Showing posts with label career. Show all posts
Showing posts with label career. Show all posts


You all know I'm a basics girl at heart. There's nothing I love more than a perfectly cut blazer, a killer pair of skinny jeans, or a beautifully tailored silk top. My new favorite source for pretty silk basics? Cami NYC, a line of silk camisoles inspired by ladylike lingerie but refined enough for everyday wear. I was so excited to sit down with founder Samantha Steen and pick her brain about what it's like to launch a fashion label in New York. That's definitely a pipe dream of mine so it's pretty cool to see someone just a couple years older making her dreams come true!

{Samantha in the High Top cami in sea foam}

Name: Samantha Steen
Age: 27
Title: Founder/CEO, Cami NYC

What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to launch your own line?
I always loved designing but I never knew I wanted to pursue it as a career. I worked for a bunch of different designers and have had so many amazing mentors working as part of small teams within the industry. I found this missing gap in the marketplace because I was looking for a cami that I could wear from day to night that was reminiscent of lingerie. I looked everywhere — boutiques, department stores, online — asking sales girls if they had what I was describing. And every time they'd say, "We don't have that, but I really wish we did." So one day I just sewed a piece of lace onto a cami and every girl at work stopped and asked where I got it. So I started making them in a bunch of colors and soft launched the website in August of last year. We sold 30% of our inventory in the first week. I was expecting that first production run to last me the year and now I'm on my twenty-ninth run in eleven months. Crazy!

That's such an incredible benchmark! What's your design process like?
Every time I have an idea, I sketch it out. I went to school for fine arts with a focus on painting. I always see women in the street or a design in a store and think, "That top would be perfect if it just had this or that." With the High Top cami, I had seen that cut before but thought it would be amazing with a sheer panel. I go through my sketches and decide what's most relatable to every girl out there and pick our color palette from what our team wants to be wearing that season. For spring and summer, it was pastels, sorbet colors, and neons. For fall, I can't get enough of burgundy, charcoal, and navy. Once we have the design and the color palette, we'll go to our pattern maker, our manufacturer, and then into production.

What does a typical day look like in your world?
One day I'll be in back-to-back meetings and the team will be back at the office doing customer service and shipping. Other days I'm meeting with bloggers, editors, and stylists or running to the garment district to meet with printmakers or to look at new laces and silks. Since we launched, we've generated a strong celebrity following so we're constantly tracking who's wearing what. I'm always researching new fabrications and trying to come up with more comfortable, flattering fits. 

I love getting to wear a bunch of different hats on any given day. What's the most and least fun part of your job?
The least fun is logistical stuff like dealing with international shipping. The most fun? Everything is fun to me. I like getting my hands dirty and I like the more glamorous side. I can't imagine doing anything else!

What's one pinch me moment you've had so far?
Getting praise from our celebrity customers is pretty surreal. Cameron Diaz, Hillary Duff, Rose Byrne, Shakira are all fans of the brand! It's always fun to scroll through Instagram and see a familiar face in something I designed.

Those are some pretty huge names! How would you describe your target customer?
Every girl is the Cami girl! A twenty-something will wear it with printed jeans, a thirty-something will tuck one into a pencil skirt, my mom wears them layered under a blazer. 

It's cool that you've designed a little something for everyone. What's inspiring you right now?
I get so inspired just seeing women all over Manhattan. I think we're all very fortunate to live in a city where there are such design opportunities. I love how people's style changes from uptown to downtown — the women shopping at Bergdorfs are so different from what you see in Meatpacking. I love that juxtaposition and knowing Cami can be styled to work in any look.

When will you know you've made it?
I have moments every day where I'm like, this is it. On Friday, we found a picture of Shakira wearing Cami. We get notes from customers saying they appreciate our customer service. There are different aspects of feeling like I've built a successful business and I've surrounded myself with an awesome team who keeps that business growing. Everything from selling my first cami to seeing Shakira wearing hers to having a top tier editor praising the product... It all makes me so excited to keep going and to gradually expand the collection.

What's next for Cami NYC?
We're looking into a showroom where girls will be able to come in, try everything on, and place an order in the space instead of taking it home with them that day. It would be amazing to have a space for small events, sales appointments, and getting to see girls try on Cami for the first time!

