Lessons from Successful Women in Design

| December 3, 2009 | 0 Comments

Elle Decor Magazine in their November 2009 issue run a series of articles on the secrets of success of leading women in the design industry. They interviewed a number of famous business women in the field of interior design and fashion, such as Josie Natori (President and CEO of Natori Co.), interior designers Kelly Wearstler and Michelle Nussbaumer, Holly Hunt (CEO of the business that bears her name), as well as interior designer/author Charlotte Moss. All of these women have demonstrated their talents and business acumen to succeed in their respective fields.

The Q&A articles delve into their design philosophies to the most important lessons they’ve learned and what lessons can they share to other people thinking of starting in the design business. Their responses are highly instructive and can give you nuggets of wisdom to live by.

One of the questions is: What does value mean for you? All of their responses focus on the same theme — that value means delivering more than the client expected:

  • Kelly Wearstler: “It means the client got more than expected.”
  • Josie Natori: “It’s not about doing something just to be inexpensive. It’s about craftsmanship. Our fragrance is not only a fragrance, the bottle is a collector’s item.”
  • Charlotte Moss: “If clients are prepared to spend X amount, it’s my job to use the funds so they get the most value for the money. “

With regards to the most important lesson they’ve learned from their businesses and careers, here are their responses:

  • Michelle Nussbaumer: “Listen to your clients. Don’t compromise on quality … and don’t get off track.”
  • Holly Hunt: “Intuition counts, don’t sell it short. You have to take risks, but some of them have to be right.”
  • Josie Natori: “I have always been very clear about our vision for Natori: the East-West sensibility and the comfort, craftsmanship, and luxury of the apparel.”
  • Kelly Wearstler: “Be incredibly organized and have the proper skill set. Having an eye is one thing, but you have to be able to execute.”
  • Charlotte Moss: “Listening and absorbing. My job is to interpret what a client wants, and sometimes they aren’t entirely clear of the details, so you have to listen and listen carefully.”

The advice they would give to someone just starting out are:

  • Josie Natori: “Your business needs a raison d’être. Be prepared  to work 24 hours a day, and be willing to take risks. And you have to love it or you won’t succeed.”
  • Charlotte Moss: “Do your homework. Inform yourself on a daily basis. Study magazines. Go to museums. Attend lectures. Ignorance isn’t bliss.”
  • Michelle Nussbaumer: Work for – and learn from – someone who is successful … Read.” 
  • Kelly Wearstler: “Train your eye. Whether you are going to a museum or a flea market or flipping through a book, always be on the lookout for something special.”

My most favorite line is the response of Josie Natori to the question “If you could pass wisdom on to the next generation of women entrepreneurs, what would it be?”

“My biggest assets are being a woman and being Asian-American. Both of those facts make Natori what it is today. What’s really important is doing something you can relate to, something that’s personal.”

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