When sisters Anne Kennedy Dotson [left] and Sarah Kennedy [right] moved from the Midwest to the Phillipines with their Air Force family at a young age no one could have predicted the impact that travel would have on their lives and eventual business venture. When Anne and Sarah recently left their corporate day jobs to pursue fashion design, a clothing company inspired by and intended for their love of travel seemed like a perfect fit. These days, based from a loft in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, the sisters are staying true to their roots by creating travel inspired pieces for their line, Buckley K, that are all made and manufactured in the US. We caught up with the design duo to learn a bit more about their burgeoning business and endless wanderlust…
Was there a specific event that inspired you to create a clothing line?
We were in Cairo visiting our brother and sister-in-law a few years ago and started talking about starting a company together. We have found the simple pieces that fit the best are the hardest to find! We design the collection with that in mind… pieces we wish we had in our closet and suitcase.
You quit your jobs and jumped in with both feet to start Buckley K, did you have any fears or doubts while making such a big leap?
YES! There were/are definitely sleepless nights over taking such a big leap…
Where does the name Buckley K come from?
We borrowed the name from our family dog, Buckley Kennedy. He’s a rescue mut, and an old man now… Buckley’s name came from The Royal Tenenbaums movie so we have to give credit there too.
Your clothes are inspired by your love for travel and adventure, what are your go-to pieces when you’re on the road?
Anne: My go to is the Souq Skirt…it’s just easy and flattering. I used to live in the Middle East and I was always looking for skirts that were a little more modest but still chic…
Sarah: I’m a sucker for stripes…so I can be found wearing the Bistro Dress or it’s winter equivalent depending on where I am.
Is there a destination you both want to go to but haven’t been yet?
How do different destinations inspire different aspects of your line?
The inspiration comes in with the colors, prints, details and silhouettes. Summer is inspired by Capri, Italy so there is a nautical feel to several of the pieces and lots of subtle gold details. We designed our own Capri signature print… the Pool Boy Cover Up. We also have several maxi dresses that are casual but a bit glamorous too.
So what are your favorite travel spots?
Anne: Rome is one of my favorite cities and I love New Zealand – for totally different reasons!
Sarah: Australia will always have a piece of my heart, but Ireland is majestical…probably my favorite spot so far!
Is Buckley K carried in any stores?
Nope… we sell only online. The reason for that is if we sell our clothes directly to our customer our prices are more approachable – a dress that would retail for $348 sells on our website for $198. This business model allows us to offer our customers luxury basics without the luxury price point and still manufacture in the USA. We do pop-in and host temporary shopping events with retailers which has been a success so far.
Why is it important to you that your clothes are made in the USA?
We are an all-American family business and we want to create jobs here in the USA. There are really harsh realities about outsourcing – you see more and more stories about labor conditions in factories in developing countries and we don’t want any part in that. Producing in the USA also gives us the ability to tightly control the quality of our garments.
You are both close in age, and on top of that you’re sisters… how does that affect your work and travel?
We are very close and often finish each others sentence or blurt out the same thing at the same time. It is great traveling with your sister and business partner because you don’t have to worry about making conversation or awkward silence… and we definitely laugh a lot. We are pretty different too which is good for our business and when there are conflicts we fight and make up as only siblings can do!
Would you say you have similar style? How is your work comprised of both of your styles?
Totally different… but we both gravitate toward classic, simple, chic pieces.
Anne: I’ve always been more of a silk, the more ruffles the merrier type and Sarah has always loved her striped tees and comfy jeans. Our designs are somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.
What is it about your clothes that make them travel friendly?
We push each other and our team to come up with pieces that cover your bases when traveling i.e., the plane ride, the museum, the cafe, the Michelin-starred restaurant, the hotel bar, the sightseeing tour, the lazy day around town, the beach etc. Our clothes are meant to be blank canvasses so you can style them multiple ways from day to night.
Is there one place you have traveled to where you instantly felt right at home?
Gold Coast, Australia. Both of us lived there at different times and for both of us it was hard to get on the plane to leave!
What’s next for Buckley K?
Lots of exciting things coming up… our Fall line is Dublin-inspired so we’ll be heading over to Ireland in the Fall and planning to pop-up and host temporary shopping events in Chicago, Boston, New York and San Francisco later this Summer and Fall.
[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]