When I first met Cameron at our get together at The Wing, it was total girl crush at first site. We were introduced through a mutual friend and instantly clicked over our passions for branding and empowering other women. Cameron Armstrong is the 24 year old Founder of Kitty and Vibe, a swimwear line with a mission to change the way women feel about trying on bathing suits while promoting self-love and kindness to each other and to ourselves. She just launched her line in May 2018 and is already crushing it with a growing social media following, styles that are already on back order, and even a celebrity fan - Lena Dunham. Read on to learn more about this girl boss, what inspired her to start her brand, her favorite spots in NYC, and the biggest lesson she's learned so far in her 20s. xo Alyssa
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I'm 24 years old, originally from Atlanta and currently living n Manhattan - I'm "a little bit yankee, a little bit y'all."I moved to NYC when I was 22. They tell you graduating college and entering the real world is tough, but they don't tell you it's THAT tough. Doctor's called it "the perfect storm." Moving to the unfamiliar, my closest friends no longer by my side. Having a severe reaction to a birth control hormone that made me quite literally psychotic, transforming me from feeling "normal" to feeling severely anxious and depressed. My days consisted of ruminating on crippling thoughts like, "What's the point of life?" / "Do I even want to be here." And the worst part was having anxiety over having anxiety. I went through 1 year of psychiatric therapy and started on an SSRI, and little by little, I learned how to create new pathways in my brain, so I didn't have to go down the dark rabbit hole of despair everyday. BUT, what helped me the most during that time was being able to acknowledge the little wins, and show myself some sort of celebration, whether that be celebrating with a deep inhale and exhale, a smile, or a dance around my bedroom. Getting out of bed in the morning. Getting dressed. Putting on some mascara. Walking to work. Breathing. These are all things we don't celebrate enough.
From this experience came an entirely newfound level of empathy which 100% has led my heart to creating Kitty. I wanted to establish a company that felt like a friend. One that promotes the importance of mental health and provides humans with a tool to find a positive mental state. Dancing in my room in my underwear is one way I let myself celebrate feeling alive, and grateful to be alive.
It's funny to me that Kitty came in the form of a bathing suit, but I think this is just the beginning. Yes, Kitty swimsuits are f*cking awesome - reversible, seamless, and crazy cozy. But what's really important, is the "and Vibe" part of my company. KIND is my vibe. Being kind to yourself, your body, your good days and your bad days. Acknowledging your anxieties and your scars, but learning how to live with them. And learning how to celebrate the little wins in life. Like being able to finally feel free and love yourself in a bathing suit.
What inspired Kitty and Vibe?
I was at the beach and really wanted a new swimsuit. So I went to the local boutique and grabbed 5 different bathing suits off the rack. Some were size XS and some were M because the sizing was all over the board depending on the style and the brand. I went into the fitting room, and entered “the judgement zone” florescent lights beating down on my body, the sales lady outside harassing me to come out and show her the suit. But I wasn’t happy. I felt self conscious about the acne on my back, the bottoms were either way too skimpy or gave me a diaper butt and I left feeling totally defeated. Then I took to the internet and ordered one online, the bottoms came in way too small and the top way too large. Can anyone relate?? That was the moment I knew I wanted to start a swimwear line that would be a game changer.
How is Kitty and Vibe unique?
Kitty bottoms are a complete game changer. They take into account your hip AND inseam size. Small waist, small booty? No problem you would be an S1 which would fit your hips like a small and have just the right amount of fabric on the inseam and back rise to prevent any sort of diaper but. Small hips, large booty? We gotcha covered, you would be an S2 which would fit your hips like a small but then give you some extra fabric on the inseam and back rise to accommodate the larger butt so your crack doesn’t show.
Plus, all kitty swimsuits have a vibe. When you order a Kitty the suit comes to your doorstep to meet you on the dance floor of your bedroom. Scan the Spotify code to hear the music of your suit. Allow yourself to dance around your bedroom, wink in the mirror, smile a lot. Tell yourself something positive about the way you look. THEN try on your Kitty. Allowing your body to have this positive physical experience will help trigger a positive mental state that will remind you how beautiful you look in the skin you’re in. You already have the confidence we just bring the vibe.
How would you describe your brand?
Kitty and Vibe comes from the heart and promotes being kind as the new being cool. Above all, this is a company dedicated to spreading kindness: kindness to yourself, your body, and others. We are reinventing the way women feel about shopping for swimwear by offering a better fit and a better try-on experience. All of which are rooted in the mission to promote the importance of mental health.
What were the first steps you took to start your business? What's been the biggest challenge so far?
1. Come up with a name I loved that fit the brand feeling.
2. Establish the trademark, legal company registration and domain name!
3. Take a deep breath.
The biggest challenge has been knowing when to take a break (lol as I'm writing this at 11:32PM). When you start your own business, you pour your heart and soul into it, and while you need to have the discipline to run your business, you also need the discipline to take care of yourself - your mental and physical health (and with that I'll put on a pot of tea :) )
Walk us through a day in the life!
Wake up around 8:30, roll out of bed and do some stretches. Head over to The Wing in Soho and grab a cup of coffee, everything bagel and a banana. Respond to emails, work on the site through Shopify (there's always more to be done to make it better and cleaner). Have sweet green for lunch. Call my mom on the walk to lunch. Afternoon meetings, perhaps a scroll through Instagram and some texts to friends. Head over to y7 yoga for a hip-hop sweat sesh. Cook dinner at home if I'm feeling up for it - or grab Chipotle. Catch an episode of Riverdale, or Queer Eye, or Parks and Rec. Night night!
What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned so far in your 20s?
The power of weak ties. I read this in a book (The Defining Decade). You never know the monumental pivot points that may occur in your life should you follow up on the weak ties you meet throughout your day. Perhaps it's someone you met waiting in line, your waitress, or the person next to you on the subway. You never know who they know or what they bring to the table that may push you out of your convert zone or help you get somewhere you've been reaching for.
What does being a feminist mean to you? Who are some of your role models?
Being a feminist means supporting other women. It means you believe in equality for all of humanity. It means that you aren't afraid to speak your mind about the rights of women. It means that you know your worth.
Cleo Wade - she isn't afraid to give any and all people her love.
Sara Blakely - Homegirl started with an idea and managed to create a billion dollar company all while holding 100% of her equity. Talk about a BOSS. When I feel like I'm drowning in swimsuits (no pun intended hehe) in my bedroom picking, packing, and shipping Kitty suits by hand, I think of her. And it pushes me to keep going.
Emily Weiss - @glossier is pure female heaven. The aesthetic, the vibe, the mission is so clear and so attractive. I think what Emily Weiss has built with her company is phenomenal and I really look up to how she has managed to conquer the e-commerce space, while also developing fantastic IRL experiences (and now permanent spaces) for her consumers. Maybe one day you'll walk into a Kitty store equipped with bedrooms of every vibe, and be able to jump on a dozen beds while jamming to Beyonce #goals.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Don't sweat the small stuff. Be empathetic - you never know what type of day people are having. Don't be afraid to fail.
When not working, where can we find you?
The Commons Chelsea, my favorite coffee shop, or anywhere in NYC that has a little green.
Favorite places to eat / shop / hang in NYC?
The Wild Son, my favorite brunch spot, the fingerling potatoes and buttermilk pancakes are incredible. I also love the Union Square Flower Market. It's my Saturday ritual is to stop by the market and get myself some flowers.
Favorite pieces by eff.Y.bee?
PS Use code "kitty15" for 15% off your entire order through 8/3/18!
Connect with Cameron!
Insta: @clarmstrong @kitty_and_vibe