blazer over chic neutrals. With an eye toward opening their own Houston flagship store by 2015, the sisters saw no reason to wait to begin building their brand while Kaygen finishes up her degree in fashion merchandising at Texas Christian University. (Kailey graduated from the University of Florida in 2012.) "Our dream has always been to design and manufacture our own line, but when we were thinking about how to get the ball rolling we came up with the online boutique. We bring in vendors and brands we love and sell them through Kissue. It's allowed us to get our name out there, to grow a customer base, and establish a following." Launching the online boutique allows Kaygen to work from Fort Worth, even during the school year.
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When choosing items to stock the online boutique, Kaylie and Kaygen rely on their own aesthetic: clean lines, interesting fabrics, structural shapes, and heavy on the neutrals. "We like neutral colors, and modern design. We don't like a lot of patterns or 'clutter', and black-and-white is our favorite [color palette]," explained Kaygen, with Kailey adding, "It's important for fashion designers to stay true to themselves, but also think about the customer and what they want--it's a balance."
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The Kissue aesthetic is a balance of modern and sophistication. Dress prices range from $44 to $96, with a wide variety of styles; short and flirty, long and flowing, but all with a few eye-catching details to make them special. Kissue also stocks a selection of shorts--a garment many women find challenging, but which are essential to surviving a Houston summer. If you want to move beyond your basic J. Crew tailored short, but you're scared to leave your comfort zone, Kailey and Kaygen can help. Not only do they offer shorts with cool details like lace peek-a-boo cut outs and contrast piping, they are happy to help you style them. "We love interacting with customers," said Kailey. "We want to make sure customers are comfortable and confident in our clothes, which are 'edgy'--but that's the fun part! Customers email us with questions about styling, and we love helping them." Sizing is also important, said Kaygen, who explained, "We go for true-to-fit sizing, and we even have pieces with looser sizing" so customers can feel more confident in the shopping process, even before they try the shorts on. The sisters recommend pairing shorts that are a little outside your comfort zone with comfy pieces, like your favorite tank or t-shirt, and layering long cardigans that go beyond the hem of the short for a modern look.
As for their future in Houston? Kailey and Kaygen are firm in their desire to stay in the bourgeoning Houston fashion scene. Some of their reasons are practical in nature. "Staying local will help us stay hands-on, and of course there is a cost benefit," said Kaygen. It's the opportunity to get a foothold in a new, growing market that convinced them not to take their show on the road to a city like New York, where Kailey spent the last year-and-a-half learning the business in various designers' corporate offices. "The fashion market in Houston is growing," said Kailey. "It's about to really boom, and staying local is a way to show people what Houston really has to offer."