Kendra Scott

Jewelry Mogul Kendra Scott Joins America’s Richest Self-Made Women List

This story appeared in the June 13, 2017 issue of Forbes.

When Kendra Scott decided to launch a jewelry collection in 2002, she was coming off a stinging failure. She had just shut down her unprofitable hat shop in Austin, Texas, which she had started eight years earlier at the age of 19. But while the hats didn’t sell, she’d noticed her bold handmade earrings and necklaces did.

“I loved color gemstone jewelry, and I couldn’t really find jewelry I could afford,” says Scott, now 43. “Everyone was using the same-shaped stones. I really felt like there was white space in the industry.”

Jewelry Mogul Kendra Scott
Jewelry Mogul Kendra Scott

Thankfully, many hundreds of thousands of women agreed. In 15 years, Kendra Scott has grown her eponymous firm from a wholesale business run out of her spare bedroom to a chain of 60 stores, mostly in Texas, California and Florida, and over 2,000 employees. Its estimated 2016 revenues were $160 million.

Much of the firm’s explosive growth has been thanks to its in-store Color Bars, where women can customize their own pieces. Shoppers select the style, the metal and any of the bright, pristinely-cut gemstones that have become synonymous with the brand.

The jewelry brand is known for its colorful, pristinely-cut gemstones.
The jewelry brand is known for its colorful, pristinely-cut gemstones.

 

The pieces are ready within minutes and are affordably priced. A pair of the company’s most popular oval-shaped drop earrings in a rich purple jade surrounded by rose-gold-plated brass retails for $65.

In December 2016, Boston private equity firm Berkshire Partners acquired a minority stake in a deal that valued the company at $1 billion, according to sources with knowledge of the transaction.

That makes Scott’s stake worth at least $500 million, enough for her to rank number 36 among America’s Richest Self-Made Women. She joins fellow fashion jeweler Carolyn Rafaelian of bangle brand Alex and Anion this year’s list.

With its recent infusion of capital, the company plans to open new stores in regions where it hasn’t had much traction to date, like the Northeast.

Scott has also started selling homewares and other accessories — think picture frames and jewelry boxes — as well as $16 bottles of nail polish with names like Dusty Rose Quartz and White Pearl.

Back when Scott was agonizing over opening her first store, she could never have foreseen this sort of success. “I had loans. I put everything up for collateral,” she says. “It wasn’t easy. But it makes it that much more unbelievable.”

Clare O’Connor ,  FORBES STAFF

Be sure to check out Susan Gibson-Grafe’s bold and beautiful jewelry at https://gibsongrafe.com

 

Remembering Kate Spade

Remembering Kate Spade (1962-2018)

Hal Rubenstein , CONTRIBUTORI write about fashion, food and culture.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

I always looked forward to calling on Kate Spade in her showroom because the encounter insured sensory and psychological overload that was equally uplifting, edifying, cheekily retro, and ever so slightly eerie.

Kate Spade image 01
Kate Spade

She was uplifting because in the ’90s, New York gained legitimacy as a world fashion capital by staking claim as the epicenter of studied minimalism, presented in runway shows as buoyant as a Carmelite mass and rendered in a palette that ran the gamut from anthracite to charcoal brown.

Kate Spade with handbag display
Kate Spade with handbag display

Evidently, Kate Spade never got the memo. Her showroom was merchandised as if her core clientele lived in Candyland. It was as if she had eagerly taken an oath of loyalty to the Crayola box that housed only 16 crayons. The effect of being surrounded by her effusive rainbow array of Sam bags, boldly striped tops, floral appliquéd dresses and two-toned Mary Janes made you giggle, because with one panoramic spin you were reminded that fashion’s primary function was all about making people happy. Maybe that’s why Kate’s smile was ever-present.

The designer in her office 2002
The designer in her office 2002

Kate was edifying because in order for this prismatic euphoria to have its desired effect, she opted to price her collection that she called a cross “between L.L. Bean and Prada,” within reach of carpooling moms and very junior executive women and envisioned its aesthetic walking confidently down a subway platform rather than a catwalk. In addition, by stamping her understated, lower case label onto the outside, rather than the inside of her leather bags, she also helped initiate the now ubiquitous retail success benchmark we call “branding.”

Kate Spade (early picture)
Kate Spade (early picture)

To me she was always cheekily retro because she always dressed as if she lived down the block from June Cleaver and Donna Reed. Her half-bouffant, half-flip hairdo, wide-skirted dresses, stoles, permanent smile and Emily Post-worthy body language all harkened back to a time when Father Knew Best and magazine ads featured women waxing the kitchen floor in a starched shirtwaist and heels.

But Spade subverted the image, because there was nothing anachronistic about this woman heading an apparently foolproof company, or the breezily empowering effect her clothes and accessories had on millions of young, aspirational women. At InStyle—the magazine that pioneered accessible fashion and where I was Fashion Director—a Spade credit repeatedly instigated a complete sell-through long before e-commerce was the norm.

Kate Spade
Kate Spade

Kate was also slightly eerie because her persona was so fully entrenched in the effervescence of a bygone era—as if she was channeling either a good-natured Tracy Lord from The Philadelphia Story or Sabrina after Audrey Hepburn comes back from Paris. And as lovely as it was to be with her, the experience approached performance art. Because her abundant charm cleverly masked carefully measured warmth, one couldn’t help but try to engage Spade in a personal, fashion-free conversation in hopes of detecting a chink in her taffeta armor. But Spade proved impenetrably true to her radiantly crafted image.

No one has the right to speculate on the life of a person you don’t wake up alongside every morning. So, I will never know the source of her sorrow. But how heartbreakingly and unfortunate that the joy, pride, and delight this insightful designer brought millions of women wasn’t enough to invoke a smile that went deeper than brilliant branding strategy.

 

Kate was edifying because in order for this prismatic euphoria to have its desired effect, she opted to price her collection that she called a cross “between L.L. Bean and Prada,” within reach of carpooling moms and very junior executive women and envisioned its aesthetic walking confidently down a subway platform rather than a catwalk.

BOLD

Are you BOLD enough to wear ONE earring?

This will immediately distinguish you as not  being the run-of-the-mill type that has to have two matching earrings to make a pair. Why not try something striking? Just wear ONE! And make that ONE a BOLD statement.

It’s bound to cause comments (“Did you realize you only have one earring?” “OMG, I think you’ve lost one of your earrings!”)

Just for fun and excitement (plus trying something different), why not give it a try? Check out some of the single “ear-unos” shown below.

https://gibsongrafe.com/products/EarUno002

https://gibsongrafe.com/products/EarUno015