Atlanta native and University of Georgia graduate Wells Maley is making a splash with Swells, her cheerful line of hand-drawn silk scarves. The brand was conceptualized during Wells’s time as a Fashion Merchandising major at UGA, and once she graduated, she dove headfirst into developing the business. From her SEC-inspired game-day collection to her elaborate prints and patterns coming to life, these scarves are a wardrobe workhorse for every season.
Tell us how Swells was born!
Swells first began as an Instagram mood board I made in college called “Swells of Splendor.” I anonymously posted photos with whimsical, retro, and colorful vibes, and it was so fun making this online dreamscape. In my senior year of college, I was eager to translate this mood board into an actual product.
It didn’t take long for me to combine the Swells of Splendor “brand” with silk scarves as my product. I often wore my mother’s and grandmother’s silks, and I loved how the accessory was timeless and trendy. Scarves were the perfect way to blend my love for retro aesthetics and modern fashion together, and it’s so fun reintroducing this classic accessory to a new generation.
Describe the Swells brand in three words.
Fun. Timeless. Unique.
All of your scarves are hand-drawn. Can you walk us through the design and production process? What textiles are used?
The design process is my favorite part of Swells. I joke that there are just not enough hours in the day for all of my ideas!
I typically start by establishing the objective. (That sounds very rigid, and it’s definitely the only organized part of my creative process!) In other words: Am I designing for a certain season? Holiday? Custom event? From there, I tap into Swells’s mood board roots and head to my favorite nook of the internet: Pinterest.
I’ll make boards including different retro photos, color palettes, and interiors that help articulate my brain’s thoughts for my hands to then draw. Next comes color choices, and then the design is done! From there, I send it to my manufacturers to digitally print on machine-washable satin or 100% silk.
What are your favorite Southern fashion brands?
What are your go-to sources for inspiration for Swells?
Anything Slim Aarons! I absolutely love his artistic style and, naturally, his subject matter. I could truly stare at his photographs for days.
As you build your business, what’s been the greatest challenge you’ve faced?
Trusting in the process. Starting Swells in college and taking it full-time upon graduation has brought literal and mental challenges. Post-grad life can be a lot to navigate, as is business ownership. It can be hard to trust your timeline, especially when it’s a somewhat unique one.
Embracing the growing pains that come with both can be difficult, but it is always rewarding. I find it helpful to remind myself that the best thing you can do on a challenging day is to show up. If that passion is there, success will follow.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Take a break!
Running a small business means working 25/7, even though it’s easy to think that being your own boss means working “when you want.” It’s hard to step away from the desk when you feel like everything depends on you. However, a counselor once told me that, quite simply, it doesn’t.
She encouraged me to take a week-long break to prove that I could let go and let God take it from there. The world is going to keep spinning, even if you aren’t working. Not everything is in your control.
And, a final lightning round of questions!
Last delicious meal: My fiancé is an amazing cook! Any dinner he makes is top-notch.
Favorite vacation spot: 30A! I grew up going there every summer, so it feels like a home away from home.
The last great book you read: Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld
Three things you can’t live without: My laptop, a classic white button-down, and frozen yogurt.
After her upcoming wedding, Wells will be relocating to Charleston, where her designs are sure to spread like wildfire. We can’t wait to see what’s next for Swells!
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