Keep up with Cami NYC:
Facebook  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest  //  Twitter

P.S. Know an inspiring working woman in New York who'd be a good fit for Design Darling? Shoot me an email!


I can sum up Mignonne Gavigan in one word: chic. Her apartment, her jewelry, her personal style... Everything about her just oozes chic. Mignonne worked for the likes of Rachel Roy and Loeffler Randall for nearly a decade before launching her own jewelry label just three months ago. I spent a morning in her gorgeous TriBeCa apartment soaking up her Southern charm and advice for young women who want to make it in fashion.

Name: Mignonne Gavigan
Age: 33
Title: Founder and owner, Mignonne Gavigan
Location: TriBeCa, New York

What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to design jewelry?
I love designing, creating, and making things. I grew up in North Carolina teaching sailing but my first internship was at Marc Jacobs, where I got to work with couture dresses. I wasn't paid anything but I did it because I loved the art and the craftsmanship — I know what it takes to make something that crazy beautiful. That's where I got the idea for my collection and what has propelled me every day. Everything I make is on beaded crinkle chiffon; the idea is to bring a piece of couture to every day. 

When did you know it was time to start your business? 
I was ripping up a couture dress and picked up a piece of the dress to tie it around my neck. I walked down the street and had people asking where I got it! Then I started making them for friends and family. I knew I wanted to work my way up and learn as much as I could from each job opportunity. I was head of Rachel Roy's design team and then left for Loeffler Randall, where I really felt like I could bring a feminine element to their designs. Eventually I built up enough want and need for my necklaces and had saved up enough money to make the first round of samples, which is always the most expensive. 

Tell me about the process of designing a new piece. 
I do my research! I always check out what's happening on the runway but I take it with a grain of salt — a lot of fashion to me is how something feels. I pull tears from magazines, go to art shows, stumble upon colors and patterns on the street. Then I see what sticks out to me and pull it all together. Each piece has to be interesting; you have to design a product that you know is going to catch. You have to make wearable things and make a little something for everybody. It's a very organic process.

How did you figure out the production side of things?
Working for other people definitely helped me develop connections in production facilities. And my southern roots! I'm always kind to the people I'm working with. Right now we're making everything in India.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I try to do a couple personal things before the team shows up at noon. I have a business partner who's really bright and has a strong finance background. One of my best friends is our sales director; it makes such a difference to work with people you trust. We have seven people on the staff right now so we'll have a meeting every Monday and then everyone heads off to work on their individual tasks.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Being creative is the best and worst part. I get to do what I love but there's also a lot of pressure to make the right choices. You can't just make things that only you want to wear!

I know what you mean! I hate when I buy a ton of one product that I love and it just doesn't sell. What's one pinch me moment you've had so far?
Every week there's something cool and fun happening. We've had sales meetings with our ideal top three vendors. Net-A-Porter is putting us on their special finds. We just landed a PR company who's stoked to get the ball rolling. 

I can't believe you've only been at this for three months. 
The demand for production is the most exciting part. We did a trunk show last week and sold 42 necklaces. And a couple nights ago, I gave one off my neck to Katie Couric at a restaurant!

That's amazing. When will you know you've made it?
I don't think I'll ever know that. I am having so much fun but it takes a long time to build a brand and get your name out there. I hope it keeps growing and evolving — next year you make some more necklaces that do really well and the year after that you roll out shoes that really resonate. Being successful isn't selling 100,000 necklaces; it's continuing to do it year after year. 

That's such a motivating sentiment! I can't wait to see where it all takes you. Do you have any advice for the next generation of women entrepreneurs? 
It was really hard for me to break into fashion; I didn't have any connections so I was just scraping away one day at a time. Continue to follow your heart. Don't burn bridges. You can learn something from everyone. Once you stop learning, change jobs. It's scary, but make that leap. Believe in yourself!

