Authenticity above anything else is the business mantra of Miriam Alden, a.k.a. the Boss Babe.
Is there anything more genuine than having your first fashion foray in the bleachers at a high school football game?
In the fall of 1997, while the players were gearing up for the Buchanan Bowl – the annual grudge match between Handsworth and Carson Graham schools – Alden and some friends were applying royal blue lettering to white T-shirts. They were the “Royals Chicks.”
It turns out the T-shirts caught on, according to Alden, who recently spotted a girl walking down the street wearing the Royals’ unofficial cheerleading uniform.
On a recent Friday afternoon, Alden is breathless in between fielding calls from retailers who are after Brunette the Label’s spring line. Alden is the head Brunette.
You may have seen her company’s catchy slogans on sweatshirts: Rosé Okay, Babes who Brunch, and Alden’s signature Blonde or Brunette badges emblazoned across the chest.
Alden laughs when she thinks of her earliest fashion statements.
“Both of my sisters were much more fashionable than I was because I grew up riding horses, so I spent most of my time at the barn,” says Alden, who lived on a farm until she was seven years old and inherited her love of horses from her mother.
When she went off to business school at BCIT, while it broke Alden’s heart to give up horseback riding, she also found another passion – fashion wholesaling.
Shortly after graduation, Alden applied for a job which wound up being a serendipitous opportunity that would change the trajectory of her life.
Alden found freedom under the wings of the owners of Wardell Agencies, a longstanding wholesale clothing agency with roots on the North Shore.
“They really let me learn and grow in my own way but with their same values,” says Alden. “I was able to be who I am, which is I’m not super pushy. I would never sell something I didn’t think was right for the person.”
Alden represented Kersh clothing from their first season, learning she could grow a brand based on authentic, genuine relationships. She stayed with Wardell for five years before spreading her wings in the fashion world.
When Alden decided she wanted to go out on her own, the owners of Wardell were supportive. For the remaining six months of her job, they let Alden find lines and start her business within their business, while she trained her replacement.
“And I think probably the most important thing that I learned from that is that you want people to be able to grow – and it’s not just about you and your business,” says Alden.
“It’s about how there’s enough room for everybody, which is really the core part of what my business is.”
Alden launched Brunette Showroom almost 10 years ago, aptly named after her trademark long brown hair, distributing mid-range, stylish brands that she believed in.
At the same time, Alden took an irreverent approach to fashion marketing to help raise awareness for the brands she represented.
Brunette’s bold and cheeky sweatshirts you see populating social media today came about accidently.
Alden and her company’s vice-president Ryan Pugsley caught the eye of fellow fashionistas when they wore sweatshirts with the phrase, “Brunette is the new black” to a trade show.
Later, Alden was asked to make a dozen slogan sweatshirts for a media event.
Immediate fans of her style said they would “totally” wear the sweatshirt again. So Alden made 24 more. Then 34. And the Brunette brand snowballed from there – authentically.
Alden’s earliest slogans, Blonde and Brunette, were not designed to divide women into Team Betty and Team Veronica camps.
“It wasn’t actually meant to be that at all,” she says, with a laugh.
In fact Brunette was borne out of an ingenious marketing strategy when Alden was first getting her fashionable feet wet.
“I put the jewelry in plastic Ziplocs and drove to stores and they bought it from my car,” she recalls. “And so I named it Brunette Showroom because I figured if they didn’t remember my name then they would remember that I was the tall girl with the dark brown hair.”
While building Brunette Showroom, and later Brunette the Label, Alden redefined the word babe from a physical attribute to female empowerment.
“Babes Supporting Babes” is her company mantra and she shouts it to the world via the block lettering emblazoned on some of her best-selling clothes.
There’s also The Babe List – hardworking women doing cool stuff who Alden and her team admire. Victoria Beckham and Beyoncé are charter members of The Babe List.
Alden saw a big dream realized at the end of November, when she opened Brunette the Label’s flagship boutique on Union Street in Vancouver.
George Stroumboulopoulos, a friend of the Alden family, was the first visitor to the new store.
The flagship features, of course, The Babes Corner and The Greatest Wall of Babes – anchored by a photo of Beyoncé overhead.
Alden's mom sewed the change room curtains.
Inside the space are signature sweatshirts Blonde, Brunette and Redhead, along with other popular sellers such as the Florence Vegan Leather Moto Jacket with a shearling collar.
Grey, white and pink are the label's staple colours so far. Pink is being retired for a while after this spring to make way for a fall collection featuring darker tones.
It will be a bittersweet time for Alden.
“I’ve always been a pink girl,” she says with a laugh. “I used to wear, back in the day, all pink velour Juicy tracksuits. And my family would think I was crazy. And now I make pink velour tracksuits.”
A self-declared “girl’s girl” by nature, Alden lived out many young girl’s dreams of marrying in a romantic Parisian scene. Alden and her husband, Matt, swapped intimate vows this past summer at the Four Seasons Hotel George V, in the glow of the Eiffel Tower.
Afterwards, Alden floated into the trendy Hôtel Costes in her wedding dress – an off-the-shoulder, simple design reminiscent of Calvin Klein number from the 1990s.
The couple waltzed back to their room, popped the Champagne, watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle and had a dance party – just the two of them.
Alden had other reasons to celebrate in 2017, including her brand being picked up by Nordstrom and breaking into the Australian market.
Brunette "babes" are already in Europe and Alden's goal is to grow further in the U.S. and have her clothes featured in about 100 independent stores.
You can find Brunette the Label locally at Kiss and Makeup, North Shore Ski & Board and Plenty.
Alden was recently the focus of a glamormous spread in The Coveteur – a popular fashion website, which takes an intimate look at luxury fashion, lifestyle trends and global tastemakers.
Featured Coveteur celebrities include Karlie Kloss, Bobbi Brown, Christian Louboutin and Cindy Crawford. Alden is now in famous company with them.
Alden has a busy couple months ahead of her, flying out for trade shows, finalizing spring designs, working on new collaborations, including a kids’ collection for fall, and capping it all off with a horse show in Palm Springs.
Alden picked up the reins again seven years ago, training out of Thunderbird Show Park in Langley. Josephine and Beau are her equine babes.
Plans are in the works for Brunette the Label to launch a charity or perhaps a scholarship fund in 2018.
In the boutique Alden also gives love and space for brands she believes in, including Privilege Clothing, Smash and Tess, and her sister Sophie’s successful jewelry line – Lisbeth.
Having a brick and mortar space allows customers to immerse themselves in the uplifting environment Alden has created for Brunette.
“And you can really only do that with human connection,” she says.