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Dramatically Different: Kelly Wearstler, Designer

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Here, the final installment of our Clinique-sponsored series (read part one and part two) highlighting a few of our favorite Dramatically Different women who are making waves in their respective fields. Meet interiors-whiz-turned-fashion-designer Kelly Wearstler:

Name: Kelly Wearstler, Designer & CEO of Kelly Wearstler, Inc.

Her background: Born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina into a family of “strong, hard-working women;” paid her way through college on the East Coast before moving to Los Angeles to found her own ever-expanding lifestyle company.

Her path: Studied graphic design, architecture, and art history in school on the East Coast. “I think that’s why my work is very graphic—I started two-dimensionally,” says Wearstler, who supported herself by waiting tables. “I was living off 4 hours of sleep, basically. Once I was done waiting tables, I’d go back to my studio space in Boston and work until, like, three in the morning. But it was OK—I have so much energy. I’m a triple-A personality. Plus, I really think waiting tables made me a great multitasker.”

Her company: “I knew early on that I wanted to have my own business. I like being in control and I knew if I went to work for a traditional designer or architecture firm, my skill set would get very focused, and there were so many other things I wanted to do. At my studio, we do everything from fashion to fine jewelry to architecture to product design to graphic design, in addition to interior design for commercial and residential clients.”

Her process: “I do not sit still. I stand all day, literally… And my style is always changing. Each client—whether it’s a home or a hotel project—teaches me something new and brings something different to the table. Design is a collaborative effort. I take what the client wants and run it through my filter.”

Entrepreneurial beginnings: “When I was little, I had this little shop called the Bunny Shop. When we would have family over to our house, I made little things and I’d put little price tags next to them and sell them to our guests. My mom will still send me things on my birthday that she ‘bought’ from the Bunny Shop. They’re drawings and things made out of egg cartons and wire and lanyards.”

Oh, no! “People told me ‘no’ all the time when I was starting out—and I still hear ‘no’ all the time—but I take it as a challenge. As a designer, you have to be a good listener. You can’t evolve otherwise, and you have to take criticism and you have to pick yourself up and try again. So, hearing ‘no’ can be good. If you’re always told ‘yes,’ you can’t grow.”

How to succeed: “Someone said to me once, ‘If you want to succeed, make sure every person you hire is better than you in every department.’ I want to learn from them. In growing a business, that’s so important.”

Mom, the boss: “Working hard just feels normal for me. Growing up, I was surrounded by very strong women who worked. Both my grandmothers were the strong women in the family, more so than my grandfathers, and they had such a voice. Now, being a mom is the most incredible thing, but I think it’s important, too, for a woman to have another focus. Having that outlet—work—makes me a better mom.”

Small budgets take note: “Great design can be achieved at any price point. I like scouring flea markets. I don’t have as much time as I did after I had [my sons] Oliver and Elliot. Before, I would get up at five in the morning and be at the flea market at six! Otherwise, another good rule is not to buy all of your furniture in one place. It should look curated and like pieces were found over time and that things have a different hand. If everything is made by the same hand, it tends to look very flat and one-dimensional.”

Room for improvement: “I am not good at letting go and letting my mind turn off – I’m not great with that. Also, for me, speaking in front of people is terrible. If it’s more than 2 people, I can’t do it. When we have presentations in the office, I can’t do it. I was so shy when I was little—really, really shy. It’s gotten better, but I still have to work on it."

Kelly Wearstler photographed by Emily Weiss in Los Angeles on August 13, 2013. Part 4 of a Clinique-sponsored series celebrating the launch of Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+. And make sure to enter our Pinterest contest here

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • sharon

    she is amazing!

  • Michelle Lee

    amazing

  • Clara

    Great video, smart woman, great home, great kids... I'm jealous but IN A GOOD WAY

  • Sara

    Wonderful video, and amazing woman!

  • blushingincolor

    I loved the Clinique series and I most definitely love Clinique products!

    http://www.blushingincolor.com

  • Jennifer

    Thanks! I was wondering if you we're going to do a profile on her, you read my mind!

  • Lindsay Sue

    I love love love that she started out waiting tables. Its always inspiring to hear about people who have worked their way up from humble beginnings.

    She seems like such a great person. Beautiful home, family, career, etc.. Bravo to her :)

  • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

    This was really powerful and inspiring! Thanks for writing and posting, ITG.

  • Jane Stevens

    Looking pretty and awesome. I just like this very much ..............

  • Alyson

    I read that she used the money to pay off the loans, not that she was living in the mansion and Hugh Hefner's dime. Really, if we're going to split hairs over it, Hugh Hefner doesn't even own Playboy or have a majority stake in the company anymore (he pays his - and his "girlfriends" - rent for the mansion to Playboy) so she simply received money from Playboy in exchange for modeling serviced rendered.
    She made the money she needed in order to get the start to the success she has now, why try to by make it sound like something seedy and low brow? Especially since it's something she's publicly acknowledged and happened 19 years ago.

  • Marie

    Inspiration for me ...

  • Sabah

    Love her instagram. She has a real eye for beauty.

  • Manon Ibrahim

    Very inspiring article! I love her journey and can relate to her distaste to speaking in front of people. Although I'm not usually too fond of Clinique I'm interested to try that new moisturizer..

  • stella

    What shoes are those?

  • http://www.jacquelinefonte.com/ Jacqueline Fonte

    As if modeling isn't work? Lolllll, if Ty-ty's ANTM is to be believed, it is the toughest job you will ever have. Possible case of flesh eating bacteria? -Still have to work. Weave rash? -Still have to work. Don't know how to swim? Still have to play with dolphins.

    Extremely shy? -Still have to strip down to your skivvies to get paid by Playboy.

    ITG mentioned that she worked hard---and modelling, especially in your underwear, is not easy.

  • JK

    Wow, am I the only one who got the impression that this woman thrives under pressure (and has certainly achieved a lot), but doesn't seem very content, living in the moment, ready to accept or let go if need be or whatever you might call it? Her accomplishments might be admirable, but her type of personality makes me itchy.

  • Karen

    Fanstastic! When do we get to see Kelly's Top Shelf? Wouldn't it be wonderful to see her bathroom?

  • AndyPlayford

    Kelly is wearing some rather nice hand candy. We love chunky bracelets!

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Dearest ITG Reader,

We're working on something new that's launching this fall and we want you to be the first to know.

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