Central Oregon sisters Kelly Beall and Wendy Weems saw a void in women’s fashion footwear for shoes that brought together the big city and the Old West.
So the duo, who manage their business from their homes in Sisters and Tumalo, started Y Knot Branded and plan to launch their first shoe collection, Alpha Mare, next month. Weems is the sole investor, and Beall the lead designer.
The company specializes in shoes that are a cross between traditional Western styles and high-end heels. Beall and Weems say Y Knot Branded is, “Where New York and the Old West collide.”
Those in the Alpha Mare collection feature hand-tooled leather similar to designs found on Western saddles. Some shoes are adorned with silver nail heads; some have conchos; and others sport Western buckles.
They have names like Tequila Sunset, a celosia orange-colored shoe, CowDiva and Cowboy’s Sweetheart.
The sisters’ love of horses and ranching inspired the designs, Weems said.
“The trends for women in Western lifestyles are usually frilly skirts and dresses,” Weems said. “They always have to wear cowboy boots. A cross between boots and flip-flops or heels has never been explored before.”
The sisters started the business in January 2013, formally branding their company in January 2014.
The shoes will be showcased at Desperado Boutique in the Old Mill District and High Desert Ranch and Home, both located in Bend. Ten other retail locations across the U.S. and three in Canada will also sell the shoes.
Y Knot Branded sells shoes wholesale, not directly to consumers. However, it does offer online shopping through two retailers, via YKnotBranded.com.
Beall, who thought of the initial idea for the products, designed and worked in the Western fashion industry for close to 20 years. Weems, an artist and sculptor, put in the money to make the business happen.
“The other ideas that she’s had were amazing, but this one is just unique, and I couldn’t quit thinking about her drawings,” said Weems. “My husband couldn’t quit thinking about her drawings, and if we didn’t do it, someone else would.”
As far as testing the market to see if the shoes would be successful, they threw that idea out the window.
“No, we went backwards,” Weems said. “We didn’t test the market, but we had an unveiling back in January with women connected to the fashion industry.
“I would think we invited about 20 from our local area, and the response was overwhelming. As far as market research, it was small and local; we felt like it was enough to go ahead and take a chance on it.”
Q: What inspired you to name the first collection Alpha Mare?
A: Wendy Weems: I have no idea. Kelly comes up with all of the names. She’s the creative one, and an Alpha Mare in the horse world is the horse that decides it’s time to take them to water, when they move from one place to the next. The … Alpha Mare in the horse world is the leader.”
Q: Does the company plan to expand into other products anytime soon?
A: The only one(s) we’re really thinking of, and it could be as far as a year out, it could be handbags and clutches and maybe, cuffs.
Q: Have you already started working on the next collection?
A: We have. You know, that date’s jumping around on us. There’s just so much going on with the new company.