Fashion / Shopping

Nostalgia-Driven Store Celebrates a River Oaks District Milestone and a New Houston Financial Tie

Frances Valentine and Carrie Colbert's Women's-Centric Investment Fund Are Both Getting It Done

BY // 10.02.22

There was more than one celebration going on in the Frances Valentine boutique. It was the first anniversary of the nostalgia-driven brand’s Houston store and founder and CEO Elyce Arons jetted in for the party. The event also marked investment in the brand by Curate Capital, Houstonian Carrie Colbert’s women-centric venture capital fund.

No surprise then that when the duo sat down in the River Oaks District boutique to chat with PaperCity, Arons was dressed in a Frances Valentine pink velvet pantsuit while Colbert styled in one of the brand’s signature caftans.

19 – Mary Ann Hebrank (and dog Bella), Natalie Naifeh (and dog Jax), Abigail Hartland
Mary Ann Hebrank with poodle Bella, Natalie Naifeh with Jax, Abigail Hartland at the Frances Valentine first anniversary party

“It’s growing like crazy. Our apparel, our shoes, our handbags have been selling. It’s been wonderful,” Arons says of the remarkable success of the company.

With seven shops around the country already and new boutiques set to open in Atlanta and Birmingham within the month, Frances Valentine is on an expansion plan. More new stores are expected to open later this year. Before landing in Houston, Arons had been in Dallas scouting for a location there.

Frances Valentine has also jumped into the wholesale world, having been picked up for online sales by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, and for in-store sales in other areas.

“I watched the growth and how impressive she and her team are,” Colbert says. “And lucky me, the stars aligned this summer when they were going to raise some capital, the timing was right. . . We’re sort of tagging along with the first anniversary to announce our investment.”

Elizabeth Anthony

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Abigail Hartland, Elle Hogan at the Frances Valentine first anniversary celebration
Abigail Hartland, Elle Hogan at the Frances Valentine first anniversary celebration

The duo met in 2020 during an influencers’ luncheon at Le Colonial, right before the pandemic and before Colbert had officially created her fund. They stayed in touch. Frances Valentine expanded. Curate Capital was formed as a venture capital fund “for accelerating the success of companies by women for women.”

“One thing was attractive from an investment standpoint is how well they’re doing everything,” Colbert says. “So as they add stores or as they add product categories, it doesn’t take away. It’s all additive. The customer wants more and more from them. . . . It just all keeps growing.”

The Frances Valentine Fashion Story

“Every piece pretty much has a story behind it here,” Arons tells PaperCity. “We take those vintage pieces and we find vintage prints that we love from all over the world and we make them a little bit more modern. I’m a crazy person for pockets so I add  pockets to everything I can.

“But where there might be buttons all the way down the front of something we’ll add a zipper, so that it’s just in and out. If there is a more constraining neckline on a vintage piece, we’ll add elastic. Things that make it easier to wear, but still have a classic silhouette.”

Valerie Dittner, Elizabeth Miller, Molly Fienning, Ashley Crouse at the Frances Valentine boutique's first anniversary celebration in River Oaks District
Valerie Dittner, Elizabeth Miller, Molly Fienning, Ashley Crouse at the Frances Valentine boutique’s first anniversary celebration in River Oaks District

The pandemic actually proved to be an accelerator for Frances Valentine as the release of the brand’s first catalog coincided with the COVID shutdowns. Many women were stuck at home and catalog shopping became a release particularly for the Frances Valentine demographic, an older woman less inclined to shop online, more familiar with catalog shopping. Plus, the styles were and are to that group’s liking.

“They’re not trendy. Sort of the opposite of fast fashion,” Arons says. “But they’re meant for a woman to buy today and go back into her closet 10 or 20 years from now and still love that piece and still want to wear it. And to be able to wear it without it being dated.

“And to give it to her daughter or her granddaughter. And that makes these things very special to me because a lot of my nostalgia about a lot of these clothes are my grandmother and my mother. They were really fashionable.

“I didn’t really know it at the time. They were really cool.”

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