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‘Girl Boss’ leaps into the fashion world

Cali Bartholomew poses with orders ready to ship out from "The Cali Collection."
Cali Bartholomew poses with orders ready to ship out from "The Cali Collection."(Trinisha Bartholomew)
Published: May. 14, 2021 at 1:14 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A little Louisiana girl with a natural gift for style and a mom with a vision break into the fashion world from their spare bedroom.

Playing with L. O. L. Dolls and rocking it at being a big sister are just a couple of Cali Bartholomew’s typical pre-k activities, but Cali doesn’t just like to dress dolls.

“Cali actually loves clothes. She puts them together by herself since she was like two. She would tell me that doesn’t match or that doesn’t go together,” her mom Trinisha Bartholomew said.

The four-year-old has a passion for fashion.

“She’ll come downstairs and walk down the hallway like it’s a runway and actually it looks good,” Bartholomew said.

After getting lots of positive feedback on social media about Cali’s clothes, Bartholomew had an idea. She said, “People would be in my inbox and say, ‘Hey! Where did you get this outfit from?’ or ‘Where did you get that outfit?’ After a while, I was like ‘Cali we really could start our own clothing line because people really like what you wear.’”

With no background in clothing, retail, or marketing, Bartholomew used quarantine time to launch “The Cali Collection.”

“I’m actually in the medical industry,” Bartholomew said. She researched sourcing, branding, and marketing. “Everybody can start a business, but to brand it is totally different. I wanted The Cali Collection to stand out versus being a boutique from a brand.”

In just a few short months, The Cali Collection grew from an idea to a successful reality with profitable sales, an expanding audience, and a family effort where Cali plays a big role.

She not only models as the featured brand ambassador, but she also picks out looks for the collection.

“I always let her have free reign. The outfit she has on today she actually picked it herself,” Bartholomew says.

The mom and daughter team work with a vendor to bring the designs to life. Bartholomew said, “I’ll tell them what style I want or I’ll draw some stuff sometimes and send it to them and they’ll produce exactly what I want.”

Packing and shipping becomes a family affair headquartered from their Edgard, LA home.

“[My husband] helps me pack orders, he helps us with the inventory, he’s like my backbone,” said Bartholomew.

She hopes the brand creates a foundation for both of her daughters as entrepreneurs and she wants to set an example for all little girls.

“I want girl empowerment and everything that goes along with that,” she says.

Kourtni Mason is an attorney and the author of the “Little Miss Dancy Pants” book series. She said, “We love the beauty and the brains aspect of it, and it was such synergy between the two brands.”

It all started with looks, but this spring the Cali collection added books. Bartholomew said, “Our latest campaign was called the spring edition. We mixed clothing with a book, so I found a local author. Her name is Kourtni and she is the author of “Little Miss Dancey Pants.”

A mutual friend put the two in touch. Mason said, “We really just thought the idea was amazing. Fashion, literacy and arts pairing it together.”

Mason, based in New Orleans, started the series after searching for dance books featuring little girls of color. She said, “I have lots of friends who have children and I said ‘You know what. You all have that same love for dance that I had when I was a kid’ and I looked for books, but I didn’t find any so I decided to create.”

Bartholomew said, “I want girls to know that they are beautiful, they are pretty, but they can be smart as well.

Mason recalls a video that affirmed their partnership. She said, “There was a video I saw that was so sweet. The little girl said mom she’s so beautiful and she was looking at the book and she didn’t expect to have a book with her order.”

Bartholomew wants their brand to champion girls’ creativity and ability.

“You can be a model and a teacher. It’s just a balance there’s no right or wrong,” she says.

On set, at play, or as Bartholomew hopes for Cali - maybe CEO of a global brand one day.

In less than six months, The Cali Collection is seeing sales in the tens of thousands and looking forward to growing even more.

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