By David Mullen
Despite the name, “Allie + Bess” is not a buddy comedy coming to Netflix or a prime-time crime drama about two women police officers dedicated to keeping the streets safe.
This is a sports story. It is about a dream. It is about teamwork. It is about honing skills to become tops in the field. And like a professional athlete’s pursuit of the ultimate prize, it ends up with the “jewelry.”
While not in search of a World Series or Super Bowl ring, Allie Wardlaw and Bess Callarman, two North Dallas mothers with five school children between them, started Allie + Bess (shopalliebess.com), a Dallas-based, women-owned jewelry brand that designs bracelets focused on team loyalty. On August 9, Wardlaw and Callarman expanded their existing jewelry line by introducing the Game Day Collection, designed to “make spirit stackable” stretchable bracelets targeting tailgaters, new and returning college students to wear their spirit below their sleeve.
“We wanted to launch a collection that matched our joy for the return of these decades-old traditions that fans could wear from brunch to the tailgating tent to the game and beyond,” Callarman said. “These are perfect gifts not only for yourself to spruce up your tailgating wardrobe, but for college students across the country looking to show school pride.”
Picture spirited and sartorial supporters reveling on The Boulevard at SMU or inside Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin dressed in team colors highlighted by casual bracelets in red and blue or burnt orange and white cheering on the Mustangs or Longhorns respectively. Initially, the collection has 22 different curated stacks of various sizes so shoppers can create their own stack featuring any school colors for personalization. “This back-to-school season — and specifically this tailgating season — is particularly special this year as we all celebrate the return of in-person events like tailgating and cheering on our favorite teams,” Callarman said.
Wardlaw was born in Brady. “It’s actually the geographical heart of Texas,” Wardlaw said. “we have the signage and the historical marker.” Dallas native Callarman went to TWU in Denton. They met in 2010 while working at a nursing home while both were in the medical profession; Wardlaw as an occupational therapist and Callarman as a speech pathologist. In 2019, after the birth of her second child, Callarman decided to become a stay-at-home mom. “Allie would come over and just have coffee with me and catch up,” Callarman said. “She was working parttime. And we found these beads that we loved and just didn’t see anything like it on the market. So, we both decided that we just have to figure out how to make them and that’s how Allie + Bess was born.”
The beads they loved are called vulcanite, which are repurposed vinyl records. No confirmation that the beads were spun from LPs featuring college fight songs. “They are trade beads from Africa. I don’t know what that really means,” Callarman said. “We had never done anything like it [making jewelry] before,” Wardlaw said. “We saw other people doing it and that wasn’t what we really wanted. So that was the catalyst for doing our own. I think that they were not elevated. We wanted something more elevated.”
“The vulcanite beads are saturated in color and Allie and I are very inspired by bright colors,” Callarman said. “We both love graffiti and both love art. We thought colors and then thought school colors.” They began “beading up” on Callarman’s dining room table.
“We started making them for ourselves and then our friends started asking us about them,” Wardlaw said, “so we decided to make an Instagram page and Bess has a background in photography. We decided to do things a little differently. We did style pictures versus product photos. We would make it, style it and Bess would take the pictures. And business just grew and grew. We beaded everything ourselves that we sold and we didn’t even have a website at the time,”
Allie + Bess’ flat, uniform, ethically sourced signature beads are crafted by Ghanaian artisans. Indian gold discs are often added to increase the “chic factor.” The popular Zo beads are acrylic and manufactured to the owner’s specifications. Each piece is individually designed and hand-made in Dallas. The initial jewelry line was a series of fashionable bracelets, necklaces and earrings with a particular safety feature in mind. Having small children created a need to make sure that jewelry was not within reach of inquisitive small hands. “As moms to young babies, it’s hard to wear big earrings or necklaces they can pull on,” Callarman said. Each bracelet also features five black vinyl beads, representing the pair’s five children. Their plan was to launch the Game Day Collection in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the kickoff. “We got a crash course in the supply chain during the pandemic. We had to redesign some of our jewelry with the beads that we could get.” The pair maintain an office, but the actual manufacturing process of beading is “proprietary information. I’m not going to share too much of that process. I’m sorry,” Callarman said. Licensing is not an issue; team logos are not used, and specific teams are not referenced. “We have an Austin-inspired stack and a College Station-inspired stack,” Callarman said. “I think the brainchild or the inspiration to make ‘spirit stacks’ goes back to Allie and I loving bright colors.”
With the launch of the Game Day Collection, the dining room table production line has expanded into two, fulltime beaded jewelry specialists and more than $1 million in sales. Waldman and Callarman still are part of the process. The price point is “attainable luxury,” from $20 to $200.
Shipping time is less than two weeks. While most of the sales are generated on their website, “We are still available at Stanley Korshak,” Wardman said. “Our focus is our website,” Callarman said. “We have a pretty strong Southeast and East Coast base,” which is true for college football fan bases in general. “One of our goals for 2021-22 is really breaking into the West Coast and our intention is to keep adding, including high schools in the area.” Just like an athletes’ goal, it’s all about the jewelry.