If you’ve ever had the opportunity to personally work with Ali Matthews, you’re well aware of the sparkle she leaves behind. Her passion for design, apparel, and sisterhood has truly changed the Greek apparel industry, along with the lives of young women across the nation. Forever.
She holds the ultimate girl guide to fashion, creativity, and all things magical. She is what 98.7% of you consider “goals”—with the remaining 1.3% being those who initially inspired her to chase her own. She has blisters on her feet from always going the extra mile- but continues to dance her way through life without skipping a beat. She has this incredible gift of believing in you, and after just one encounter, you believe in yourself a little bit more too.
We’ve spent plenty of time getting to know our favorite mermaid, and we’d love to share our private interview with you! Meet our Founder & Creative Director, Ali.
AA: What inspired you to start this company, Ali & Ariel?
This is about you. It’s about sisterhood! Our clients are my ultimate inspo.
This journey began for me when I was an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta at Arizona State University. Fashion, art, and branding are my lifelong loves. Being in a sorority became something I loved just as much! My first taste of making sorority apparel happened when I was recruitment chair. I was looking for Greek apparel with a retail fashion feel, and a feminine touch. The options at the time left a lot to be desired... and I knew I couldn't have been the only sorority woman who felt that way!
I created my first sorority clothing brand shortly after I graduated from ASU in 2008. It was super girly with lots of neon pink. Fast forward to 8 years later (!!!) in the Greek apparel industry, I've loved watching the trends evolve. Sorority clothing today as a whole is absolutely nothing like how it was when I was an active. Seeing that happen has been a dream come true for me!
After doing this for a while, I started to become friends with clients. I felt like their big sister. They felt comfortable sharing details about their lives with me. One year in particular, 3 different clients in a row asked to meet with me. While each of their scenarios were different, they all had one thing in common... concerns about body image. At the time, it broke my heart. But I quickly realized that this was part of my purpose. This needed to be part of the conversation. That's when the next phase of my career started; pairing fashion with empowerment. If I could help make a difference to even one person, I knew I would have done my job.
It felt magical. It felt freeing, like the ocean. When we're kids, we are not afraid to express ourselves creatively or otherwise. How do we get back to that happy creative space of childlike wonder? For me, I think of things that made me happy as a child. Mermaids being one of them. Mermaids, making waves. Ariel is the force of magic within each of us as women. The stars aligned, and Ali & Ariel was born. Our mission statement came from this concept too.
AA: How do you measure success?
When you achieve what you set out to do, and you made mistakes along the way.
AA: What is your best piece of advice for young women?
Let your intuition lead the way. Learn to listen to yourself. Treat it like a superpower, because it is! Almost every time, you will realize that you already knew the answer deep down. I'm talking real deep here. You might not like the answer immediately. (Been there!) But that's ok, because it's the right answer.
Thinking this way brings me a lot of peace. And yes, I still need to remind myself to do it sometimes!
AA: What are the 3 character traits you value most in someone else?
Integrity, courage, and perseverance (my fave word). Also, don't take yourself too seriously! If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.
AA: What are your go-to fashion staples?
Distressed denim and cool graphic tees, preferably band tees. I've been obsessed with graphic tees for as long as I can remember. Nothing has changed!
xoxo, The Mermaids
originally posted May 4, 2016 • updated July 13, 2020