Running her own company has been one of the most fulfilling and challenging experiences of Atlanta-based fashion designer Abbey Glass’ life.
There’s a learning curve for small-business owners that Glass is navigating with the expertise of a seasoned professional. As a woman, she is learning that longevity brings respect and that having a great team is half the battle.
In her Miami Circle showroom, Glass sits on sofa looking at her spring/summer collection. The pieces in shades of peony, aqua and white hang from racks in a curated space. It’s upscale but not overdone, and, like the designer, there’s something relaxed about it.
“I’m a tomboy,” Glass said. “I am very casual, my family is casual, and I am much more cerebral than people would expect. I am not out and about as much as people would think. … But that’s a pleasant surprise.”
The craft of design was the driving force behind her career choice. Her brain was only satisfied when she was involved in some aspect of fashion design.
“It was something I had to do. I had to have my hands full of fabric. I had to be drawing. I had to be sewing, or I had to be pattern making,” Glass said. “It was all about the engineering and problem solving.”
Glass is from the Ansley Park neighborhood and attended The Temple as a child. She graduated from Central Saint Martins in London, then continued her education at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.
She started her company in 2010 and was inspired by first ladies such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Michelle Obama, whom she aspires to dress someday.
Glass’ looks have transitioned from classic pieces with a rock ’n’ roll edge to pieces with the relaxed tailoring of Italy. It’s a change that came with research and evolution, she said.
“The more I look into Jacqueline Kennedy’s life, she becomes very multifaceted. I realize these characters have so much complexity within themselves, and there is so much dichotomy,” Glass said. “They have this darker, edgier side to them that isn’t in the public eye, then they’ve got this very sophisticated public image.”
Princess Grace of Monaco inspired her spring 2017 line. The collection features a secret-garden wide-leg pant, A-line dresses, and eyelet lace tops in peony, navy blue, aqua and black. The silk fabrics and colors reflect the scenery of the Mediterranean destination.
The fall/winter line was inspired by Sofia Coppola’s film “Marie Antoinette.” The palette includes an unexpected crimson-and-blue paisley, knit jacquards, white, black and a rich emerald green. Glass is excited about the line because “Marie Antoinette” is one of her favorite films.
There’s something refreshingly authentic about Glass, who, though influenced by highly stylized films, remains grounded. At 28, she has put almost eight years of hard work into building her brand.
“The hardest part of running a business is putting together a team,” Glass said. “I can finally sit back and watch the machine work.”
Her team consists of design assistant Colleen Quinn, office manager Elie Behr and a few operations specialists. Size-4 Glass is the fit model for her collection. “That’s why our sell-through is so good,” she said.
When the samples come in, each member of the team wears the pieces and gives feedback.
“I know how things feel and know how I want them to feel. All the girls try everything on. When one thing comes, I’ll try it on, then Colleen will try it on, and then we talk about it,” Glass said. “It’s like an open forum. … You need the peanut gallery.”
Each member of her team appreciates working for a woman who values other opinions. They work together, playing off one another’s strengths and weaknesses.
Quinn said she is more organized while Glass is more inspired, but they balance each other out.
“Abbey is coming up with ideas and pinning things up. I’m more organized. I know where things are, so Abbey put me in charge of that,” Quinn said. “She’ll come to me when we’ve edited the collection and ask, ‘How can we update these?’ ”
The two don’t share the same aesthetic.
Glass is inspired by contemporary designers such as Raf Simons, formerly of Christian Dior. She uses his influence to bring simplicity and minimalism to her brand.
Glass provides traditional silhouettes but enjoys introducing her clients to conceptual approaches such as what she saw at the Comme des Garçons exhibit in New York.
Quinn said the result is a space where experimentation with color and fabric is central to each season.
“A lot of times she’ll pick out fabrics, and I’ll be like ‘no,’ but we’ll mock it up, and I’ll say, ‘That’s genius,’ ” Quinn said.
From her retail shop at Ponce City Market to her showroom at Miami Circle, Glass’ signature style marks the space. There are clean lines in stark white with pops of bright color.
“She designed the whole space. You really get an idea of Abbey’s aesthetic,” Quinn said.
Her store at Ponce City Market sits on the second floor. Like Glass, it’s low-key. There is no signage above the doorway, just small black letters on a back window reading “Abbey Glass.”
Sun streams through the industrial space curated with feminine clothes, jewelry and pictures. Glass opened the store in the spring and decided to renew her lease after a trial period. The retail space gives her more control over what she sells and allows her to engage the public.
“We have a much wider demographic,” Glass said. “It’s given me a whole new perspective on merchandising, products and customer service. It’s also given us a really great space to have events.”
Longtime friend Katie Ewing manages the space, casually greeting customers as they enter. She has followed Glass since their days at the Paideia School and jumped at the chance to work for her. She helped Glass design the retail location and said she’s proud at how far Glass has come in such a short period.
“I remember the first show I went to in Buckhead. … She was pulling this person from here and that person from there to put on this big production. You could tell she had it in her. It was super-successful,” Ewing said. “She’s learned so much about running a business and also so much working with her clientele. It’s really cool to watch her grow and watch her line grow year after year.”