Q+A with Cleobella | Sunset Beach, CA

Our muse for our 1/25/24 lark at Cleobella’s gorgeous 1920’s seaside cottage can be summed up in two words: Ciao Bella! 

Cleobella has outgrown their gorgeous boutique, on PCH in Sunset Beach, and the time has come for release but not without gratitude and a proper goodbye.

In the beginning the boutique served as an oasis where the dream + determination behind Cleobella came together as one. And over the years has delighted the community with it’s style + vibe and has also hosted many gatherings. 

Because founder Angela O’Brien loves to create, collaborate & elevate, our gathering is an opportunity to honor the idea of chasing one’s dream and paving a path that empowers others.  

We are thrilled to set our communal table with Cleobella—and we invite you along as we dive below the surface with our (ode to Proust) dinner party questionnaire with “Ange”: 

Cleobella’s Founder & Creative Director, Angela O’Brien

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up Huntington Beach, California. 

Have you always been into fashion & style? 

Yes! Ever since I can remember I loved dressing up, whether it was dolls, my brothers or myself.  It’s when I feel most alive…I step into a creative portal and I get lost.  My high school days were spent modeling and that exposed me to the fashion world and travel and gave me a deeper appreciation for the art of fashion.  I am an avid vintage shopper, and I find inspiration in decades from the past, its like a history lesson for me.  I often describe it as a treasure hunt to spend the day searching for something that sparks the next design detail on our latest collection.  I pinch myself that this is my job:-)

Can you remember your earliest inspiration (people/books/places/experiences)?

My earliest inspiration is shopping with my Grandmother…she’s a professional shopper ;-)…she’s always down for the hunt and she does it with so much joy!  When I was 18 I got an opportunity to have a modeling contract in Tokyo for 6 months and that’s when my true love for travel inspiration started.  It was then that I was bitten by the travel bug and that has continued to be a source of inspiration for all of Cleobella’s collections.

What is your most marked creative characteristic? 

I lead from the heart. Intuition drives my creativity. The journey of entrepreneurship is such a journey of self, and tapping into the truth of who we are…give us wings to fly!!! 

Who are your hero’s? 

My mom, Cleobelle. This is also my great grandmother’s name…I have a long lineage of Irish women in my family who possess this unique duality of feminine//strength and they inspire me daily. 

Would you say food & fashion go hand in hand? 

100%!  I’m very sensitive energetically, and I believe in the value of creating meaningful experiences when all the senses are thoughtfully curated. The smells, the community, the atmosphere, they all raise the vibrations. I believe food should be equally beautiful and delicious and should awaken all your senses. This is why I’m so excited to partner with Lark as I know we share the same values.

We know you love a good dinner party, are you the chef at home?

I’m the chef and my husband does the dishes:-). Our daughter, Indigo, loves to cook with me. She also loves to set up a beautiful table…she has such an eye for creativity and she thoughtfully designs our dinners with fresh flowers, candles and our handmade Cleobella block printed napkins.  We bake together because we love dessert!

What is your go-to meal OR most prized ingredient?

Our backyard is an edible garden. We grow herbs like sage, lavender, rosemary, and thyme. I visit our local farmers market on Sundays with the kids and pick out what’s fresh and that helps determine our meals for the week. I enjoy making soups and I love to use spices from our travels. We recently made a curry soup using spices that our team in India sent us.  I’m not much for using recipes, I’m a lazy chef….I throw it in…cook for taste and serve:-)

We have always loved the look and feel of your boutique in Sunset Beach, can you tell us how you discovered it?

When my husband and I started Cleobella, we were doing business out of our home and we were spending half of the year in California and half of the year in Bali, Indonesia. At this time, our oldest, Keenan was just a baby. I wanted a separation of the work and family life.  When I found this 1920’s cottage it was a grow house for marijuana and looked like a halfway house inside.  I had a vision and I knew if I could renovate it, if I could sell enough handbags in the front then I could afford an office space in the back. Within 2 years we tripled our sales and outgrew the space and moved our offices to our current headquarters and design studio and fulfillment center just down the street in Huntington Beach. Our wholesale and online business began to grow and it was a dream come true. 

What dream was in your heart at the time you moved in?

The dream was to build a sustainable lifestyle fashion brand that created jobs for our artisan partners and build a life that is rich in experience and travel as this is our passion.

Was there anyone instrumental in helping you transform the cottage into a dreamy + well styled boutique?

My husband, Jim O’Brien. He has always been such an amazing supporter.  I have also had so many friends and family along the way who supported us from the early days when I was selling my designs at farmers markets and out of the trunk of my car….I believe in the philosophy of growing a business for good. Aligning our personal values with our professional values to support our family has been a dream come true. WE now support more that 1,200 artisan partner around the world, where we have an office in India with a talented team who brings our vision to life.

How long has the boutique donned the Cleobella sign?

11 years!  Keenan, my son, was a baby and now he’s a teenager…how time flys by…when you’re having fun :-0!

We know due to time and circumstance you will be letting the space go, do you want to share more about this transition?

Cleobella is in over 500 retailers across the country including Nordstrom, Shop Bop, Revolve, Anthropologie.  We are focusing on building our e-commerce business and delivering timeless, sustainably made collections. Our company has grown tremendously over the last 5 years and we have some very exciting projects ahead of us.

What is your current state of mind? 

Joy. My focus is moving with flow and ease.  My currency is freedom and I continue to have this as the forefront of my decision making.

Business school, yay or nay? 

Nay for me, personally. Growing Cleobella has been business school for me. We started this brand with $12,000 and have grown it grass roots, and always stay curious and open to the wisdom we learn from others.  This has been my business school. 

What is one thing people most often don’t realize about Fashion?

I would say the time it takes to build a collection. Typically, it takes about 12 months. From concept to sketch review, then to producing and perfecting samples, from there to selling, then production. Then comes the behind the scenes stuff like marketing, telling the story, then finally the product is brought to the customer. We are always working on future collections about a year ahead. We just launched our Spring ‘24 collection while currently designing for Spring ‘25.

What advice do you find yourself most often sharing with other female business owners? 

Entrepreneurship is such a journey of self when you’re curious and open hearted you will thrive. Believe in yourself and don’t compromise your values and life will happen for you in the way it’s meant to be…trust the journey. 

What is your motto? 

I have an optimistic point of view and I always have, it’s in my nature.  I believe it’s a muscle and the more you lead with love…the more meaningful your life will become. I’ve always seen life through rose colored glasses, which is something I learned from my grandma.  A positive mindset is so important to me. Sure, this is a trait that can get me into situations that I have to learn to work my way through, but that is the beauty in it. It keeps you learning and growing and for that I am forever grateful and humbled by this beautiful Cleobella world I have created with my husband, he’s my best friend and business partner. As well as our beautiful community of talented and hardworking people that have supported this dream come true.

✚  ✚  ✚ 

Thoroughly inspired, we are looking forward gathering around the communal table to enjoy a delicious chef curated meal, be warmed by each others company, and—best of all—partake in the (rediscovered) art of conversation.

Although our Thursday 1/25/24 Lark at Cleobella w/the talented Chef Matthew Roberts is sold out, we invite you to come along through our images and stories!

Modern. Organic. Inspirational. Social Dining. Come on a lark with us!