Keep up with Mignonne Gavigan:
Website  //  Facebook  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest  //  Twitter


Today you're getting two for the price of one (...still free). Roxy was one of the very first friends I made through blogging. We met when I was still in college and she was just leaving her first job and trying to figure out her next steps. Fast forward five years and she's at the helm of Society Social, a line of furniture that she designs and that's been featured in every blog and magazine ever. She's found her footing, moved to New York, carved out a niche for herself, and brought back the bar cart in her spare time. I'm continually blown away by her can do attitude and so proud to call her one of my friends.

Roxy introduced me to Inslee, an insanely talented artist with whom she shares a chic-as-can-be office space in SoHo. She does custom illustrations for gifts and wedding, sells prints and stationery on her website, and also writes the most clever blog you'll ever read. They're two of the most brilliant, charming, and innovative women I've met and I know you'll all love getting to know more about them!

Names: Inslee Fariss and Roxy Te Owens 
Ages: 28 and 30, respectively
Titles: Illustrator and founder/designer of Society Social, respectively
Location: New York City and New York City/North Carolina, respectively

What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to do what you're doing now?
Inslee: My first job was in a clothing boutique when I was 18. I've always wanted to be in the fashion/design/art arena, but I didn't always know this would be my career. For a long time, I thought that illustration was just an outlet for me to be creative, an escape from a "normal" job. It took me a while to realize that my creative outlet could be my source of income.
Roxy: Yes! Mine was at a retail store at the local mall when I was 16. I didn't know it then but my experience helped me land amazing internships while I was at Parsons. The fashion brands I worked for liked that I already had experience on the sales floor dealing with customers and in-store merchandising. Never underestimate a modest first job!

When did you know it was time to launch your business?
Roxy: It was more of a gradual realization versus one moment. I was in my third year of a corporate job in the buying office of a large department store. I was buying for about 300 stores and helping manage millions of dollars. Not only was it extremely stressful but it was also the same drill every day: 9 to 5 (though usually 7 or 8) in a gray cubicle hammering away at a computer. It wasn't rewarding or fulfilling — not the kind of life I wanted to live!
Inslee: I didn't really realize it until after I'd started my business... Whoops! I launched my website and sold a small collection of stationery while I was still in school. It was very much a back-burner side project. For a long time, my parents fielded the requests that were coming into my website while I was finishing up my degree at Washington & Lee. After graduation, we transitioned into me reading and replying to those emails directly. When I realized how many people were interested in my illustrations and willing to pay for them, I quit my post-graduate unpaid internship and threw myself fully into growing my art into a brand.

Tell me a little about the process of creating a new piece.
Roxy: My designs start with a variety of things: a look I love, a fabric, or a proper cocktail hour! I'm not technically trained so my team of designers and engineers are instrumental in making my ideas come to life. For my first bar carts, I knew I wanted to incorporate lots of faux bamboo, fretwork, natural cane, color, and functionality. There's a lot of dialogue and brainstorming around the key attributes of my initial ideas, then sketches, then editing, then the spec'ing of the product. The designs that make the cut go to prototyping and on to production. It's a fun collaboration with all parties involved but nothing makes it to the next stage without my direct approval. 
Inslee: When I'm working on something like my yearly calendar or a new card design, I create a big secret Pinterest board and compile tons of image inspiration. When I'm working for a client, I let their vision inform how I work. I always ask what little details make them unique. Things like "I always wear these earrings my grandmother gave me" or "please make me five inches taller" are common remarks that help me capture my subjects.

What does a typical day look like for you?
Roxy: Running a small business requires you to take charge of many roles, from designer to bookkeeper to marketing manager, so every day is different. I’m always learning something new!
Inslee: The beauty of this job is that there rarely is a typical day. Today began with working on a new blog post and then I had a client come in to meet with me about a commission... the subject of which is "two little girls and their cat, Olaf!" This afternoon I'll be working on an interesting mix of administrative and creative work: both installing our air-conditioning unit and beginning a new bridal commission.

You crack me up. Besides your new AC unit, what's inspiring you right now?
Inslee: I just launched a new product that I'm so inspired to work on: large, gestural nudes done in bright watercolor washes and sumi ink. It's so much fun for me to do something different from my usual pen and ink and watercolor small character sketches.
Roxy: Travel! I just returned from a spectacular Mediterranean cruise. We visited Italy, Greece, and Croatia. The buildings were powder blue, bright pink, salmon, terracotta, minty green, golden yellow, and so much more. And the sea! Deep, saturated shades of cerulean and teal. I want to splash my apartment and all of Society Social with the hues of the Mediterranean! 

