Based in Traverse City, Anne Lewis co-founded two companies with her husband Brian, Stately Wear and Midwest State of Mind. Both are organic brands that respect people and the planet. Stately Wear offers flag hippie duffels, totes, leggings, hoodies, tumblers and more with some home décor and other items from Midwest State of Mind.
Born in Detroit, Anne moved to Birmingham for a while and then to Southfield. Her mother, Joan Belanger was from Birmingham, where they often gathered with family and friends. Belanger taught at Eastover Elementary School in Bloomfield Hills and was also an artist who took classes at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center.
“Her creativity rolled onto myself and my twin sister. We got that creative edge from her,” said Anne, who has also authored over 25 children’s books. She and her husband Brian are the former owners of Sleeping Bear Press.
A few years ago, the couple founded Stately Wear, which has already developed quite the following. First, the former CEO of Calvin Klein, the late Marty Staff, raved about the brand that has a modern hippie vibe. After the global fashion icon said, “hippie never looked so good,” it became their tag line.
Then, Katie Couric’s husband, John Molner, became a fan of the duffel bags and suggested they partner. That led to the Stately Wear brand now being available at Katie’s Shop, an online shopping site curated by Couric.
Their original inspiration came from a visit to The Museum at Bethel Woods in Woodstock, New York, featuring exhibits that highlight the famous music festival and the ‘60s. “What we wanted to do was bring that hippie vibe with respect for people and the planet with a modern twist,” said Anne. “We feed off each other’s creativity. I am more visual and Brian has great ideas and execution.”
With four grown kids, they also wanted to be conscious of the environment for future generations, with products that are made one at a time with biodegradable dyes. In addition, Stately Wear lets people pay tribute to the places they love, which stretches to the Midwest brand.
“It’s sort of a pride thing,” she said about the coveted pieces that go from Michigan to other states and countries, and are spotted by aficionados. Customization and corporate gifts are also available.
For Anne, one of the biggest rewards is seeing people’s reactions. “We went out to the end of Old Mission (Peninsula) to do a photo shoot for the duffel bags and hoodies,” she said about the hippie brand. “There were some ladies across the street who were visiting the area. They came over and asked where they could buy them and they literally bought them out of our trunk.
“That, for me, just verified this is something.”
Still, challenges come with the territory. “The biggest challenge is with social media and the way things are now. It’s hard to get face time with people and be seen. You have to be relentless,” she said.
“With Sleeping Bear Press, we had Barnes and Noble and Borders, and you could do events in stores. Today you have to have influencers and you have to have an instant to connect with people. It’s a totally different landscape.”
Fortunately, both Anne and Brian are entrepreneurs at heart. “We know it takes hard work and perseverance,” she said.
They also love the Great Lakes State. “I’m super happy to live in Michigan and I’m proud of our area,” said Anne. “The Midwest is a great place.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow