3 Southern Brands Owned By Sisters
What many envision to be a never-in-a-million-years scenario is actually the magic behind these three Southern brands. Learn about the stylish sister duos behind Maxwell and Geraldine, Hable Construction, and Twine & Twig.
by ZOE YARBOROUGH
March 15, 2022
What would you say if someone suggested you run a business with your sibling? Some of us would cringe, right? Turns out, sisterly synergy seems to be the common magical element in these three stylish Southern companies: Maxwell and Geraldine's classic frocks, Hable Construction‘s funky home decor, and Twine & Twig‘s maximalist statement jewelry. Get to know these amazing businesswomen and find out just how they work together so well.
A DRESS-DESIGNING DUO
Beth Dye and Kate Hawken are the twin sister co-founders of Maxwell and Geraldine, the brand you may know from their classic, colorful dresses with comfy and flattering signature stretch-smocking. It was nearly impossible to tell them apart as kids, so their father’s solution was to call them any name that came to mind. He’d look at either of them and say Maxwell, Schwartz, Geraldine, Fred, Harold, or Frank, and this charming tradition still lives on today.
As kids, the pair offered nail and hair services to their friends. As they got older, they helped each other navigate issues in their corporate jobs. “Eventually,” Beth tells me, “we started brainstorming business ideas mostly focused on dresses.” They found their fashion conversations constantly coming back to the need for a well-made dress that can transition from day to night, and that you can toss in a weekend bag. “When we couldn’t find what we were looking for in stores, Maxwell and Geraldine was born,” Beth adds.
Fans of this beloved Southern-twinged brand are often surprised to learn that the sisters at the helm live across the country from each other — Beth in San Francisco and Kate in the Washington D.C. area (where the brand is based). “We are incredibly close but physically very far apart,” Kate says. “Looking back, we’re so happy we went to the same college because we’ve never lived in the same town since. Thankfully, we work really hard on seeing each other as much as possible. Lots of miles logged!”
These sister CEOs are launching some new products soon including short versions of their most popular longer dresses. “Maxwell and Geraldine is also entering a whole new dress category,” Beth says. “Stay tuned for that!” Image: Maxwell and Geraldine
Kate and Beth tell me it’s a toss-up reaction when they tell people they work together. “Some think we must fight all the time and some people think it’s all smooth sailing. The truth is somewhere in the middle,” Beth says. “Just the other day, we were discussing the new styles we want to launch and we both had very different opinions. What’s nice is that we don’t worry about offending each other. We talk to each other like we’re talking to ourselves. There is nothing either of us can say that goes too far. We’ve always been as close as two people can be, and there’s no breaking that bond.”
The boundary between work and personal life is non-existent, but they like it that way. “Our vacations include professional photoshoots and our kids work with us on Maxwell and Geraldine. Thankfully, it’s mostly fun work,” Kate adds.
THE HAPPINESS OF HABLE
Sisters Susan and Katherine Hable founded the Athens, GA-based design company Hable Construction in 1999. Named after their Texan great-grandfather’s 20th-century road construction business, the pair iterates a familial tradition of creating and designing … this time, in colorful textiles, decor, fine art, and all sorts of funky trappings for the home.
Katherine brings a background in journalism and marketing and work experience at PoloRalph Lauren and Kate Spade. Susan is the artist and designer behind the boldly colored and hand-drawn patterns of Hable Construction. Her fine art education spans from sculpting and welding to printmaking and painting. Image: Rinne Allen
While Susan and Katherine were admittedly quite different in their younger years, they both went on to cheer competitively and coach cheerleading in Texas (which fans of Cheer on Netflix know is a huge deal). “We had a very ‘get outside and stay outside’ childhood, so working together never really crossed our minds until we were out of college and working.” While Susan was working for designers, Katherine was a wholesale rep selling work by those same designers. That’s when they started to notice a synergy and began to uncover the other’s quirky likes and dislikes. Susan adds, “We are very different in our abilities, so we needed some maturity to make sense of it!”
