That dress haunted Lisa Sikora.
Desperate to find something to wear to an upcoming event a few years back, Sikora purchased a dress in a color she knew didn't suit her — hot pink.
"Do you ever see me wear hot pink?" she asked her daughter Liz Sikora Seither.
"No, never in a million years," Sikora Seither said.
"I never wore it again," said Sikora, 58. "I had an inability to find what I thought were the kind of clothes I was looking for, and I was buying things that, at the end of the year, had one use."
Sikora, who previously had a career in tech, began taking steps in 2014 to create a fashion line that featured classic designs that could be worn by a variety of ages. In 2017, Sikora Seither, a former graphic designer with a marketing background, signed on too.
"When your mom's got a closet full of cashmere, what are you going to do?" Sikora Seither, 30, laughs. "You're going to show up and you're going to help."
The fruits of their labors can be seen in Amberleaf, an Austin-based clothing line that has become popular with local stylists and fashion-focused shoppers due to its high-quality yet accessible pieces.
"An amber leaf refers to the changing of the season," Sikora Seither said. "It's symbolic in terms of our clothing because this is a classic clothing line; each piece can be worn through many seasons of change and can be a part of your wardrobe no matter what the season might be."
A tour through the Amberleaf showroom, which is located in Sikora's home inside Sikora Seither's childhood bedroom, spotlights pieces such as crisp cashmere jackets, tuxedo-style blazers and tailored dresses, all in solid colors with average prices between $200 and $400. All of them could be worn for a multitude of occasions — they've even had pieces used as bridesmaid dresses — by a multitude of women. Amberleaf offers sizes from 00 to 20 in standard and petite.
"We both have to like it," Sikora said. "If I come up with something and Liz feels like it just isn't going to work beyond my peer group, we don't do it."
"Every design that we produce is something I would wear and my mom would wear," Sikora Seither added.
Edith "Edie" Henry, an Austin-based personal stylist, came across an Amberleaf pop-up shop at an American Heart Association event several years ago. Since then, she's introduced Amberleaf pieces to more than a half-dozen of her clients, changing up the styling depending on the client's age and taste. For example, she might offer one client an Amberleaf dress with booties and a leather jacket and another the same dress worn over a blouse and paired with pumps.
"It's really neat how you can change the feel of the dress by the way you style it," Henry said. "You can dress it on somebody who is 70, somebody who is 50 and somebody who is 30. The fabric quality is phenomenal, and the cuts are beautiful and classic. My clients can have these dresses forever."
When Sikora Seither and Sikora have new Amberleaf designs, they submit sketches to their all-female production team, which brings the sketches from idea to reality. Sikora Seither said creating pieces that will last is a huge part of Amberleaf's mission.
"We live in a world of fast fashion where clothes fall apart, they go out of style, and six months later you don't want to wear them anymore," Sikora Seither said. "We wanted to come at it with an angle of, we're not mass-producing anything, we're not adding to the millions of pounds of clothes that are being thrown out every year."
Amberleaf's clothing is currently sold at Austin retailers Scout and Molly's and Altatudes, although most clients discover the brand through pop-up shops, via local stylists or online at amberleaf.com. Sikora said the best part of running a brand like Amberleaf is seeing how it impacts clients' lives.
"I just like the idea of making women feel beautiful in their skin," Sikora said. "We had a client who bought a short fuchsia cashmere jacket and she bought a matching tube of lipstick and went out to dinner with her husband. She said, 'I felt so beautiful, and several people commented on how beautiful I looked.' When a woman puts on the right things, that feels empowering. Draping yourself in something that makes you feel good and emboldened is powerful."
Sikora Seither jokes that her mom has years of practice telling women what to wear — she's been doing it since Sikora Seither and her 26-year-old twin sisters were little. She said the hardest but most rewarding part of being with Amberleaf is working so closely with her mom.
"We are very different in our style choices, so for us, we've got to work that much harder to make sure the message we're sending to the customer is the same and be able to work in unison when it comes to the brand identity and the message," Sikora Seither said.
Stylist Henry said Sikora and Sikora Seither's attention to detail and spirit of collaboration have paid off, making Amberleaf a brand she feels confident recommending to her clients.
"They're a mother-daughter team — I think that's the coolest thing ever," Henry said. "They're honest, likable women with integrity and a great line. What's not to love?"
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