12:51 AM PST on Tuesday, December 6, 2005
By JESSICA ZISKO / The Press-Enterprise
Friends and supporters of Kellie Flores-Olsen say she's come a long way from an unemployed shopping nut with an uncanny flair for style.
Flores-Olsen, 34, worked for six years stocking shelves at an Albertsons Supermarket in Escondido, but was forced to stop when she developed carpal tunnel syndrome. She says the unlucky affliction may have put her on the career path of her dreams.
Now she's a fashion diva from Sun City out to prove her new clothing line, Crown and Tiara Industries, can compete in a tough business.
It all started in 2001 after Flores-Olsen underwent surgery to alleviate some of the pain caused by the progressive nerve condition. During her recovery she made shopping trips to the mall, until her husband Bryan put his foot down.
"He said, 'We can't afford this,' so I decided to create my own line," she said. "I knew what kind of styles I liked, and I thought, 'Why not?'"
Flores-Olsen said she wants every woman to feel like a queen in her clothes. Her inaugural merchandise -- a black tank top -- is designed for "royalty" of all ages, she said. It features a glittery, pink and Swarovski-studded crown on the front and lower back.
Barely a month off the ground, the clothing line may already be turning celebrity heads. She's been told that music and fashion mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs liked the concept when one of her friends, who works on Combs' clothing line, showed him a tank.
Inspired by his approval, Flores-Olsen in November mailed free shirts to celebrities Hilary Duff, Teri Hatcher, Angelina Jolie and Jessica Simpson. Her dream is to see one of the megastars appear in a magazine or on television wearing her shirt.
Her focus now is generating that hard-to-achieve industry buzz, starting with southwest Riverside County. At The Promenade mall in Temecula, employees at the MAC cosmetics counter in Macy's wore the tanks with jeweled tiaras in their hair over Thanksgiving weekend to promote the line.
Flores-Olsen is working with Macy's executives to expand the promotion to other California stores. She also has secured two online specialty boutiques -- www.crigifts.com and www.le-fashionista.com -- to carry her shirts. She also has her own site, www.crownandtiara.com.
Her family has pitched in to help. Her husband assists with the business decisions and her sister- and brother-in-law, Jillian and Matt McCabe, help design the logos and Web site. Jillian also runs her own business selling bath and beauty products from her home in Portland, Ore., and the two share marketing ideas.
Flores-Olsen admits that Crown and Tiara sales have been slow so far, but supporters are confident that will change.
"I'm excited about where this could go," said her husband, Bryan Olsen, 31, an appliance technician. "People tell us they like the name. They tell us it's classy."
His budding designer-wife faces challenges.
The fashion industry is fickle, competitive and already saturated with trendy brands such as Lucky Jeans and Juicy Couture.
Celebrities such as Combs, Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani also have jumped into the trade, bringing with them multi-million marketing campaigns.
Though an admitted shop-aholic, Flores-Olsen concedes she knows little about the business.
She never went to college, nor took a style or marketing class. She depends on her eye for fashion along with help and feedback from a close network of friends and family.
"This is one driven woman," said Jillian McCabe, who calls Flores-Olsen her "fashion mentor."
"She's not afraid, and she doesn't like to hear 'no.' "
These days, Flores-Olsen is too busy to concern herself with the risks.
When she's not working as a fragrance vendor in The Promenade, she handles online orders, designs new logos with her artistic sister-in-law and works the phones.
Flores-Olsen already has grand plans for Crown and Tiara.
She envisions expanding the brand into jewelry, hair accessories, doll clothing, purses and clothes for pets.
"This is just the beginning for her," McCabe said. "I think in a few years she is going to be the biggest thing."
Reach Jessica Zisko at (951) 375-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org