Ten Years, Four Professions, One Dream
Between Ten is breathing new life into what it means to be a family business. Started by Brittany Steinmann and her siblings after being inspired to recognize their childhood dreams of working with one another. With four different professional backgrounds and tastes in style, the Steinmann sisters were able to launch a brand that creates unique garments that aren’t meant to fit just one type of aesthetic. Prioritizing individual pieces rather than full collections, they’re able to foster a genuine connection to the Between Ten costumer and themselves, making for a truly one of a kind shopping experience.
Brittany was kind enough to answer some of our burning questions about life running a family business, Leandra Cohen, past lives and more!
CURIO: This wouldn't be an interview without me asking you for a bit of your background - could you share how you got your start in the industry and what steps you took to get there?
Brittany: My background is kind of a mix of things! I studied Communications at Loyola Marymount University, and while there, I spent a semester abroad that I think changed the trajectory of my career. I initially thought I was going to go into journalism because I did love to write, but London is where I fell in love with all things fashion and knew that's the industry I would end up in! Upon finishing college I moved to NYC in hopes of finding a career in fashion--but as one would guess--that's a pretty tough feat in the fashion capital. So I ended up taking a job in the advertising industry for a year before moving back to LA to go back to school for fashion at FIDM. It's so amazing going back to school for something you know you truly want to do! There I studied Merchandise Marketing, and then landed a job at Nasty Gal in their merchandising and planning department. I spent a few years there, and the knowledge I gained there was so vast and so helpful for what I do today. Being in that entrepreneurial environment helped me learn how to juggle many hats and made me realize that owning a business is something I'd like to do one day. That day came faster than I thought, and I left after those few years to start Between Ten with my three sisters. A truly frightening but insurmountably rewarding decision!
CURIO: What was it like growing up together? Did you always know you'd want to work together?
Brittany: My sisters and I span ages of ten years apart, with the oldest being ten years older than me, the youngest. Growing up, I remember always looking up to all of them and especially noting how distinct all of our personalities were. With four of us, it really is a melting pot of personalities and we knew we could use this to our advantage and build a brand! We come from a family of entrepreneurs so to answer your question- yes! We always knew we wanted to work together. We waited for years for one of us to just take the leap and say, "OK we're doing this!" And I was really invested in fashion at this point so we ran with it and thought to create a brand that could encompass all of our styles.
CURIO: Since each of you has different taste/styles, how do you curate the shop? Having variety is fantastic but is it easy to get to do?
Brittany: Curating the shop has always been about the many different perspectives we all have. We really all represent a different "woman" so it's easy for me as the designer, to think about what each of my sisters would or wouldn't wear. So they'll give me their input and then I try my best to translate it into something that all of us could wear, but just wear them differently. It can get challenging because sometimes what's important to me in a piece isn't necessarily important to one of them. But that's what makes it so diverse! Honestly though, at the end of the day, it's ALL about our customer. Our story of how we started is fun and relatable, but we would be crazy to not put our customer and what's selling first. That's how we are able to create a cohesive collection.
CURIO: What was each of your siblings doing prior to Between Ten? Were any of them also in fashion?
Brittany: All of my sisters were in a different industry before starting Between Ten, and they have remained in their respective industries while I run the business full time. Two of them are in the healthcare industry and one of them is in the interior design space, so we all have different backgrounds, but many learned skills that help in simply running a business. My sister that does interior design helps me with a lot of the creative and design aspect, and the other two help out with financial and operational management. We have a good balance of knowledge on our side!
CURIO: Advice for starting a company with family? In general?
Brittany: Know your roles before you get anything set up and set clear expectations! It's important that you all know what you're expected to contribute to the business and how you're going to be able to do so. When roles and responsibilities aren't clear from the get-go, it leaves a lot of room for mishaps that don't help contribute to your company's growth. And in general, I would say set goals for your company. Goals are such a necessary aspect of reaching your full potential. Otherwise you're not able to assess what you need to do different if you don't make those goals, and exactly how you're going to recharge or pivot to make those goals. Set your goals for 1, 3, 5, and 10 years out and work backwards on plans to get there. Always have a business plan and re-adjust if you need to, but always work towards your goal(s).
