Devon Carlson, or @DevDogMoney to her TikTok followers, starts off her days in lockdown by jumping on Instagram, cuddling with her dog Martin, and preparing an iced Matcha latte. She browses celebrity mansions on Zillow in between doom-scrolling on Instagram and exchanging photos of girls’ outfits with her sister, Sydney. The #OOTD for her mirror selfie? Sweatpants. There isn’t an excuse to dress up anymore, lest we forget we are in a pandemic. Or panini. Or panoramic.
At first glance, they seem like any other pair of West Coast girlies. Stylish and carefree with social media feeds to obsess over and a wardrobe full of clothes to gush over. Beyond the glamorous highlight reel is something much deeper though. The Carslons are sitting matriarchs to WildFlower Cases, a phone-case empire that you’ve probably seen on your TikTok #ForYouPage in the last few months.
Devon and Sydney are more than just co-founders of a trendy brand though. Since launching Wildflower, they’ve become the blueprint for Gen Z everywhere. From vacationing with Bella Hadid for her birthday, hanging out with CR star Kylie Jenner to sitting front row at Burberry, Fendi and Versace, the Carlsons were emerging as stars in the internet age.
But as the coronavirus swept across the world, putting an abrupt end to girls’ enviable youth, the lavish parties were switched out for recap videos of ages past. The girls are quarantining in their Los Angeles homes. Sydney in her marbled, green bathroom, MUG beat to the gods and Devon fresh-faced in a worn-in grey hoodie, laughing about the nights she didn’t shower while on tour with her boyfriend Jesse Rutherford, frontman of the band, The Neighbourhood.
The sisters’ lives now are a complete 180 to where their origin story lies.
They began Wildflower in a bathroom stall, of all places. During a family dinner in high school, they went to the washroom and out walked Miley Cyrus in all her post-Hannah Montana glory. Devon, a self-proclaimed Disney Channel stan (who even dressed up like Cyrus’ character for Halloween) asked the starlet for a photo. On Devon’s phone was a floral-print gold-studded case made by the girls’ mother, Michelle. No doubt synonymous with the then-2012 style making rounds on now-defunct Polyvore and WeHeartIt. It caught Cyrus’ eye instantly.
“She ended up coming back to our table and told us that we had to start a company. And it was just like, the craziest thing ever being that age,” Devon says. “It was a sign just like, ‘Okay, your life is about to go in a different direction and take advantage of this opportunity.'”
They ended up giving the cases off their phones to Cyrus, who tweeted a thank you later that night. Like always, the magic happened in the comments section. The sisters, who came up with the name Wildflower on their ride home, began replying to inquiries with their website. Their father Dave stayed up the entire night coding the platform, orders rushing in for stock the family didn’t even have.
Nine years, one Miley Cyrus tweet, and thousands of cases sold later, Wildflower has blossomed into a cultural phenomenon for the quirky-indie kids expressing themselves via their screens.
Within months, the Carlson family quit their full-time jobs to focus on the business 24/7. Instead of picking up a summer job or internship like her friends, Sydney worked on Wildflower. Devon dropped out of college when the business began taking off. Her parents were her professors, calling the experience her academic career at the “University of Wildflower.” Equipped with a team of designers Sydney and Devon call family, the duo are the heart and soul of the brand. Their mother, formerly an art school teacher, pulls the designs together while their father works as a graphic designer. It’s a family-first business, something people often shy away from due to the messy politics that surround it. “I think we all just respect each other a lot. And it’s rare,” Devon says. And I so get that most people don’t want to work with their families. But I can’t even imagine doing it any other way.”
In an art-imitates-life fashion, Sydney and Devon take inspiration from the little moments one wouldn’t necessarily think of right off the bat. A cool pair of pants someone is wearing walking down Melrose Avenue, a frequent young Hollywood hangout spot, or a napkin sitting at the table during weekly lunch outings with friends. “It’s just a fun, creative process that’s very easygoing, and flowy with all of us. Dev and I are very different, but we also can agree on a lot of things,” Sydney says. “You can see our personalities through the cases.”
While the sisters are alike in many ways, thanks to their three-year-age-gap, their aesthetics couldn’t be more different. It’s a testament to the wide range of personalities the girls inject into the brand’s DNA.
