Inspiring Women: Caroline Constas Offers Her Golden Business Advise To Anyone Who Wants To Start A Brand

by Freya Drohan

Just one look at an airy, breezy Caroline Constas piece—whether in a still life image or floating right in front of you—is enough to instill travel fever and make you book a flight far, far away from your busy daily life. And that’s exactly the premise of her design focus: to live a life where exploration and freedom is encouraged, but ultimately rooted in a solid sense of your self and your work ethic. That duality is inspired by her own European/American upbringing, where she saw first hand the benefits of both lifestyles. Known and adored for her styles which make every day feel like you’re living out your idyllic and postcard-worthy double life, we caught up with her to hear how it all began! 

How’ve you been?
As it was for us all, 2020 and 2021 were challenging years but it also gave me the time to redefine our focus and attention to what really matters for our business, for our community, and the collections. It’s actually been an exhilarating process; as well as creating the debut of CAROLINE CONSTAS shoes, which, to our delight, have been selling out. We have been working on new exciting collaborations too, as well as some strategic and logistical improvements.

What’s on your vision board for 2022?
My vision board for the year is a hybrid of creative, commercial, and personal goals. Our brand has always been inspired by travel, culture, and destinations, so gloriously I can call exploration and travel ‘work.’ From Mexico City to New Mexico, Utah, and Palma de Mallorca, and we intend to place more emphasis on culinary discovery too. I have some destinations I want to travel to, to get inspired, but also to scout for our editorial platform where our community can also come to explore. On the board, there are some moodboard images for our collections; the glamour of the ’60s and ’70s, vintage photographs by Malike Sidibe and Slim Aarons, and the most exquisite packaging references for a brand new category launching in the summer of 2022. And, last but not least, the presence of the Oracles of Ancient Greece; their wisdom inspires me, but also their ethereal silhouettes, which manifests in our collections through gossamer silk chiffon gowns.

Caroline Constas (Courtesy)

Speaking of, your brand is inspired by your experience growing up with both Greek and American heritages. How does your background shape you as a person and a designer?
The brand is a marriage of classic American staples and the joie de vivre of the Mediterranean lifestyle; which I think is just in my blood! I was raised spending summers in Greece and the falls in the Midwest, and my winters in Colorado. That blend of cultures had a tremendous influence on me. It gave me the perennial desire to travel and explore, it shaped my work ethic (encouraging me to work hard), but also to give myself time to enjoy what inspires me. Being from two different cultures also allowed me to have a variety of different perspectives. How people live, how they work, how they nourish themselves and care for themselves. Café culture in Greece, for example, is a wonderful midday repose where people can take a break and engage in intellectual discussions which refresh and inspire them for the rest of the work day. Then there’s the American work ethic and ambition, and knowing the opportunity is there to make all of your dreams come true. The balance which comes from blending those two ways of life is crucial to me and how I choose to run my business.

What are some of your happiest memories of the summers spent in Greece?
Moments spent on secluded beaches on the islands we would go to. I’d find a spot away from everyone and look out onto the sparkling sea, so full of dreams. I loved those solitary times, immersed in nature, lost in a revery. Nature has always given me such a sense of optimism, that anything is possible. I cannot imagine doing anything else but creating collections. I have been designing since I was eight-years-old!

But you originally planned on going to med school. What changed?
Destiny, I suppose. I still have moments where I miss the medical field. I have a tremendous amount of respect for it, but in no way do I regret my decision to choose this route. I believe firmly that you naturally fight with complete determination for the things you really love and want. What you end up fighting for is where your heart is, and this is what I fought to do: following my heart and my instinct.

Tell us about the lead up to launching Caroline Constas. How/when did you know it was the right time?
I cannot say for sure if it was the right time, it probably never really is! But I made it the right time. I had gained quite a bit of experience working with small brands in sales, in design, and in production prior to starting the brand. The catalyst was not one specific thing, but a culmination of everything. In 2013, I had an epiphany that it was now or never and I am grateful for that decision every day.

Your Lou shirt initially put you on the map. Was that an overnight thing? 
It’s funny, the design of this top was a huge, serendipitous, magical mistake! It was supposed to be in silk chiffon and we ran out of fabric. I grabbed a roll of blue and white stripe cotton Cambridge fabric, and thought to myself, ‘Is this going to be weird? Maybe, but it could be really cool!’ We made it up and I absolutely loved the result. Nothing like that really ever existed in the market; the preppy blue stripes done in a sensual way. That’s why I think it generated the success it did. It was pretty overnight from that point on. To see the response on a global scale, individuals I had admired for so long like Beyoncé, J Lo, and Oprah Winfrey, embracing the brand; that was a major milestone.

You speak often about growing your business in a slow and steady manner. Can you offer some tips to designers looking to start their own line?
The best and smartest businesses with longevity are created by identifying a gap in the market and then creating a concept and thoughtful product which is exciting for the industry and consumer. A strong brand vision is crucial; story-telling is important for your own channels and to create an engaged community. The more areas of the business that you are knowledgeable about, the better. It gives you more control over your business when you are educated on how the industry works: from sales to design, production, and marketing. Make sure you understand these important pillars so that you set yourself up for success. Then, remember this is a business and repeat to yourself, margins, margins, margins. Make sure you have healthy margins, and if you don’t know how to be certain of that, find an expert in the field who can help you master your margins before you are in major growth mode.

What did you learn about the brand during the pandemic?
I learnt how important it is to stay true to your aesthetic, and to evolve with consistency from a branding perspective.
To run my business with integrity, when times are tough, it’s important to connect with people compassionately. Eschew email and pick up the phone and talk. We are all human, going through this together, trying to do our best. The hardest conversations are always made better by compassionate human contact.

Mental health is something that you, and the brand, are passionate about too.
It’s a tremendous cause of importance for me. I think we all have learned a great deal over the last two years and in the end, we must feel well and take care of ourselves first and foremost. How we nourish ourselves, the experiences we have, our time with nature, how we internally process challenges [are imperative] in order to be our most productive and healthy selves.

 

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A post shared by CAROLINE CONSTAS (@carolineconstas)

What types of places are next on your travel bucket list?
Mexico! It’s one of my favorite countries and it feels like a second home to me—it was the last big trip I took right before the pandemic hit and I’m going back in February. After traveling to Argentina in 2019, I absolutely fell in love with South America and I plan to spend much more time there exploring. Some unexplored places at the top of my travel bucket list are Vietnam, Oman, Peru, and Japan.

What else is coming up for the brand?
Expanding on our ready-to-wear, swim, and shoes—and new product categories and launches! And, of course, continuing our love affair with travel and connecting our community with our inspirations and destinations.

Lastly, can you tease the vibe of your next collection in one word?
Méditerranée!

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