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It all started in 2005 at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where fashion-forward freshmen Ariel Lilly and Christina Coniglio met and bonded over a shared dream: to start a women’s clothing line. Soon after, the pair began brainstorming ideas to make that dream a reality.

Although launching their own line was always the ultimate goal, Lilly and Coniglio agreed that some work experience first would be a solid foundation. “Going out and working for other people [would give] us that extra push with the business side of things,” says Coniglio.

After graduating, both women worked in New York City—Lilly, an Andover native, in fashion showrooms, and Coniglio, from Florida, in design and production. Satisfied with their professional pursuits, the designers then developed the blueprints for a contemporary women’s line, choosing to blend “uptown and downtown New York City style.” And so, Rae Francis —Rae is Lilly’s middle name; Francis is Coniglio’s father—was born.

Today, to stay ahead of the trends, Lilly and Coniglio take to the streets of New York to hear from consumers themselves:  what they like, dislike, what they want more of, and what they could use less of. The designers have successfully struck a balance, as is evidenced by the attention that Rae Francis has garnered from magazines like Lucky and Elle Mexico, and from celebrity stylists. Locally, pieces from the label are available at Dresscode in Andover, while the Fall 2011 collection was scheduled to launch on the website Imilla Road in late summer.

Next, calling on Coniglio’s Florida influence, the duo will introduce swimwear to the North Shore and later to the West Coast. In the meantime, all eyes are on the longtime friends and fashion trailblazers.