At its core, their cases are supplemental to their outfits, often showcased on Instagram. Right now, Sydney is wearing the brand’s Bear-y Cute case. She says it pairs with her recent style nicely. Devon has a pink, bubbly Peace N Luv case reminiscent of the ’70s. The model was inspired by Sydney’s middle school fascination with drawing peace signs all over her Facebook profile pictures. We all had that phase, don’t lie.
“We have to find that photo. This was an ongoing album in all of Sydney’s life,” Devon says, laughing. “Remember when [we wore] those infinity scarves, the chiffon scarves… It was like very Alexander McQueen, but knock-off.”
The nostalgia-fueled lens is what Wildflower operates under. The sisters’ dream collaboration? An ode to 2000s-era socialites. “It would be so nuts if all of this was happening during that era, and we had Paris [Hilton] and Lindsay Lohan and all those girls coming out of the clubs with their paparazzi photos with their cases… I would die.”
Like many in-between-Gen-Z-and-millennials, the Carlson sisters grew up online. Both run YouTube channels where they give their fans a glimpse into their everyday lives from running the business to attending fashion shows across the globe. The fame is something they’re still getting used to, especially over the last few years since Wildflower has blown up. It isn’t a stretch to say living their lives as public personas has a few drawbacks.
Devon says she feels a constant demand to be happy. There isn’t room to showcase her off-days to her 1.2 million Instagram followers. She grew up oversharing online, as many of us did, and is slowly outgrowing it.
“I think getting a following, and really this past year, has made me feel a lot of pressure. To stay up to date with everything, it kind of put me in check– which is a good thing– But I also feel like the carelessness that I used to have with it, I kind of have lost, in a sense,” she says. “I think there’s people who post a lot more important stuff than I do. And I think that they should be the ones who are taking up the noise.”
We can all relate on some level. In a perfectly curated world, there isn’t room for any flaws. Sydney used to go through 10 different stages on a photo before she felt she was ready to post. “It not only made me insecure, but only just made me question everything… because everything on Instagram has to be perfect. And it wasn’t always like that. And seeing like how I used to be online. I was like, ‘that’s how I want to be now.’”
It’s hard to detangle their lives from social media all the time. Sydney’s 6-hour-24-minute screen time divided between TikTok, Instagram and Zillow highlights. The internet isn’t just a place for pleasure, it’s an essential part of Wildflower’s business. The brand was one of the first to utilize Instagram as a direct-to-consumer platform, replying to comments and DMs, a practice Devon says they still keep today.
“Because Sydney and I were so young [when we began], we kind of had a different idea of business at that age. And so we were like, let’s make an Instagram, let’s reply to comments and answer everyone’s questions and keep it like an easygoing tone.”
When Devon isn’t looking at celebrity mansions on Zillow though, she’s working on the latest TikTok dance. Her screen time? Five hours and 51 minutes. The perfect Renegade doesn’t come without practice.
The girls are followed everywhere, the Wildflower army is legions strong of course. A quick glance at the brand’s tagged photos will tell you all there is to know. There’s a case for everyone: artsy kids, Insta-Baddies, and fashion’s favorite celebrities included.
“Having supporters and all these people that follow us and our company, it feels like friends and like family,” Sydney says. “Dev and I are always replying to people’s DMs about stuff all the time.”
On one hand, the sisters are enormously grateful for everything that’s come their way. On the other hand, there are still times it doesn’t feel real. Devon says she’ll be walking down the street, see a Wildflower case in public, and start reeling. “It will never set into me that we have gotten where we are.”
What does the future hold though? The answer still feels unwritten.
Sydney and Devon have come far since a chance encounter in that L.A. restaurant bathroom when they were 14 and 17, respectively. Wildflower celebrates its 10th anniversary next year while uplifting young creatives like UK-based String Ting on their latest collab. Sydney says the sisters are entering the next phase of their lives: settling down, buying a house, and working on top-secret projects to expand their empire.
Devon is a bit more candid– a testament to the carefree, Gen Z brand she and her sister have built from the ground-up.
“If nothing happens and I’m exactly where I am in five years I’ll still be fucking happy. Like, I’m chillin,” she says, laughing. “We’ll see what the universe has planned out for me.”
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createdAt:Tue, 23 Feb 2021 19:14:17 +0000
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