If there's anyone whose laid-back aesthetic embodies California cool, it's Jenni Kayne. We're huge fans of the designer's collection of cozy knits and chic staples. We sat down with Jenni to talk everything from entrepreneurship to creative inspiration.
We’d love to hear about how you got started and your journey to where you are today. Can you tell us about what motivated you to open your own store(s), become a designer, and start your blog?
I started the company when I was 19. I felt that the traditional wholesale model didn’t allow customers to truly understand what the brand was about. It didn’t tell the whole story. I was inspired to open my own store and opened the West Hollywood location 11 years ago! I loved the process of building and designing the store. Since then, we have continued expanding around the state of California. Rip & Tan began as a passion project and a place to share everything I was inspired by or doing, but as it became more popular and the lifestyle component of the business grew, it became a big piece of the business. It is a huge part of telling the story of the brand.
What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who would love to open up their own stores? Lessons you’ve learned along the way? Alternatively, what would you say to the younger you who was just starting out?
The younger me was so naïve. I think if you want to open your own stores, you should work as much as you can for a likeminded business so you know what you’re getting yourself into. I learned that the technical side of the business is equally as important as having a great eye and being able to design, so you either need to be strong in both departments or to find a partner who balances your skills. My advice is to build a really strong team and have a partner to help you where you need it.
How do you choose your locations for your stores? What vibe do you want them to set? What about your inspiration for the Jenni Kayne store aesthetic?
I opened my first store on one of my favorite streets in West Hollywood. At the time, it was very small and quaint. The street was lined with my favorite art galleries and antique shops. The space was a little hole in the wall and I loved that. We took our time building it out and I fell in love with the process. I’m very inspired by architecture and design. I love designing the stores as much as I love filling them. Our aesthetic is a mix of modern, clean, earthy, warm, and classic. After opening the West Hollywood store, we quickly realized the importance of being in a highly trafficked area. In 2012, we opened the Brentwood store. Since then, we have continued opening stores across California. We now have stores in West Hollywood, Brentwood, Newport, Palo Alto, and Montecito.
Tell us about your design process.
I start with a concept for the season, which is often inspired by nature or a place I’ve visited. Once we have a concept, I look for reference photos and create a mood board of images that reflect the concept of the season. I often look at vintage pieces I’ve collected throughout the years for design and fabric inspiration. Then I begin sketching the collection.
How would you describe your personal style? How does LR fit into that?
I have a uniform of clean, classic pieces. I gravitate towards LR’s classic styles in neutral colors because they are timeless and made with care.
We love your relaxed aesthetic. What key pieces do you think every woman needs in her wardrobe?
Jenni Kayne Mules or D’Orsays, a great collared shirt, the perfect cashmere sweater, and a pair of good jeans.
What do you look for in a brand when selecting what to stock in your store?
I select pieces and brands that I love personally. I gravitate towards unique pieces and I love supporting local businesses. I look for brands who can provide a quality piece for our customers that we don’t design ourselves. I also love collaborating with brands. We have some really exciting collaborations in the works for summer!
What/who inspires you? How do you keep your mind fresh + find new ideas season after season?
I am most inspired when I am on vacation or when I’m relaxed at home. Time to myself is important for the creative process.
What is the ethos behind your blog, Rip and Tan?
Rip & Tan began as a place for me to share everything I was inspired by or doing so that my friends could follow along. I have always been the go-to source for tips and recommendations so I finally decided to put it all out there in one place. The blog has grown since then and become a big part of the Jenni Kayne brand, but because of its start, it will always be very personal and authentic to who I am.
Your dinner parties seem so special and intimate. What are your entertaining tips? Any do’s and don’ts?
My friend Annie Campbell gave me a tip that I always follow. She told me to make my guest the first drink but have a recipe card and cocktail station for guests to make their own drinks throughout the night. I love making my guests feel comfortable in my home. I try to be prepared ahead of time so there is no stress once the guests arrive. I like to keep it casual and intimate with good food and good music.
What’s your motto/mantra?
Less is more. Balance is key.
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