My name is Brittney Marie Kelley and I am the Founder & CEO of my brand, Tribe Kelley. My brand was born in December of 2014 on the one-year anniversary of my husband, Brian, and I’s anniversary. We have been on an amazing ride in the fashion world ever since. The question I get most is, “Where did you study fashion?” My answer: the International school of travel (not a real school, but fun to say)! I’ve studied fashion among cultures, people, movies, and ancestry. The real answer is, I didn’t go to fashion school. I went to college and majored in other subjects to please other people, rather than myself. I studied many different majors including: accounting, finance, business marketing and psychology at the University of Georgia, which in return really helped me along the way of owning my own business. No fashion school for me, which I believe propels our brand in a unique direction.
I draw my creative inspiration from my journey and my experiences. Seeing so many different walks of life and culture is truly fascinating to me. I have spent time in some of the most monetarily poorest places on the earth and on the opposite end of the spectrum; I have spent time in some of the highest ranked travel spots in the world. From sipping tea in mud houses in the ruins of Guatemala to having pasta in a 5 star hotel in Italy, I have seen beauty in many forms. The people that I've come in contact with during our travels are what is the most inspiring to me. The confidence people have when wearing their traditional clothing is beautiful. The way other cultures embrace their differences is what makes my creative heart beat. It is so intriguing to observe the stylistic choices of others, especially those that we may consider foreign to our specific cultural norms. Cuts, colors, geometry, words, feelings, stories; it all inspires me. That is why in our brand’s mission we ‘encourage uniqueness and individuality in the midst of everyone trying to fit in’. I spent a lot of time growing up in my culture trying to fit in with other kids around me.
"When I finally decided uniqueness trumps over uniformity, I had finally found freedom to explore my individual creativity."
It wasn’t until I started traveling the world until I had the courage to think I could design something that someone else would want to wear, and in addition, spend his or her hard earned money on.
I faced challenges throughout my life that I believe shaped me into who I am today. I was orphaned during my high school years and went on to support myself by waitressing during my college years. At 19 years old, I was fed up with serving wings to pay my rent so I decided to start an Etsy account. I would go up to the local vintage shop and get bags of broken vintage jewelry, break it down and remake new jewelry. I was also shopping the sale rack and finding blank white shirts, cutting them, & dying them different shades. I would make just enough product to make my rent, and this was when my Etsy store “Wondertown” was born. I was in heaven. I wondered what I had been doing trying to make money any other way. I was staying home on the weekends in my one bedroom apartment and skipping parties to make trinkets to sell online. My heart exploded with joy every time someone purchased an item. I was so proud that I could make something with my hands that someone actually wanted to wear! In the midst of my lonely days as a college student, I found the confidence I would need years later to start my brand, Tribe Kelley.
My husband, Brian, and I were married December 2013 after I graduated from university and I set sail on the road with him during our first year of marriage. I was scheming up blueprints of a career path and knew I wanted it to involve design. I was constantly altering my clothes, Brian's clothes, and sometimes even his band member's clothes. Scissors, fire, and bleach are my go to methods to create uniqueness. After much encouragement from my husband and friends, I decided it was time to start my brand. I was exploring possible names and I knew I wanted the name to represent a unity of all cultures from my travel and future travels. That's when 'Tribe Kelley' was born. I feel like a tribe represents a world family even though everyone in it may be so uniquely different, because that's what makes it special. After traveling and interacting with so many beautiful people, I wanted them all to be a part of my tribe. With Tribe Kelley, I can make pieces to spread around the world so that people feel a part of the tribe. I can travel with pieces of Tribe Kelley to give away as appreciation gifts & leave little parts of us all over.
Again, I want to repeat that I have been SO blessed to travel as much as I have at age 25. My first trip out of the country alone was when I was 20 years old to London, England to study Photography & Literature at the University of London. I wrote tons of essays to get accepted in the study abroad program and knew that travel was a part of my spirit. My next few inspiring trips would be to Guatemala for mission trips. I would go on throughout the years to explore: The Virgin Islands, BVI’s, Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Canada, Nova Scotia, London, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Sweden.
I wasn’t handed a free ride in world as my grandmother raised me in a doublewide trailer in Atlanta, Georgia. We had no money but we had each other. She had an amazing story and taught me that everyone has a chance in life no matter your age.
"She taught me how to be a strong, independent woman that knows what she wants."
I knew that I wanted to get out of Atlanta and travel to as many places and I could. I didn’t know I wanted to be a designer or own a clothing brand. I didn’t know if I would ever make anything or be smart enough to even get into college. The lesson here is, with hard work, persistence and faith you can do anything.
My advice to anyone wanting to pursue a dream: always walk down the path less traveled and feed your soul positivity.
My favorite story to tell is that of two wolves passed on by my Native Americans ancestors:
‘Everyone has two wolves that travel along side on their path. One wolf represents all the good. This wolf is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, kindness, empathy, truth, compassion & faith. The other wolf represents all the evil on your path. This wolf is anger, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, and ego. The big question is which wolf wins? The answer is simple, the wolf you feed most wins.’
This story is so important because everyone is traveling a unique path, and every one of us experiences the good wolf and the bad wolf along the way. We have to choose to only feed the good wolf so that our soul radiates positivity. As a young woman, you must choose to be the light and shed the light on others that don’t see it yet. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I am merely a vessel and I hope that I can shine some light while I’m here. God is good!
Xx Brittney Marie Kelley