Bauble Banter With Austin-Based Designer Kendra Scott
Jewelry designer Kendra Scott started her chic, gently-priced line a dozen years ago in Austin adorned in a Baby Bjorn and with all sorts of financial concerns. Turned out, the Lone Star state couldn’t get enough of her wear-everywhere pieces and riveting stone choices (she’s got quite a way with a drusy!). Nowadays, Scott’s line is carried everywhere from indie boutiques to Bloomie’s, and she’s got ambitious plans to open 10 stores next year—and hopefully open un shop internationally sometime soon. We got the full rundown from the stylish Austinite…
What’s it been like building a business in Austin?
Austin is my home base—it’s an incredible city to raise a family in. The sense of community and family here is just unbelievable. Also, Austin is a perfect place to start a business; I truly believe this city has given our company the wings to fly. While Austin is a growing city, it still has this laid back, homegrown quality that can’t be found anywhere else.
How did you get into jewelry in the first place?
Fashion was a huge part of my childhood! From the moment I could stand up to fit my feet into my mother’s heels, I dreamed of one day breaking into that fabulous world myself. My aunt worked in the industry—I still remember her coming back from runway shows and teaching me all about forecasting trends and picking up hints from couture designers. My passion for jewelry design became an outlet to turn that dream into a reality.
You started on a tight budget—how did you manage to make things work?
The company’s start was a mix of fate and my own brazen tenacity. My family was facing hard economic times, and I was pregnant with my first child. Rather than panicking, I took it as an opportunity to turn my passion into a business. I took $500 out of our savings and created a mini jewelry collection, promising to double the money. With my newborn son in a Babybjörn and my jewelry in a tea box, I went door to door to local Austin boutiques and sold out of my first-ever collection. Months later, I received a call from a Dallas buyer who wanted to represent me. With her help, I landed my jewelry in a renowned New York City showroom and the brand took off from there.
Did you ever have second thoughts about the endeavor?
The most difficult part of starting my own business was definitely the struggle of starting with nothing. I had no capital behind me when I launched; it was all homegrown and boot-strapped. I put my family at an incredible amount of risk, which was scary for me! It was tough to grow the business with no financial backing. But failure was never an option.
How have your designs evolved over time?
We create four seasonal collections each year that draw from a particular inspiration of mine, like an exciting, eye-opening trip I took with my family or a style icon I absolutely adore.
You’ve got some amazing drusy pieces in your collections. What drew you to drusy stones?
Drusy is the natural formation of crystal on a rock surface. All of our drusy is completely natural, and various colors are achieved through a plating process that coats the stone’s surface in a desired color. Our Spring 2015 collection takes the organic sparkle of drusy stones and reimagines them in the most dainty form yet!
Why did you decide to add “Game Day” jewelry to the mix?
The brand is all about color. Our Game Day collection is perfect for any girl looking for just the right tailgate-ready hue to show her team spirit—and of course we were eager to welcome a kaleidoscope of new colors into our brand! A number of hues are tailored to particular colleges; it was a great way to connect with new markets in an effortless, approachable way.
You’ve been called a ‘successful mompreneur’! How have you juggled growing your business while raising three sons?
I’m a mom first and a fashion designer second; I’ve structured my business around that mantra. My advice is, firstly, to be passionate about your work, and then to seek out a business environment that encourages the family balance. The way I work allows me to always be present in my children’s lives—even if that means staying up until 1:00 a.m. working after they’ve gone to sleep.
Have you done any memorable designer collabs?
I’ve always been inspired by the artistic genius of the late Oscar de la Renta. He’s had an immense impact on my work as a designer. Years ago, I collaborated with the designer to create the jewelry for his Spring 2006 runway show, and it was absolutely a dream come true. I will never forget him giving a young designer like me a chance.
Got any advice for aspiring jewelry designers?
Number one: Be yourself. The key to being a designer is taking those qualities that are uniquely you, and translating them into something beautiful that reflects those strengths. Second, Once you figure out your direction, never take no for an answer! In my early days as a designer, I learned to remove the word “no” from my vocabulary.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
One thing I have learned from my past is the importance of hiring the right people who not only have great talent, but also share the same passion and vision you have for your company. I know now that it doesn’t always matter how much experience a person has or how good they may look on paper. The single most important thing is hiring people who fit your company’s philosophy and culture.
You’ve got quite a loyal following in the South. Where do you want to expand next?
Our top priority in 2014 has been increasing brand awareness in cities and states outside of Texas. We have a very aggressive plan of opening up to 10 stores this year, and we know that success will depend on how we present ourselves in these new markets. Eventually, we would like to have stores all across the country and internationally.
Any plans to open an outpost in NYC?
It’s certainly on my wish list! We currently have a major showroom in New York and work with a number of wholesale partners like Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. Sooner than later I can see our doors opening in the Big Apple. At the rate we’re moving, there could even be a Kendra Scott store on another continent in five years or less.
Reporting by Emma Mikhailoff