That sounds amazing! What's the most fun part of your job?
Roxy: It is my absolute favorite to receive notes and pictures from my sweet customers. It’s still surreal to think these designs started out as just a thought, and seeing them in real homes – styled by real people – gets me every time. My customers’ enthusiasm keeps me going!
Inslee: I love interacting with my clients. It is by far the most fun part. I love helping them celebrate important milestones with commissions, launch new businesses with illustrations for their websites and branding, and plan parties with illustrations for invitation designs. 

And the least fun, just to keep it real?
Inslee: Trying to find more than 24 hours in each and every day. Being an independent and creative entrepreneur is a major undertaking and requires a ton of focus, energy, and the ability to wear many hats. You try installing an AC unit and painting a bridal portrait in the same 2 hour window and tell me how it goes [laughing].
Roxy: The least fun is the uncertainty of it all. I’m relatively new at this so there are definitely days when I feel overwhelmed and unsure of myself.

I know that feeling all too well. How do you stay organized?
Inslee: I use Salesforce to keep trace of my incoming leads and commissions. I would be lost without it.
Roxy: Google Calendar! I wouldn’t know what day it is without it.

I need to start using both of those! What's one goal you have for your business in the next year or two?
Roxy: At this point most of my wholesale business has come through my website, but I would love to see how buyers would respond to SS at an industry trade show. I can’t decide between the NYC show, the Atlanta show, and High Point, of course. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Inslee: I'd love to establish myself as a resource for not just illustration work but fine art (like my nudes) and other larger pieces.

What's one pinch me moment you've had so far?
Roxy: About three years ago, I was unemployed and deeply entrenched in the 20-something battle of finding my life path and passion. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, it was! When I see my designs in national glossies, I still can’t believe it. I’m so grateful.
Inslee: Well, I can't reveal too much just yet, but I'm partnering with an NYC stationer with a rich history in the finest of papers. Our collaboration will launch in a matter of weeks so stay tuned!

That's so exciting! When will you know you've made it?
Inslee: When we can afford an apartment with a dishwasher.
Roxy: Really all I'm asking for is a little more natural light and a second bedroom. ;)

You know you live in New York when... Ha! Any advice for the next generation of creative entrepreneurs?
Roxy: Five tips, to be exact!
Inslee: Learn how to build and code your own websites!!!

Keep up with Inslee: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter
Keep up with Roxy: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter


One of my favorite things about moving to the West Village has been exploring all the boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants in my new neighborhood. There's a totally different energy down here and I can't get enough! One of my best discoveries has been Nourish Kitchen + Table, a tiny café that's open all day and has become a go-to for coffee meetings and takeout for lunch and/or dinner. The space is gorgeous and the menu makes it easy to eat healthy without spending a ton. I was pretty thrilled when I connected the dots and realized that the owner is Marissa Lippert, who used to write a food column for Rue Magazine when I interned there after college. (Isn't it funny how things come full circle?!) Knowing little about the restaurant business and curious to hear about her career path, I asked if she'd be willing to sit down and answer a few questions about how she got started, what's inspiring her, and what's next for my favorite healthy takeout spot in my new 'hood. She kindly agreed to an interview and instantly impressed me with her business savvy and personal style. Say hello to Marissa! 

Name: Marissa Lippert
Title: Nutritionist and owner, Nourish Kitchen & Table
Location: West Village, New York City

What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to open a restaurant?
My first job ever was at the Gap — maybe there’s some link to retail there. I’ve always loved tactile magazines and newspapers, the food section and the coupon section. I would sit on my mom’s floor and flip through all the photos of food. I’m interested in the intersection between fashion and food. I don’t know that I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant but I’m definitely a visual person so the idea of a lifestyle brand combining food and retail made sense to me.

What did you do prior to opening Nourish?
After college, I worked in fashion as an assistant buyer at Saks. I really wanted to figure out a way to tie in fashion, food, and health; I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. Then I started a nutrition practice which I’ve been doing for the past nine years.

