Elizabeth Brunner

Founder of StereoType

Elizabeth Brunner is a San Francisco-based designer and the founder of StereoType, a fashion-forward kids clothing brand that’s designed to celebrate individuality and freedom of expression by blending traditional ideas of boys’ and girls’ wear. StereoType’s blended fashion collection combines elements of style, design and comfort to inspire creativity, individuality and freedom of expression.

Throughout her life, Elizabeth has been examining our collective perceptions of fashion, and going through the process of learning and unlearning the ‘rules’ associated with it, which has become a deeply personal journey. After studying fashion design at California College of the Arts, Elizabeth found herself at odds with wasteful fashion industry standards. This led her to making the decision to launch her own line, Piece x Piece, a pioneering line of one-of-a-kind, high-end pieces that reused discarded sample swatches from larger fashion houses.

However, it wasn’t until a few years later that she met her ultimate style muses: her own boy-girl twins. Watching them dress themselves, she was in awe of the way they joyfully broke all the ‘rules’ of gendered clothing, blending their wardrobes together with a sense of style that could only be described as ‘free-for-all.’ It was the ultimate unlearning of the rules that we’ve all been taught about gendered fashion at a young age. The lesson felt deeply personal and Elizabeth knew there was no turning back. From there, StereoType was born. Elizabeth launched Stereotype as a way to share this joyful, blended vision of kids’ clothing and to advocate for self-expression of all humans, especially the small ones. Elizabeth believes that by breaking fashion rules and disregarding the boundaries we put around what boys and girls should wear, we encourage a more playful, creative, expressive sense of self for everyone.

Where did the idea for StereoType come from?

The idea for StereoType was inspired by my boy-girl twins and their love for sharing their clothes. Watching them dress themselves when they were really young, I was in awe of the way they joyfully broke all the ‘rules’ of gendered clothing, blending their wardrobes together with a sense of style that could only be described as ‘free-for-all.’ My daughter has always felt most comfortable digging around in the dirt in her dinosaur shorts, while my son gets pure joy from twirling around in dresses. As I watched my kids create their own ‘blended style’ mixing and matching items from each other’s closets, I myself started to unlearn all of the rules of gendered fashion that I learned throughout my life.

I created StereoType as a way for me to share the joy that my kids have experienced in creating their ‘blended fashion’ with other kids and to advocate for self-expression of all humans, especially the small ones. By breaking fashion rules and disregarding the boundaries we put around what boys and girls should wear, we encourage a more playful, creative, expressive sense of self for everyone.

StereoType is a fashion-forward kids clothing brand for the evolving. My favorite part of this brand is getting to work with my kids. It’s so fun for them to have the opportunity to provide their input into each of the items in the collection, the creative direction, and also to know that they inspired StereoType!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I always start my day with a morning routine, which involves waking up and taking the first few moments to snuggle my kids in bed and give my husband a kiss. I then drink tea and ease into the day without looking at my phone. I always try to start the morning with a walk, which helps me think and strategize for the day ahead – mentally noting the most important things that I need to get done that day.

One thing that helps me cross off quick, administrative tasks off my list is using what I call “in between” moments – answering emails and texts while I walk to my work studio in the morning or while I am out on my morning walk. This way, when I sit down at my desk, I can focus on the bigger projects that require my full focus.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I process many of my ideas when I’m alone and have the time to reflect. I usually use sage and have crystals, which helps me get focused and grounded. I notice that having a space that’s set up in this way helps me get present, and that’s when the clarity and creativity starts to flow. I also write down a lot of my ideas, which helps me connect the dots.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Blended fashion! The idea behind this term brings up so many feelings for me as a mom and as an owner of a kids clothing collection that’s based on the idea of self-expression. Blended fashion means many different things to me – freedom, expressing yourself in fuller form, being authentic to who you are – all concepts that are exciting to me. Blended fashion gives the permission to dress yourself in clothes that make you feel good and support you in being whoever you want to be. It started with my own kids because they understand that putting on clothes that make them feel good is a really great feeling, it’s natural to them. The current generation is bringing blended fashion to life and there are no limits to where this will go – and it’s all focused around freedom of self-expression.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

My morning exercise routine and my meditation practice are my non-negotiables and make me more productive as an entrepreneur. I find it that the combination of physical activity and mental clarity is my secret recipe!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to be true to who you are and don’t be afraid to say how you feel. Being the youngest of six in my family, it was challenging to speak up about my feelings and needs, so I would encourage that in my younger self.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That capers are gross!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Exercise or put on my favorite songs and start dancing when I need to shift my energy. I always feel so much better afterwards and I am able to move on with my day from a very different mental space. As entrepreneurs, we’re often operating at a million miles an hour and doing things alone, so it’s really important to be in tune with our needs and our energy and understand how we can shift our thoughts from dark to light, and from negative to productive. Next time you’re feeling stuck, try turning on your favorite song and dancing, and see how you feel afterwards!

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Start slow. If you can take your time and it’s an idea that you feel good about, then you can ease up on the pressure and go with what feels right. It’s OK to move forward at a pace that you feel comfortable with while enjoying the process of building and growing the business. Also, being flexible and giving yourself the grace when things don’t pan out in the way that you expected them to will help you in the long run.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I used to self-identify with my business and believe the idea that, “If the business doesn’t succeed then that means I don’t succeed.” This is simply not true and it takes away the joy from the experience as a whole when you do that. That’s one lesson that I learned from my first business, Piece x Piece. It’s a great reminder for me to not be so hard on myself this time around with StereoType.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A better way to swap kids clothing/shoes/toys. I love the idea of creating a business around kids’ reuse since they grow so fast and oftentimes with clothing or shoes hardly worn.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I donated to the World Hunger Bank and it’s a monthly donation. A lot of people are really struggling right now and it feels good to give and donate to a cause that benefits many.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Slack – it’s the only app I am using for my business and it’s really great for instant communication with my entire team.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I am currently reading Breathe by James Nestor. It’s a story about the importance of breath and breathing properly. If you’re an entrepreneur then you’re going to need to learn to breathe deeply to move through the ups and downs of starting a business. It’s essential and I highly recommend this book!

What is your favorite quote?

“To thine own self be true.” -William Shakespeare

I have this quote in my work studio, next to a picture of me as a child. When I feel worried or stressed that I am doing something that might be too bold or shake things up, I see those words and that joyful little girl and remember that I am being true to her, to my calling, and to my kids in making this happen.

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t self-identify with your business. While you are the owner of your business, you are not your business. It’s important to separate business successes and failures from your self-worth as a human.
  • Always be true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak your truth and ask for what you need.
  • It’s OK to grow your business at your own pace. Going slow isn’t bad – especially if you take the time to enjoy every part of the process.
  • Know how to “shift” your energy. For me, turning on my favorite song and dancing can completely shift my energy from stuck to productive, from negative to positive. As entrepreneurs, we often do a lot of things and do them alone, so it’s valuable to understand how to shift your energy when you need to.