William Calvert and Halabaloo:
He said, She saidBy: Catherine Wayland
He is William Calvert from Baltimore, Maryland - owner of William Calvert, dresses for private clients. She is Halla Elias from Lebanon and Barbados - owner of Halabaloo, dresses for girls. They are married and raising their son, Oden in New York City.
There was a girl that blew my mind…
C: William, tell me about how you fell in love?
She: Oh, this should be interesting.
He: We went to college in Philadelphia and we both ended up in the Drama Guild. There was a girl at the audition that blew my mind.
She: Say the part of the script….
He: We had a script where we were boyfriend and girlfriend in which we were supposed to scream and yell at one another. (They exchange smiles)
C: Halla, tell me about how you fell in love?
He: I have to close my ears.
She: He always says that I was in love with him from the first moment.
He: But, there was a boyfriend.
She: I thought he was a nice guy.
He: We were friends for two years.
She: And then…
He: And then…..
The Pursuit of Everything Beautiful
And then….. William and Halla moved to New York and then Paris, and then back to New York where they are now living under one roof with two businesses, their son Oden and a fish or two. But I will slow down a bit, because the journey is lovely and filled with hardwork, adventure, a recession in Paris, a couture fashion show and did I say hardwork? Yes, lots and lots of hardwork and the pursuit of everything that is beautiful – inside and out.
As I sit in the living room of William and Halla Hell’s Kitchen brownstone, I am surrounded by beauty. It is not only that a dozen mannequins are dancing lightly around the living room like mysterious fairies wearing William’s latest wedding dresses (www.williamcalvert.com). Every corner of the room is attended with a careful eye. But that is not just because of the talent that sits beside me. I think the room also sparkles with a kindness that is rare in people. William and Halla are very kind. Yes, they are as physically beautiful as the gowns that surround them. But I am talking about their insides now. They are a lovely couple to spend the evening with talking, eating and watching our sons play together. I am curious by this kindness. How can it survive in such a competitive business as the garment industry?
C: William, what was the path to your company, William Calvert?
He: It started with some couture work in Paris and then to New York to work with Diane Von Furstenberg.
C: What was working with Diane Von Furstenberg like?
He: I started a career dressing line for Diane in knits, she was into wovens at the time.
C: High end?
He: No, midline. They were sold on QVC.
C: And then onto William Calvert?
H: First, there was a business plan with lots of footwork shopping it around and finally, William Calvert.
C: Halla, what was the path to Halabaloo?
She: My family was in the garment business in the West Indies, I grew up in it.
C: What is Barbados like?
She: They call it “Little England.”
C: What type of family business in the garment industry?
She: My family owned a retail business for men and women called, “Economy Fashions” and my father had a shirting business for men.
C: And so for you, it was a natural progression into the business.
She: Yes, I considered going back to the West Indies but New York always fascinated me. I hand painted washable, cotton wovens with whimsical designs for girls and filled it in suitcases and shopped it around.
He: It looked like we had shag carpeting, but we didn’t.
C: But now Halabaloo is more fancy dresses for girls?
She: Yes, that was a bit of an accident, but yes now I make fancy dresses for girls up to size 10.
William and Halla fill in the details of their story at times together and other times separately. Their voices weave in and out of each other, up and down, back and forth -quite like their dressmaking. It is as if they are working together side by side in their work-room, cutting and sewing their samples. There is a symmetry in how they move and talk. This symmetry of motion is how they raise their son Oden as well. They raise Oden as co-parents working together and taking turns. Their lives are about a partnership and something equal.
I am fascinated with their domestic partnership as much as their businesses co-existing under one roof. I feel that I am too often an observer of a partnership gone bad in this modern world of business and technology and how the genders compete. It seems that in my generation (I am turning 40 in March, 2007), our mothers were teachers or nurses generally, but we were raised to think we could do more. The goal of equality was held up as a bright victory cup and we raced towards it all through college, our early careers and right up until childbirth. Then came the old world rhetoric “You can work too, just put Junior in an institutional daycare or with a very expensive, private nanny.” For some women, that did not feel equal and successful, it felt more like quitting on parenting. But here in the world of William Calvert and Halabaloo the success of career and parenting are held up equally for both partners.
C: How do two businesses exist under one roof?
He: Our businesses are very different.
She: I work off-premise at a showroom.
He: My workroom is downstairs, Halla only needs that space very little.
She: Only sometimes.
He: So we work around one another very well, mostly.
She: Yes, mostly, of course there are days…
C: Goodness, who doesn’t have days, we all have days.
C: How does it work raising Oden together?
She: If I am busy than William will be with Oden and vice versa.
He: Most days it works very well.
She: Some days not so well. (They laugh together)
C: Most days are very good odds.
He: I agree.
She: So do I.
For more information on Halabaloo, please contact Halla Elias at email@example.com.
For more information on William Calvert, please contact William at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.williamcalvert.com