What were some of the steps that went into opening this space?
It took me a year and a half to find the space. I knew I wanted to be in this neighborhood on my old running loop. I got to know the West Village really well and could sense the energy of a single block — that can really impact the potential success of any store concept. It took me a while to finance it since I’m the only partner. But I always knew what I wanted the food to be so we developed the menu before opening and went back and tweaked it with customer input. 

What does a typical day look like for you?
The days are crazy right now. I attempt to work out a couple mornings a week, either running or doing yoga. If we have a big catering order, I’m here early and I stay late. I might be meeting with a new purveyor or planning out an event for the following week. Otherwise I’m working on a new recipe or a menu change with our head chef, running to the flower market, or curating recipes for our meal service. Really the whole Nourish experience is to help people who can’t cook or who don’t have the time or space to cook experience the enjoyment of eating great food on real plates, both within our space and outside of it. 

What are a few of your favorite dishes right now?
Our kale salad — we could never take that off the menu. We have a new Madagascar pink rice that’s really pretty and flavorful. We tend to take a lot of inspiration from the Mediterranean and the Middle East — there’s a global influence with seasonal ingredients.

You’re also a nutritionist. What’s one thing we should all be eating more of?
We could all do a better job on vegetables. When I started conceiving of Nourish, I had years of market research from my own clients. People wanted to know how to make salads interesting — they’re so good for your health, skin, and weight management. I’m a big proponent that 50% of what you put in your mouth every day should be fruits or vegetables. If you break it down meal by meal, it’s really easy and you immediately feel the impact — your clothes fit better and your skin instantly feels more dewey. 

And what’s one thing we should all cut out of our diets?
One thing to leave out is artificial sweetener. We don’t really know the impact yet and the word “artificial” should definitely raise eyebrows. The chemical breakdown of one Splenda is 600 times sweeter than a pack of sugar, which changes your tastebuds. People who use a lot of Splenda will bite into a juicy peach and won’t taste it as much. Their body is no longer satisfied by natural foods, which makes them more prone to gaining weight.

Oh boy... I am so guilty of putting Splenda in my iced coffee every morning. How can I kick the habit?
I use a packet of real sugar and some of our homemade almond milk. For iced coffee, I use a little bit of simple syrup. With good quality coffee and local milk, you don’t need as much sweetener.

I need to start coming here for my morning coffee! What’s the most fun part of your job?
Interacting with our customers and seeing people really use the space as it was intended: to be nourished. I’m very, very grateful that we get really positive feedback from our regulars as well as new customers in the neighborhood — we’re serving a purpose in their lives. The most fun thing for me is the energy that our team and the space give off. 

And the least fun?
Not sleeping enough. It’s a long day and a hard business, but I wouldn’t think of doing anything else.

That’s a great feeling. How do you stay organized?
Nourish's brand director Allegra, who knows when to crack the whip. I’m old school — I keep a physical planner and a lot of little Moleskin notebooks for new recipes and magazine tears.

What are your next few goals for the business?
Other locations are certainly a possibility. I never had a longterm plan or vision — we’re still letting our day-to-day traffic and customer response guide us. I would love a commissary space for catering. And I’d love to collaborate with a larger brand on a juice bar or breakfast and lunch spot, like Toby’s Coffee in Club Monaco. That would be super interesting to me.

What’s one pinch me moment you’ve had so far?
Last summer, I was in a meeting at this exact table and not really paying attention when one of our employees tapped me on the shoulder. Martha Stewart had just walked in to have lunch!

What’s your advice for someone who wants to go into the restaurant business?
Do a lot of research. Keep pushing yourself. Have faith in your concept and your idea. Take breaks. You can’t be productive if you’re running on empty.

When will you know you’ve made it?
I don’t think you ever do. When you’re a driven, passionate business person, you’re always thinking of the next big or small thing.

