Paris, New York, London, Los Angeles, Milan – the fashion houses of the world have been well established for decades. They are where trends are born and runways shine, and their command over the fashion world’s tastes and directions has rarely been challenged.
A challenge to that hold would be… weird.
So, it comes as little surprise to those from Austin that, in order to make such a bid for the fashion throne, you would need an Austinite. Austin, after all, is where the rebellious ride, where a creative endeavor and a great idea can take over an entire industry. Whether music, food, or art, Austin is an undeniable influence on culture – throughout the state, nation, and world; and there has been no greater proof of that fact than Kendra Scott’s rise to fashion prominence. She has taken the fashion world not by storm, but by unrelenting charm and beauty for over a decade and a half, and she is showing no signs of slowing down, with new retail outlets, net jewelry and home decor lines, and with a continued rootedness in Austin.
We caught up with the mogul on the eve of her SXSW launches and just after the opening of her flagship store on South Congress in Austin, to see where this path to fashion supremacy has led, and to see how it has affected the various aspects of her life, as well as what’s still to come for the trendsetter.
It’s been five years since we last spoke, what part of your life has changed the most for you, personally and professionally?
Wow, what hasn’t changed? Five years ago feels like yesterday, but at the same, so much has happened! I got married to the love of my life, Matt, and gave birth to my third son, Grey. I was also honored to have been recognized as a fashion designer and entrepreneur by being inducted into the CFDA in 2015 and awarded the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2017.
Professionally, the past five years have been absolutely incredible. In 2014, we started opening an average of 20 stores per year, and are now at over 90. In 2015, we launched the Kendra Cares program, a unique experience that brings the magic of the Color Bar™ by Kendra Scott to pediatric hospitals, allowing patients and their caregivers to design their own piece of customized jewelry at no cost. In 2016, we moved into our new corporate office on 38th and Lamar, and expanded into three new categories: home, fine jewelry, and beauty. In 2017, we went international with Kendra Scott at Selfridges in London. 2018 was truly remarkable! We launched our Charms Collection, opened our first store in New York City, and opened the doors to our gorgeous new Flagship Store right here in Austin on South Congress.
What has been the biggest surprise in that time?
In 2018, our dream locations both in New York and on South Congress became available! I couldn’t believe it. We had been eyeing a building in SoHo on Spring and Greene for years – and now it’s home to our first-ever New York store. At the same time, we’d been dreaming into building the ultimate flagship here in Austin for quite some time, but wanted to wait for just the right location. We found it on South Congress in an amazing renovated bungalow from the 1800s. It’s so authentically Austin, and absolutely perfect for our Flagship Store.
Some might look at your path to success and proclaim it as meteoric, but a ton of hard work and effort has gone into that success. What would you say to those who say yours was an “overnight success” and what is your most vital piece of advice for entrepreneurs seeking to build their own empire?
It’s funny because some people view Kendra Scott as this overnight success, and we have experienced fast-paced growth over the past decade. However, so many forget that I started this brand out of my house 17 years ago! It was a slow and thoughtful build, focused on creating the right foundation for the brand to thrive on.
My biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs is to find your core values, take them to heart, and use them to drive everything you do. The core values of Family, Fashion, and Philanthropy that I established when I was a young mom have become the foundation of our success today. They guide every decision we make as a business. Live your core values, do work that you’re proud of, and lead by example. If you do these things, you will find success.
The fashion nexuses of the world are well known: Paris, Milan, London, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles…what is it about Austin and Texas that has kept your business here?
It was a challenge at first. In the early days of my business, I had people tell me all the time that if I wanted my business to succeed, I had to get out of Austin and move to LA or NYC – but I knew that wasn’t right for us. I started my business in Austin as a young mom with a 3-month-old son, walking my handmade jewelry from store to store. I always joke that if I had been in any other city, they would have laughed me out the door, or maybe even called the police! But not in Austin. Austin gave me a chance. As we’ve grown, so has the city around us. Austin has blossomed into a metropolis of innovation and positive change. Now, the world is looking to us as one of the leaders in business – from our booming tech presence to the steadily growing market of local CPG companies. It is still that supportive, inclusive Austin culture that sets us apart from the rest and that’s why I am so proud to call it home for myself, my family, and my company.
What is it about the Kendra Scott brand that keeps it so much at the forefront of both fashion and popular culture?
As a fashion designer, I strive to always be innovating. I’m constantly asking my team how we can utilize our core design principles – shape, color, material, and value – to surprise our customers with something they’ve never seen before. Our core values of Family, Fashion, and Philanthropy also set us apart as a fashion brand. We care about our customers, and by building genuine relationships with them, we’ve created incredible brand loyalty.
Are there any plans to expand the line? Will men’s jewelry ever be a consideration?
I have a husband and three boys at home, so I’m certainly asked this question a lot… All I can say is anything is possible!
Where will we find you five years from now?
Currently, our focus is on continuing to meet our customers where they’re at and open up new retail locations. We want to excel in the jewelry space and be constantly innovating for our customers, while staying true to our core pillars. We will continue to live out our heart for philanthropy and give back even more!
So many people wonder about balance between work and life. Do you have any killer tips?
I started my business as a new mom, so I have been balancing work and life from the very beginning. It’s important to set boundaries – for example, I strive to never be away from family for more than three nights in a row. I also make sure that I’m able to work within a flexible schedule. Sometimes that means I’m answering emails late into the night, but if I’m able to be home for dinner with my family, it’s worth it. I empower our team to live the same way, always putting family first. I truly believe it fosters a more productive and joyful work environment.