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Dramatically Different: Kelly Wearstler, Designer

Kelly Wearstler
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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!