In addition to carrying a few French lines such as Ath� by Vanessa Bruno and Surface to Air, the women are big fans of Rachel Comey.
Three trays display the curated selection of jewelry by lines such as KORA, which features recycled materials found and used by artisans in developing African communities.
The women are attached to these two Momiji dolls from Hazel boutique, which accompany them as display accessories at shopping events.
One of the benefits of keeping their inventory in this North Side space is that clients, many of whom hit up Frein and Matthews for wardrobe assistance, can see the clothing in person. The office is open by appointment; e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org for appointments.
Not afraid to get behind the camera and fuss with Photoshop, the women do a good amount of product shots themselves. They keep essential accessories like belts and shoes in the office for styling purposes.
Brandon Frein and Arlene Matthews
Within 15 minutes of my arrival at the Kit This headquarters (formerly TwentyThirtyForty) in Ravenswood, Brandon Frein, 45, has removed her woven belt from her wide-leg pants to demonstrate the accessory’s actual purpose. Produced by New York–based designer Wendy Nichol, Frein’s belt is really a whip that doubles as a belt and a necklace.
Her business partner and “soul sister,” Arlene Matthews, 43, laughs and explains, “it’s really unique and out there, but it’s also that piece you can wear to a client meeting.”
The duo met working at former Gold Coast boutique Jake in 2005. They shared aspirations of striking out on their own and discussed how store websites rarely match the vibe of their brick-and-mortar versions. “Then we saw [La Garçonne’s] magazine and thought, What if we create an online magazine where you can click on the pictures [and shop them]?” Thus TwentyThirtyForty was born in the fall of 2007, starting with Loeffler Randall and Opening Ceremony as the site’s two hot-ticket lines.
Their target audience: the oft-ignored fortysomething set in need of creative personal styling. What the site became, however—an online shop carrying 20–25-odd designer womenswear brands with weekly styling tips—didn’t entirely reflect their original intentions. “Because what we knew was [selling], it evolved into a shop with a blog,” Frein says. “Now we want to flex that creative muscle with writing and photography.”
Four years later, they’re on the brink of relaunching their website next month with a new name—Kit This—highlighting what’s at the crux of their concept: a handful of ways to wear a garment sold on the site, as well as “kits” or collages of looks driven by events (the musical festival look), client type (the working mom) and designer (for the Rachel Comey obsessed). Plus, getting back to the whip belt, Frein says, “this is the thing in your stylists’ kit that you’re never going to see anywhere else.” Whereas a monthly editorial spread has, until now, appeared as essentially a bonus to the site, the magazine-like components of Kit This—weekly columns, styling tips and designer profiles—will be front and center.
“You can keep working it and making [a garment] fresh into a new season,” Frein says, explaining how they keep the content of the site new even though the clothing selection changes only twice a year. Not to mention, “she’s model-size body and I’m model-size foot,” which is helpful when it comes to styling editorial shoots. And, “if something gets [dirty] in the shop, it can just end up in one of our closets,” Frein adds.