LITTLE GREEN DRESS
Chalk it up to Charm
by Natalie Bencivenga
December 8, 2020
I am a gift-giver. Not just because I love to see people’s faces light up when I surprise them, but because I love how it feels when you show someone love. Because of this, I am always on the hunt for memorable, unusual and utterly chic presents to give friends and family. After all, style isn’t just about what we wear, but how we manifest our personalities, telling stories through the gifts that we give to others.
So you can imagine my giddy surprise when I learned about artisanal, handmade sidewalk chalk for kids.
Stay with me.
Imagine giving a gift to your friend who has children. They open up the box to discover sushi-inspired sidewalk chalk. Glittery rainbow unicorn horns that change color as you use them. Chalk macaroons that can then be served at a pretend tea-party on the plates your little ones draw on the ground.
And it’s all safe, non-toxic and eco-friendly.
But who would come up with such an idea? They would have to be chic, willing to take risks and someone who appreciates the art of the gift.
Margaux DelCollo embodies all of that and more. Growing up just outside of Philadelphia, she attended the New School for Social Research with a degree in gender studies before taking her first job with New York Fashion Week handling public relations in Bryant Park.
“This all happened accidentally,” said DelCollo. “I left fashion week to pursue a double Master’s degree in museum studies and education,” she said. She began working at a museum in Philadelphia before deciding to have children and immerse herself in motherhood.
“Once they were old enough, I started to have more freedom and didn’t need to be with them all day. I began to learn more about the children’s market and what was missing. There is no company like this making handmade small-batch sidewalk chalk,” she said.
And so, TWEE — British slang for “too cute”— was born.
Wanting to do something that didn’t “talk down to children” while still being whimsical and fanciful, DelCollo’s brand took off in 2017 after her mother asked her why she wasn’t in stores like Nordstrom.
“I didn’t know how to go about this process of distribution. We were making the chalk in our kitchen and I had an artist working with me, but what I really needed was a scientist. Figuring out the best way to cure chalk was a process in and of itself. Distribution wasn’t on my mind at first,” she recalled.
Mothers are good at bringing to light the things we don’t always see. After heeding her mother’s advice and connecting to Nordstrom’s buyer — who loved the product and quickly decided to put TWEE in all of their stores around the country — DelCollo filled that first large order out of her own garage.
“I saw a tractor-trailer coming down our side street to collect the 113 boxes and that was surreal. He pulled up and said, ‘I’ve never picked up from someone’s house before,’” she said, laughing.
And while the products are colorful and imaginative, DelCollo prefers her personal wardrobe to be minimalist and black.
“It’s like a uniform,” she said. “I find it funny that I go to give presentations about my product which is filled with shimmery rainbow colors and I’m in my black Donna Karan or Issey Miyake 1990s-inspired fashion. I need to be versatile so I can work in the studio in the morning and then still be able to go into the city for meetings that same day,” she remarked.
I would expect nothing less from a woman who created a sidewalk chalk brand so chic that it ended up in the pages of Vogue as well as landed her a prestigious Tory Burch fellowship in 2020.
“Getting a pat on the head for making a cute product is frustrating because while I may be covered in glitter, I’m also knee-deep in analytics,” she said. “So being a part of the Tory Burch fellowship is very validating. They really support your vision and your work,” she added.
And that vision was inspired by eco-conscious consumers. The glitter is Earth-friendly mica that adds a touch of enchantment to the galaxy set, the packaging is eco-friendly and the fortune cookies even contain real paper fortunes inside.
“Coming up with those inspirational sayings made for a lovely day during these challenging times with Covid-19 being on everyone’s mind,” she said. The chalk also provides a much-needed outlet for kids to play safely outside, let go of the electronics for a while and allow their imaginations to soar.
“There is such power in playing,” said DelCollo. “We wanted to reimagine a childhood favorite and update it to reflect the world today. TWEE is shifting from a product line to a brand, and I can’t wait to share what’s coming this spring,” she said.
Until then, let’s take a page from TWEE and imagine a bright future together. Their new Sam’s Slider and Fries chalk set benefits GLSEN, an American education organization whose mission ensures that every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
by Natalie Bencivenga