“We both love to be in control and unpack our bags once we get home from a trip,” Susan says. Katherine admits that their need to be in control is both funny and tragic at the same time. “But working with a sister who is similar in some ways makes you take a step back to give equal playing time for your partner. Ultimately, we trust each other … and we try to think things through more now than we used to,” Katherine adds.
“Sometimes we are thought of as twins and other times we don’t look like we are related at all,” Katherine says. They do, however, invariably receive a certain face when people learn they’re working partners and sisters. What many envision to be a disastrous scenario is actually the magic of their company. Image: Christy Bush
“Work talk slithers into the personal talk a lot because we are very fluid with our lives,” Katherine says. “But we both take time for self-care and personal time. Stealing a mani-pedi and trolling The Real Real can take precedence over work at times.” The sisters have a silly morning ritual on Instagram chat which mainly consists of Susan telling Katherine what she needs to add to her wardrobe and Katherine sending Susan her horoscope. “We have so much fun just being together. Work isn’t worky all the time,” Katherine adds.
‘We are constantly evolving and growing ourselves and since the company is an extension of us, it ebbs and flows with our personal growth too.” Susan (pictured here) adds, “We have new projects rolling out slowly with the supply chain challenges, but we are very excited about the products and their quality.” Image: Christy Bush
Katherine spends most of her time in the present — operations, sales, and day-to-day things — while Susan creates and thinks about Hable Construction’s next ideas. The duo has an ongoing list of companies they dream of working with. “Some collaborations have taken five years to start and they were worth the wait,” Katherine says. “We feel very lucky that we have done things organically and when the timing felt right.”
They just launched a new lighting line at the last High Point market and have an outdoor furniture collection to unveil if the supply chain gets rolling. “We are constantly looking for strategic collaborations and making beautiful products for our clients,” Susan says. “I do think you have to have a special yin and yang to work together. We talk things through and if something doesn’t feel right with one of us, we defer to that feeling.”
TWINE & TWIG TAKES TWO
Elizabeth (Stafford) White is three-and-a-half years older than her sister Jacquelyn (Stafford) Buckner, but the pair have only become closer with time. They created Twine & Twig in 2013 from a shared love of the rustic outdoors and tranquility of coastal Carolina. You’ve likely spotted their maximalist, funky statement necklaces made of materials like bone, shells, and leather assembled in a whimsy of colors and patterns.
Elizabeth and Jacquelyn’s Charlotte-based jewelry brand is ever-evolving and the team creates some of the most intriguing jewelry available to buy straight from them or from stockists all over the continent. Image: Kyo Nam
“Well, let’s just say Twine & Twig is not our first business together,” Jacquelyn tells me when I ask how long they’ve been taking on projects as a pair. “Back in 2007, we launched Tāmz (pronounced tames) to smooth flyaway hairs and unruly brows. It even won Redbook Magazine’s MVP product of the year,” she adds. “It was not long before the product was knocked off by some big names in the hair industry and we decided to call it quits.” Although that first endeavor ended frustratingly, the sisters learned from the bumps in the road. And that road led them to Twine & Twig.
People are often surprised to learn that they design and produce everything by hand in their Charlotte, NC studio. “Just yesterday we had a local news crew come by for an interview and she said, ‘Wait, you actually make everything here in the studio by hand?'” Elizabeth adds, “We do not outsource overseas and we oversee every detail of every piece that goes out the door!”
While the pair work beautifully together, they’re still sisters at the end of the day. Jacquelyn says, “As many wonderful days as there are, there are plenty when we bring normal sister disagreements to the studio.” For this pair, it’s a work-play scenario all the time. “Every family beach trip, Sunday night dinner, or all of the small things in between turn into something about work,” Elizabeth adds. But it seldom feels like work when you’re having as much fun as they are.
Work oftentimes does not feel like work when you’re running a creative company with her sister. Image: Robert Brinson
Expect to see some bright and fun collections coming this spring and summer using incredible beads from artisans in South America. “And — after all of these years — we are dabbling into some Twine & Twig clothing!” Jacquelyn says.
We haven’t seen the best or the last of these sister duos. We can’t wait to see what’s next!