A Successful Designer Shares the Biggest Mistake New Employees Make
In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($12), we’re running an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honor of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the fashion industry. So far, we’ve tapped Lauren Conrad, Sally Singer, Candice Lake, and more. Up next? Jenni Kayne.
Jenni Kayne epitomizes the essence of a stylish modern woman. The California-based designer and mother of two was one of the first to pinpoint and blend the close connection between fashion and lifestyle inspiration. This vision ultimately (and organically) expanded her clothing line into a covetable brand. Her timeless designs aesthetically align across fashion, accessories, and home décor, illustrating Kayne's passion for clean and classic detail. In addition to running a successful brand, Kayne founded the blog Rip&Tan, where she shares personal stories and traditions like modern entertaining, travel, and food.
Keep reading to learn more about Kayne and to see how she answered our most burning career questions.
"Fashion designer, lifestyle curator, and tastemaker."
"I think most people would be surprised to find out how involved I am in the whole company on a day-to-day basis. I am very hands-on, from arranging the store windows and buying to designing the collection."
"I wore jeans and a white button-down with heels. It's California, so you can get away with dressing more casually for these types of occasions."
"I would really enjoy speaking with Ralph Lauren, because he is the king of fashion and lifestyle. He has built such a strong empire, and he manages to stay relevant and modern while still creating classic styles."
"Instagram. I have so much going on on a daily basis that it's the best way for me to consume news quickly. I follow a range of people, from designers, bloggers, and foodies to other individuals I respect and admire. I love having real-time updates on what they are doing. Beyond social media, I have an incredibly strong community of creative friends who keep me in the loop!"
"My only regret would be listening to outside voices who had differing opinions on the direction on my company. I've realized since that I am not willing to compromise my aesthetic to make it more appealing to a larger audience."
"1. Good social skills, such as eye contact and head-nodding. I am looking for people who will represent the brand well, and these are essential when interacting with others.
"2. I love seeing passion and excitement during interviews. My company is relatively small, and I love that my employees are all very hard-working and passionate.
"3. I look for the interviewee to ask thoughtful questions, because an interview works both ways. I want the person I'm considering to be the perfect fit for the job, so be upfront—ask questions throughout so you don't have to follow up afterward. It's always good to come prepared with a few questions.
"4. Be educated on the brand. It's frustrating when someone shows up for an interview and clearly hasn't done their homework. In this day and age, there is absolutely no excuse. Do your research, and come with an understanding of the brand. I love when I feel people are prepared to talk about their knowledge of the company and connection to it, and they pull from their own experiences.
"5. Lastly, look the part—especially in fashion!"
"I love an outfit that feels masculine and feminine at the same time. It makes me feel the most confident. I regularly reach for my high-waisted jeans with a belt, a crisp blouse, Jenni Kayne mules, and a structured black coat. Sometimes I’ll add a bright orangey-red lip as the final touch!"
"She says, 'You're nurturing, creative, inspiring, open-minded, and a Virgo.'"
"I go to the most inspiring place I know. I always spend June through August in Lake Tahoe at my family’s house there. During the year, I am a full-time working mom, but I reserve the summers to hike outdoors, swim in the lake, and cook dinner with my kids. I come back to work after these few months feeling more inspired than ever! I have come to realize how important it is to set aside time for yourself and your family."
"Give your company as much advance notice as possible. Also, I believe in giving your notice in person and making it the smoothest transition as possible. Even if you hate your job, it's important to leave on good terms, because it's how you will be remembered. It’s your reputation. I am still very close to many former co-workers, most of whom I have helped find jobs after moves or career changes. Also, think about when you are delivering the news: It’s important to talk to your boss at the right time, i.e. not at the end of the day on Friday or in the middle of a big project!"
"If I go out, I love eating at À Vôtre Santé, and I order the falafel platter. But I really love to cook, and I am a huge fan of making soups, salads, and frittatas for lunch. Soups are hearty and warm me up during winter; salads are so light and fresh; and frittatas are really very simple to make! These are a few of my favorite recipes."
"Let's be honest: Entry-level jobs can be boring and filled with errands and tedious tasks. But still it’s important to own them and do it all to the best of your ability, because it will make you stand out! Fulfill these duties with a smile on your face and the mentality that no task is too small. My biggest tip: Always carry around a notepad and pen. If your boss starts giving you a list of tasks, it's far more impressive to be prepared than to ask him or her to wait so you can get paper or, even worse, try and remember the list and forget something."
"1. Martha Stewart for her endless inspiration!
"2. Amanda Brooks is so inspiring to me. I just love her timeless and natural style. It is also my personal dream to have a farm where I can take care of animals and grow my own food.
"3. Jewelry designer Sophie Buhai, for her cool, modern aesthetic. Her imagery is soft and unique.
"4. The florist Moon Canyon, who creates the most stunning, one-of-a-kind arrangements.
"5. I follow Vincent Van Duysen for architecture. I’m obsessed with his work and the images he posts are very aspirational."
"In the morning, I get the kids up, feed them, and drop them off for school. I try to work out or ride my horse after drop-off. I prefer to get my workouts finished early because I feel much more focused for work afterward. Almost every evening, my kids and I take a bath full of salts and essential oils. They tell me about their days and we all get to relax together."
"On parenting, 'Become a master of distraction.' For personal and work matters, 'Find your own balance!'"
"We have so many exciting things coming up! In addition to opening three new stores this year—Newport Beach and Palo Alto in the summer and Marin in fall—we are launching a pop-up shop in Southhampton, New York! It's Jenni Kayne's very first time in the East Coast, and I'm so thrilled!"
If you could ask the designer one question, what would it be? Let us know in the comments below, and shop Jenni Kayne’s new arrivals.