Living life to the ‘tee’ and with no regrets

Published 6:55 pm Friday, July 30, 2010

For almost as long as Mary Ann Casey and Starr VerMeulen have been mother and daughter, they have been on a path together.

When Starr was a young child, her mom designed and made many of her dresses and she delighted in modeling them for others.

In later years, their paths divided slightly. Mary Ann’s journey took her from South Alabama into the world of the arts – painting and sculpturing — while Starr found her niche in the fashion world. She studied fashion merchandising at Auburn University and modeled for several years.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Then as fate would have it, their paths converged again. This time in Atlanta. Mary Ann was designing one-of-a-kind crosses made from recycled materials. She and Starr did a show in the “Big Peach” and she sold and took orders for a thousand of the art pieces, ranging in size from about an inch to three- to four-feet.

“That’s when we knew we had to regroup,” Mary Ann said, laughing.

Exactly how they were going to regroup they weren’t sure until they went shopping for casual wear.

“We were looking for tee shirts and couldn’t find anything we liked,” Mary Ann said. “We had talked about doing a tee shirt with our own design and we decided that it was time.”

Now, three years later, the mother-daughter duo is celebrating success in the fashion industry with a line of Starr Luna products that includes first and foremost, a line of one-of-a- kind vintage, fitted women’s tee shirts and belts, caps, scarves, bags, pillows and greeting cards.

“Starr Luna is the name that my mother gave to Starr when she was a little girl,” Mary Ann said. “The star and the moon. What a wonderful combination.”

And, what an incredible combination the mother daughter team has made.

With a background in art, Mary Ann, formerly of Troy, contributes insightful inspirations from an artist’s point of view in the creation of the products. Starr’s passion is for the fashion aspect of the business. Each contributes her unique talents to create Starr Luna’s distinctive style.

They have been surprised by the immediate success of Starr Luna more than they have been of its success.

“We believed from the start that we had a quality product and one that would appeal to women everywhere,” Mary Ann said. “When my dad died, I was going through his things and found his old, worn out tee shirts. The feel of them was so soft and comforting. We wanted to recreate that same feeling in our tee shirts – much like the feeling you get from a pair of old worn and torn jeans.”

To get that old, worn feeling, Mary Ann said they use a chemical process that softens the fabric while giving it a well-worn look.

Mary Ann’s longtime interest in crosses relieved the business partners of any decision that had to be made about the initial design for their tees. The O’Keefe Cross quickly became a trademark of sorts for the Starr Luna line along with the logo, “Live with no regrets.”

“On the back of every tee shirt that we design, we have our logo, ‘Live with no regrets,’’ Mary Ann said. “My brother Ron, who died 12 years ago, was a renaissance man. That we should live our lives with no regrets came to me from him. That is our personal philosophy and that is the philosophy with which we run Starr Luna. Our tee shirts – all of our products – are art with a soul.”

Because of Mary Ann’s love affair with nature, the tee shirts have an earthy feel about them and most of the shirts are natural colors — green, gray, mushroom and brown.

The designs for the fitted tee shirts are hand-drawn after mother and daughter collaborate on what they think other women will like. The design is then sent to a graphic designer who prepares the design for the silk-screening process.

The designs include chandeliers, crests, peace signs, lovebirds, doves, yoga flowers and the fleur-de-lis. New designs are on the drawing board for the coming months.

The versatile tees can be worn with jeans, shorts or skirts, with sneakers, heels or flip-flops.

The Starr Luna line of women’s tee shirts and products is in about 400 shops in the United States and in the Caribbean.

“We are blessed by the success of Starr Luna and our hope, our prayer, is that other women will be encouraged by what we have been able to do and follow their own dreams,” Mary Ann said. “We want to encourage women of all ages to ‘live with no regrets.’ We should live our lives with passion, not just for romance, but for the things we enjoy.

“Life is a race. We should love the race. It’s all about living now. If you love someone, tell them. If you’ve hurt someone, make it right.”

Through it all — the hard work, the endless days, the sleepless nights, the trials and tribulations of running a big time business — Mary Ann said that she and Starr have learned that “you can’t do it all and you can’t have it all.”

“You have to make choices,” she said. “Starr leaves work every day at 2 o’clock to go home, make dinner and be there for her family. She can’t play tennis or be a member of the garden club. She has to have balance in her life. She can’t have it all. She has to make choices as to what is most important.”

And that goes for Starr’s mom as well.

“I have so much that I want to do – my art, my writing and I love nature and want to have time to enjoy it,” Mary Ann said. “Our venture into the world of fashion looks glamorous but it’s a lot of hard work and, at the end of the day, we have to like ourselves so we have to be careful in the choices that we make so that we live with no regrets. That’s our philosophy of life and the philosophy of Starr Luna and we hope to pass it on to women everywhere.”