Failing Upwards: Thelma's Amanda Greeley on Starting Over and Embracing Mistakes

 

WORDS BY CARA BEST, PHOTOS COURTESY OF THELMA

Thelma is the new loafer line founded by Amanda Greeley that is quietly taking the world by storm. Amanda's keen eye and exceptional taste are evident from one look at Thelma's tightly edited Instagram and website as does the thoughtful press the brand has garnered since its inception last October showcase the brand's critical appeal. But it didn't happen overnight. In fact, you may recognize Amanda's name from another label: Tink + Tiger. The much loved sleepwear brand officially shut its doors at the end of 2015 after three years of seemingly steady business. We got the low down from Amanda on why she pivoted away from PJs and what lessons she took with her when she created Thelma.


Amanda doesn't shy away from her past: a women's pajama line called Tink + Tiger that she launched in 2013. "Very few people in creative fields strike gold on the first hit. Being comfortable with failure - that’s something that every person needs to accept and work on in a myriad of ways in general.  It's difficult because fashion and retail aren’t particularly forgiving industries."

Rather than dwelling on what could have been or pouring blood sweat and tears into a project that wasn't "quite right," Amanda made the decision to close operations and regroup. "I kind of felt like I was pretending to be somebody I wasn’t and it seems like a dramatic thing to say, but it just didn’t quite feel right in a bunch of tiny different ways. All that’s to say it was technically working. I was selling PJs. It was going reasonably well. It just wasn’t right and I knew it. I never was obsessed with pajamas, so I felt like I was lying to the world about who I am. I did one last pop up event in Charlotte with Tink + Tiger and I just knew the whole time I was there my heart wasn’t in it."

"I learned so much in the three years I did Tink + Tiger and thought, 'Gosh, I really think I can do something so much better and truer to myself if I just pressed pause." It wasn't easy to pack it in, but Amanda knew that something better was on the horizon. "I just wasn’t excited about it. It was one of those conversations you have with yourself where you’re like, 'You know what? You can absolutely pull the plug and you can do something else. It’s okay.' But you can feel a little awkward. You can feel like you failed at something when someone asks why you gave up. I had to own that it's something I did. I'm proud of certain things about it and there were certain things I didn’t do well. I just had to make a call and take everything I’d learned and try again with something I feel more strongly about."

Separating herself from her brand turned out to be more difficult than she imagined. A quick google search reveals a handful of articles on Tink + Tiger as well as a link to the website which now hosts a landing page with a "thanks for the memories" style note from Amanda. "You can never get a completely clean slate in 2017 because anything put on the internet stays on the internet. I think something that’s weird about the era in which we live is that we all broadcast our lives on Instagram. Feelings of failure can be amplified because you’re kind of running your own reality show and everybody you grew up with or went to high school with still follows along."

"I wish I could be a little bit more mysterious, but you have to project what you’re doing and try to get people’s attention in this business to succeed." While constant social media exposure can be detrimental, there are also unexpected benefits. "It forces you to say, 'I did this. It didn’t quite work. Here’s why I think it didn’t work. I’m moving on with my life.'"

Once she knew it was time to call it quits, it still wasn't easy to let go. "It was absolutely hard because I had built this little thing and I liked things about it. There were definitely a handful of moments when I pivoted and it got a little bit better." So how did she eventually gather up the courage to stop production? "I’m sort of lucky in that I’m the anti-hoarder. I like getting rid of things. Plus, as you get a little older you become a surer of who you are and a little more confident in what you’re creating versus being in your early twenties and just trying to make something. This sounds too extreme, but I think in some ways psychologically I'm running away from a more insecure time in my life. I actually know who I am and what I like now and this is me at this point in my life putting out something I believe in."

With her past behind her and an idea for the future, Amanda set out to create your new favorite shoe line, Thelma. "I was intent on taking this handful of details, like the one and a half inch wooden heel, and have it well made in Italy and packaged beautifully. I decided to do a one item business and figure out how to do one thing really well before trying to grow too quickly." Looking at Thelma's success over the past year, the second time is clearly the charm. If Amanda Greeley's trajectory proves anything it's that using your mistakes to grow instead of dwelling on them is the real key to success. "You live and learn."