CURIO: Do you remember what the first piece of clothing you ever made was?
Brittany: Yes! It was a wrap skirt in a few different colors. We had it in a cute tulip floral print, a darker floral print, a mauve silk, and a forest green silk. I remember before launching I took it with me on a family vacation and showed the sample to my sisters on the plane - we were so excited to see the designs actually come to life! It ended up being a best seller and we think about bringing it back all the time since a wrap skirt is so classic.
CURIO: Who are your biggest inspirations for style and design?
Brittany: My biggest inspirations for style are probably Leandra Cohen from Man Repeller, because she takes so many risks! And she's always keeping people on their toes with what she's going to step out in next - there is something so unique about her unpredictability and she's been able to monetize that so well. I also love that she doesn't take herself too seriously and knows fashion is art but at the end of the day we're not doing heart surgery. As far as design, ah, I don't think the world could ever get enough of Phoebe Philo. Although my designs aren't inspired by hers, per se, she still inspires me so much because she's perfected her craft so well. I am also wildly inspired by art and photography - current favorite artist is Karina Bania!
CURIO: Leandra Cohen is one of my personal favs as well! Do you try and channel that same light-heartedness throughout your designs?
Brittany: I try! I do feel like we've built a warm, natural, feminine brand that it's hard to divert from that identity wholly, but I am trying to more and more. I do always try to keep that same light heartedness in designing - our pieces are not overly complex and pretty wearable, attainable, and relatable at the end of the day- I hope! Also, I do think it's fairly easy to show that side with content, and I'm trying to get better about that. Just talking to our customers as though they are our friend is going to be the direction we take our content from here on out. People engage more and relate more when they feel like there are actual humans behind the brand and that's something we haven't really delved into much. But when we do that, we get such a great response so we definitely have room to grow there.
CURIO: There is (finally) a large push for brands to use ethical and sustainable practices - how are you navigating manufacturing and sourcing?
Brittany: I am so glad that the fashion industry has gotten on board with practicing sustainability. It was always important to us to manufacture ethically and we searched the market in LA for quite awhile before we launched. We wanted to be especially close to the process and see it through from conception to garment and we found a few right away. We source our fabrics from a supplier in Japan, but we manufacture all of our products in Downtown LA, where everyone is being paid fairly, with no tolerance for child labor. We also started a program called #FridayFirsts where the first Friday of every month we drop a new piece or collection of pieces made with deadstock fabric that we source locally in LA. Deadstock fabric is fabric that other brands and larger fashion houses bought too much of, and instead of it going into a landfill, it finds a new home elsewhere. I love being able to give an older fabric new life with an entirely new concept. Those drops have been pretty successful for us, and we really enjoy keeping our customers on their toes with what we find next.
CURIO: What should consumers be looking for an ethical/sustainable fashion? It can be overwhelming when you first start to really research the issues, any tips?
Brittany: There are many different aspects involved in ethical and sustainable fashion and the way we approach the topics. First, in sustainability, I think it's important to know that the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world. It can be overwhelming thinking about how to even make a difference in this on your own, but if everyone thought about how they can individually make a difference we would be way better off. I think it's estimated that the average American is responsible for something like 80 pounds of clothing waster per year, so focusing on your own habits will truly be helpful to the greater good and impact on the environment (since producing clothing emits so much pollution into the world, even catastrophic amounts soon according to some reports I've read). Buying clothing that lasts, clothing that you won't throw out after 4 wears is one of the first steps we can all take. I think there has been a shift into slow fashion in the recent years, and consumers are wanting more of that. It's important for consumers to realize that just because you are spending a little more money upfront, it actually costs you less (and the environment!) in the long run. We all have to do our part in making the environment livable to our future generations. And in terms of ethical fashion, awareness is crucial. Often we can turn a blind eye to the working conditions that others are facing, or just pass it off as "not our problem" but that thinking is so problematic. I would urge consumers to educate themselves on the working conditions of some who make the clothing for those fast fashion brands and I feel like they would think twice before participating in that. Some of it is so sad that we shouldn't stomach supporting that.