How did a road trip through West Texas spark the inspiration behind one of the most sought-after womenswear brands? Apiece Apart co-founders and lifelong BFFs, Laura Cramer and Starr Hout were on an annual celebratory birthday vacation when they got the idea to create a simplified wardrobe – one that could be packed into a single bag but is filled with pieces that could be mixed and matched into countless different outfits. 

Brought to life by streamlined silhouettes, feminine details and luxe, lasts-forever fabrications, each Apiece Apart collection is designed to be as versatile as the women wearing them. For Starr and Laura, it is the woman who wears the clothes who is of chief importance, the garments exist only to serve her.

We met up with Starr in the brand’s showroom in downtown NYC (Laura joined us on Zoom from Texas!) to learn more about their unique design philosophy, what it’s like to be in business with your best friend and hear their advice for other women entrepreneurs.

Tell us about Apiece Apart and how it all began. 

LC: We met more than 20 years ago, as students at NYU. We had both talked our way into a graduate level computer programming class (which tells you a lot about us both). Since that day, we enjoyed both a friendship and a collaboration based on our love of design and clothing! 

SH: On our 30th birthday ( Laura and I were born a day apart) we took a road trip to Marfa and conceived the line — a collection of intermixing pieces that could be packed in a single bag, to go anywhere and do anything.

Where did the name come from? What does it mean?

LC: We loved the idea of creating pieces that are a part of the whole — a modular concept. We would say, “a piece of your wardrobe: a part of your life.” Another refrain of ours is, “piece by piece,” it’s how we built the business, and how the pieces are meant to be worn.

Describe the brand in 5 words or less.

Easy, edited, cool, healthy, pretty.

Your aesthetic has been described as “effortlessly essential.” Tell us about your design process in your own words.

SH: We ask first — will she wear it once a week, can she wear it every day? We want the Apiece Apart customer to get dressed in the morning and MOVE on to the real passions of her day: her work, her hobbies, her family, her love life. Yes, we want her to feel cool, put-together, even inspired by what she is wearing. But it is about “simplicity.”

We know you love them all, but if you had to pick, what are your must-rent styles?

SH: Maurino Drop Waist Mini Dress — because it’s sold out everywhere else! Editor’s note: be on the lookout, this style is hitting the RTR closet real soon.

More to love from Apiece Apart:

Do you remember the first time you saw someone wearing Apiece Apart? What was that experience like?

LC: I remember being in a cab and seeing a woman wearing one of our tops walking on the street and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wanted to yell, “Thank you!”

What’s it like working with/being in business with a friend? How have your roles evolved since you first started? What have been some of the biggest challenges and how have you worked through them together?

LC: I think the biggest challenge is just evolving as friends and business partners, while having children, starting families and growing a larger team. We have learned to align ahead of time as much as possible. Early on, we could get away with duking something out on the spot, but after our team grew, we also had to grow up. We worked with a business coach for a while, which was like couples therapy — and it was amazing.

What are you inspired by right now? How have you been getting into the creative zone?

LC: Color and the idea of coming out of lockdown. I feel so much hope. 

SH: Our creative zone is wild right now (Laura’s in Austin,TX, I’m in upstate NY and our team is scattered), so we’ve had to become laser focused on our design goals. And we have developed remote tools for communication — which I think has made us better. Keeping an up-to-date calendar became VERY important and lots of shared documents. 

Lately, we’ve been reflecting on experiences that shape us as women. Describe a moment in your life that made you proud to be a woman.

LC: Being a mother to a strong, smart, curious, intuitive 10-year-old girl who is comfortable in the world. Being mother to a soulful, deep 5-year-old boy who writes love letters to his family members. Leading a team of 15 strong women who are at various moments of their journeys.

SH: The inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris. I cried tears of joy for all of us women. 

Do you have any advice for other female entrepreneurs? 

LC: I am so glad we didn’t know everything about the business journey we have been on — we may have been too scared to proceed. I still suffer from feelings of fraud. I would advise to embrace the curious state and ask ALL the questions (even the ones you think you should already know). Belabor it if you’re not getting something. If something seems very complicated, it’s probably like that on purpose! 

SH: A few quotes I read every day that help me: “What is my offering in this world?” “Let the beauty we love be what we do.” “Align your purpose with your personality.” “Speak Straight, listen Generously.” 

Rapid-Fire Questions –

First fashion memory:  

  • LC: My mother’s best friend Claudia visiting us (in Iowa) from Paris, she was so chic! Also early ads for Bennetton and Esprit
  • SH: Insisting I wear my underwear backwards because I preferred to see the ruffles

Personal fashion icon: 

  • SH: It’s pretty abstract. I’ve cobbled up a kind of fleeting vision of the woman I want to be. Inspired by many. 
  • LC: Agree, also missing NYC street style!

Life-changing read: 

  • LC: Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron; Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • SH: Bringing Home the Dharma by Jack Kornfield   

Last thing you Googled: 

Most valuable piece of advice you’ve received from another woman:

  • LC: “The only thing you can control is who you work with.” 
  • SH: From my incredible mom “transcend the bullshit”

A song that makes you feel empowered to be a woman: 

  • LC: Kate Bush – “Running Up That Hill”
  • SH: Cat Power – “Woman” 

Watch the full Designer Download interview featuring Starr & Laura on our Instagram!