Created as social-selling company, Stella & Dot has taken off as luxe accessories destination. Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Blythe Harris was interviewed by E Online, on everything from her own go-to necklace to the biggest risk she's ever taken at work.
What was your first job?
My first job out of college was working for an inventor and artist named Michael Grey. I helped him launch a company that manufactured a children's building toy called Zoob (it still exists today!). My job consisted of everything from baking prototypes of the toy in his oven to researching injection molded plastics and securing financing. We launched the toy at Toy Fair in 1996. The most memorable part of my job was creating and running a mobile marketing campaign—we purchased a 1950s Divco vintage milk truck and mounted a 7-foot Zoob on top. I hired two friends from college to drive around the country in the truck-handing out free products, securing local press and chronicling their journey—sort of an early blog!
How did you get started in your career?
I studied accessories design in Mexico (for metalsmithing) and then at Parsons in Paris. I decided that there was a market opportunity in mid-level accessories and decided to go to business school (Columbia). I then took a position with LVMH in their watches and jewelry department, located in London and Paris to gain industry experience. I was part of the team that launched the De Beers brand name in retail. I then took a position with Banana Republic and grew their jewelry business rapidly. During this time period I met Jessica Herrin [CEO and Founder, Stella & Dot family brands] at a 10-year Stanford reunion and we kept in touch for the next year when we partnered to create the Stella & Dot brand.
What is a typical day like for you?
I split my time between New York and California. I wake up with my kids and go through the typical morning routine: making breakfast, supervising their bed-making and getting dressed, locating homework and getting them out the door. I typically grab a coffee and yogurt to go at a local café and eat breakfast at my desk in our design studio. Each day is really packed and I usually go straight into a creative review with our NY team via video conference. Mid-morning, I usually have a management meeting or call and then it is hands on with our Sausalito design and PD teams on Stella & Dot bags and prints. I usually end the day with a meeting to go over upcoming design ideas for our new accessories brand, Keep collective. If my husband is not traveling I will try to sneak out between 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for a hike or a quick Pilates session-then home for dinner with the kids, bath time and story time. After the kids are in bed my husband and I retreat to either our deck or our little bar/living room we created underneath our garage in our Mill Valley, Calif. home—it feels like a date night because it is a freestanding structure, but I have a direct line of site into the kids' room.
Tell us about your office décor. When did you last give your office a makeover?
I last gave my Sausalito office a makeover about six months ago. My dear friend Serena, who is CCO and co-founder of Serena and Lily was nice enough to give me a discount so I purchased a new coffee table. I also rescued a leather mid-century couch from Goodwill. I decorated the walls with polaroid print outs of all my favorite inspiration pictures taken at home and traveling—I love the repetition of all the same size of little square photos. I also purchased a bright pink tribal feather headdress from Nicky Kehoe in Los Angeles; I love feathers. Our NYC Design Studio recently partnered with Poppin, and all of our desk accessories are in sync with black, white and blue hues. We recently redesigned our NYC showroom; it is now a super inviting lounge space to host events and editors.
Do you have a workspace at home? How does it differ from your other office?
Yes, I have a workspace at home that is a bit more calm and peaceful. I have a comfy lounge chaise that is covered in linen zebra print that is my happy place to read art books or to do some meditation. I also have a huge mood board at home that is more evergreen inspiration (non-season specific) with things from my childhood that I have always loved, favorite artists, pictures of kids and pictures of my favorite places growing up.
What's the best part about your job?
Where do I begin? I get to be creative every day and design things that actually make people happy. I have an incredible design team where each person has a totally different perspective and I am constantly pushed to see things in a different way. It is a privilege to work with such an amazing community of bold, confident women. We have this great virtuous circle of feedback—it is very different than just putting products out there in the world. I have very personal testimonials from so many of our independent business owners/Stella & Dot stylists, about how the designs and the company are affecting their lives.
What's one trend you can't wait to see this fall? And what trend do you hope will go away for good?
I am crazy about the 70s! I love the return of the culotte and tons of denim. I also love a good chunky heel. I am looking forward to saying goodbye to Birkenstocks however—I really don't think that they are flattering or feminine. A clog or a mule however is a different story- love, love, love!
What are your biggest sources of design inspiration right now?
I have always loved taking traditional artisan techniques and designs and interpreting them in a modern or unexpected way. For this season, we were inspired by traditional Assuit patterning, which is an ancient Egyptian technique of weaving hammered metal strips into linen or cotton tulle. Right now, for our summer 2016 collection, I am working on an Oaxaca inspired collection-lots of embroidery, thread tassels and beading.
What's the one item in your closet that you could never go without?
My Maje fringe booties, my Isabel Marant white embroidered top and my Rag & Bone felt hat are all staples, but right now, it is a black Ulla Johnson jumpsuit with embroidery detail.
What's you ideal day-to-night outfit? And how would you describe your personal style?
I would describe my style as very casual, effortless bohemian luxe. I wear the same things all the time. My staple for a day to night outfit is a white embroidered top and jeans. I wear casual layered jewelry during the day like the Aria pendant and my fringed booties, and then change into a statement necklace (the Plume) and Ulla Johnson heels to go out. My alternate would be my black jumpsuit which I wear with casual jewelry and high tops during the day and then switch to heels and a statement piece at night.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Think about what you love doing in your spare time and envision a path to making that your career. It is so much easier to strive for something when you have a very clear vision of what you want. Also don't be afraid to have tough conversations.
Who are some of your career heroes?
Diane von Furstenberg is my biggest career hero because she is both a creative and a business builder; I love using both sides of my brain. I love that she had a vision for women that was centered around empowerment and confidence. She didn't just make great clothes—she created a new way for women to view themselves in the workplace. I also love Diana Vreeland—I love her saying the eye has to travel. It is such a good reminder that as a creative you constantly have to put yourself in new situations and see new things to stay inspired. I love that she truly had her own bold, confident style.
What's the most daring career risk you've ever taken at work?
Leaving my job at Banana Republic to join Jessica Herrin—best decision I ever made, but at the time it was scary because I really loved my job and was very content. What made me take the leap was the prospect of doing what I love in service to the mission of empowering women and creating independent business owners through the Stella & Dot opportunity. I couldn't be happier!