Slow fashion, fast growth: A case study on Orleans and Winder
When Erin Wetzel was studying theater performance in college, she never dreamed she’d one day own a luxury boutique.
And then she moved to France.
“Just being there really opened my eyes to a way of elevated living — being very simple and buying high-quality, timeless pieces that will last forever in the way of fashion,” she reminisces.
Still, it took some time to turn her passion for fashion into a full-blown business after moving back to Detroit. She began her career doing voiceover work, and then ran her own pilates business when her son was born.
But while she loved working with her pilates clients, she knew this wasn’t what she was meant to be doing. “Detroit was changing, and it felt like it was the time to grow a mom and pop business as Detroit grew.”
“It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been amazing. I feel like I’m finally doing what I should be doing.”
So in 2015, Erin and her partner officially opened Orleans and Winder in a loft at the crossroads of Orleans + Winder in Detroit’s historic Eastern Market. To set their boutique apart, she decided to focus on the type of fashion that inspired her in France: “We approached designers with a particular aesthetic, but also those that are creating their designs very patiently — meaning small batch production or by hand.”
While this type of fashion can be pricey, to Erin, it’s the right way. “It’s important that we go back to that way of creating because the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world.”
Soon, Erin’s vision started to pay off as she began acquiring customers who loved the pieces just as much as she did. “I love that we can show women these options of how to dress and blow their mind a little bit out of the daily uniform that some people have chosen — give them these options of beautiful, pure fabrics in interesting shapes that fall beautifully on the body because the designers know what they’re doing and they’re working very small scale.”
Everything was falling into place, but there was one tear in the fabric that was preventing Orleans and Winder from growing even faster: Since they were located on the second level of a building, they weren’t getting much organic foot traffic.
“It was just like this was heaven-sent — this little mailer I got from Funding Circle.”
Knowing it’d ultimately be the best decision for her business, Erin decided to make the leap and move to another location.
To help with all the costs of relocating, Erin decided to look for funding. Fortunately, while she was doing research and talking to different companies, she got a mailer from Funding Circle and decided to see what we could do to help. “I called Funding Circle, and they were so incredibly helpful. No other company was willing to put forth what we really needed.”
Borrowing money can be scary, but Erin really appreciated Funding Circle’s commitment to customer care. “When you apply for a loan, you’re kind of giving your soul. You’re giving your financial information, and that’s just really weird for me. Funding Circle was incredibly kind and professional about that, and just made me feel very comfortable doing that.”
Today, Erin’s decision to move locations continues to pay off. “The difference has been amazing. It’s so important to be more accessible and have a proper storefront.”
While some days can be tough, Erin knows that she’ll continue to grow because she wholeheartedly believes in what she’s doing. When asked to give advice to herself starting out, she replied, “Do not lose that passion that you have for the business. Always go back and remember why you started it, and that’s going to drive you to do what you need to do.”
And now she can also rest easy knowing we’ll always be here if she wants to purchase more inventory, expand her product line, or generally grow her business. Between her passion and Funding Circle’s mission of building a better financial world, the possibilities are endless.