Keep up with Nourish:
Restaurant  //  Facebook  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest  //  Twitter


One of the best parts of running my online boutique is seeking out fresh new designers whose creations I think my customers would enjoy. Lindsay and I first met for coffee a few months ago and I was instantly smitten with her colorful designs and, even more awesome, her mission to give back. Touched by a trip with her mom to Tanzania in 2004, Lindsay pledged to donate 10% of each sale to an orphanage there and has since put four kids through high school. As a teacher in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, she noticed students in need of reading help and transitioned to donating 10% toward literacy in Teton County. She recently relocated to New York and intends to contribute to nationwide literacy programs as her business grows. An eye for design, a desire to give back, and an obvious passion for what she does... Lindsay is a huge career inspiration to me and I can't wait to introduce her work to all of you!

Name: Lindsay Wagner
Age: 26
Title: Owner, Lindsay's Necklaces
Location: Upper East Side, New York City

What was your first job ever? Did you always want to design jewelry?
I started making necklaces ten years ago as a sophomore in high school. I made them for fun — graduation presents for friends. People would say, "Oh, my aunt owns a store in Caliornia, my mom has a boutique in Florida, have you thought of selling here or there?" All of a sudden, I was in thirty boutiques and had turned my hobby into a nice little business. I was so young! I had just gotten back from a trip to Africa where there was one boy who was really talented in architecture. As I started making money selling necklaces, I wanted to pay for him to get through school. We wound up putting two boys and two girls through secondary school in Tanzania. 

Congratulations! That's such an incredible cause. Have you been running this business for ten years straight?
The business tapered off in college and then I moved to Jackson Hole to teach for three years. But this year I decided I wanted to try New York and this is where I had to be to make the business work. There have been ups and downs and plenty of challenges but it's been an exciting process.

Tell me about the process of designing a new piece.
I love traveling — a lot of my designs are inspired by the people I meet and the colors I see in different places. I get inspired to do different things with different textiles... I'll even have friends bring back fabric from their trips! Each necklace is cut and sewn individually, beaded, and then sewn again at the end.

How do you stay organized?
If you clean up as you go, anything can be organized fast. The best time to do something is when you're thinking about it. 

That's awesome advice. What's inspiring you lately?
I just got back from Burma, Thailand, and Laos and came back with tons of new silks. I spent time in weaving villages and these incredible floating markets that we had to take a canoe to get to. I'm so inspired when I met the people who are working so hard to create the fabric that I get to work with.

How would you describe your average customer?
There are older women who are wearing Lindsay's Necklaces to bridge and little girls who wear them to school. We work with everything from Lilly prints that are super preppy to African prints that are a little edgier... There's really something for everyone! I'm all about a colorful woman who wants to make a statement. My grandmother was my biggest supporter!

What does a typical day look like for you?
I try to go for a run, drink a cup of coffee, and respond to all my emails. Then I sew, fill orders, ship everything out, and schedule a lunch or meeting to make sure I get out of my apartment every day!

What’s the most and least fun part of your job?
The least fun is bookkeeping and keeping track of receipts. The most fun is picking out the fabric and traveling to go get it all! And I love direct sales — it's pretty amazing to meet people who are just as excited about the product as I am.  

What’s one “pinch me” moment you’ve had so far?
I was walking down Lexington Ave. with my mom and there was a woman walking toward us speaking in French. I realized she was wearing my necklace so I ran down the block and was like, "I love your necklace!" and she went, "Oh! You have one too!" I wear them literally everywhere I go. I'll know I've made it when every woman in the world is wearing one!

Any advice for someone who wants to design jewelry?
You really have to love what you do — you can always see it when people don't. The second I lose excitement, so will Lindsay's Necklaces. Just stay true to yourself and keep your soul in it!

Keep up with Lindsay:


All you aspiring interior designers are in for a treat today! So far the career spotlights have covered women in clothing, home decor, jewelry, social media, and weddings so I felt it was high time to share one of my favorite interior design duos. I "met" Alyssa Kapito and Vivian Muller through Instagram, where they tagged a Design Darling business card holder on Alyssa's desk which led me to discover their beautiful design work. I was so excited to meet them in person and just as excited to see Alyssa's home / office in person — serious inspiration for anyone who's self-employed! I love that they met while working for another designer and knew one day they'd collaborate and launch their own firm. I hope you enjoy their story as much as I did!

Names: Alyssa Kapito and Vivian Muller
Ages: 27 and 26, respectively
Title: Cofounders, Kapito Muller Interiors
Location: Upper East Side, New York City

Have you both always worked in interior design?
Alyssa: I started out in the art world. As I was doing my Master's thesis on Renaissance art, I realized I loved interior design and really wanted to try it. I applied to intern at Bunny Williams, which was a perfect first job — I loved it there. Then I met Vivian and we clicked immediately. We knew if we ever started our own firm, we would do it together. We've been at it now for a year and a half!

That's so exciting! What does a typical day look like for you?
Alyssa: We wake up pretty early and have a client meeting in the morning; we try to space them out throughout the day. We go to the D&D building to look at fabrics or to different showrooms depending on the project — Waterworks for a bathroom, a marble yard for a kitchen, etc.
Vivian: It's very busy! Sometimes we divide and conquer. But we're on the phone with each other until at least nine o'clock at night.

It must be awesome to have each other as a sounding board for every project. Where do you start when you're working with a new client?
Vivian: The first thing we do is get a sense of the client's personality and style. We actually send them over to Pinterest and ask them to start pinning spaces they like. It's a very visual platform and an easy way to get a feel for someone's aesthetic, what they respond to, and what they don't.
Alyssa: Once we see the space, we always know exactly what we want to do with it and tailor that plan to what the client wants. We don't like to rush it — we want people to have the perfect pieces, which requires searching and waiting. A small design project might take three months, whereas a gut renovation could take a year and a half.

Is it hard to juggle so many different projects at once? How do you stay organized?
Vivian: Everything is online — we're totally paperless. It's so much easier to find a purchase order on your laptop than in a closet full of papers.
Alyssa: Vivian's incredibly organized. She makes Excel spreadsheets for our clients with schedules, timelines, budgets... She really makes sure each project is on track.

Besides Pinterest, how else do you get inspired?
Vivian: We both love discovering new places, whether that's traveling to a new city or trying a new restaurant. Commercial spaces can be really inspiring. We'll see something at a new hotel and think, "Could this work in someone's apartment?"
Alyssa: And we love Instagram. The design community is small and really engaged — we can see what other designers are doing and get immediate feedback from our audience. 

Is your average client pretty active on social media?
Alyssa: They're all young and fun — late twenties to mid thirties, some with young kids... We love our clients! They have different personalities and tastes but come to us for a certain aesthetic. 

And how would you describe your aesthetic?
Alyssa: Clean, tailored, chic, with something a little eclectic for good measure.

That's really the perfect description. Take your apartment: lots of neutrals but with interesting texture and cool details like Hermès boxes and that Kate Moss illustration. I love it! What are some of your goals for the business in the coming years?
Vivian: We definitely want to do a product line eventually but right now we're just developing our signature style. We're all about slow and steady progress!
Alyssa: I think we're doing pretty well. Right now we're primarily based in Manhattan but we'd love to expand nationally and internationally. If we could do an apartment in Paris, I think I'd die happy.

Is that when you know you've made it?
Vivian: Yes! And decorating for the cover of Elle Decor or Architectural Digest.

Where there's a will, there's a way! What's one "pinch me" moment you've had so far?
Alyssa: When we met Steven Gambrel. I love his work. 
Vivian: Or Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Sweetest person ever! 

What's your advice for someone who wants to go into the design business?
Alyssa: Be prepared to wear a lot of hats. Talk to people, learn from their experience and what they found hard in the beginning. And if you're motivated and talented, at some point you just have to go for it! 
Vivian: If you have a business partner, bounce everything off each other. That's the best part of having a partner — having a second opinion and getting to be two places at once so that every client gets the proper attention. 
Alyssa: Vivian's more business-minded and I'm more focused on design, but we both ask each other questions constantly. It's a little like a marriage — you have to find someone who really complements you! 

What's the most fun part of your job?
Alyssa: The best part is the moment when your colors and fabrics come tighter, right before you present it to your client, when you know it's really good.
Vivian: Our job really is fun. It's probably half design work and half paperwork, but it never gets old. The design industry is constantly changing, which keeps it exciting. 
Alyssa: We really love it. It doesn't always feel like we're working. Sometimes it does, but definitely not always!

Keep up with Kapito Muller Interiors: