Posts tagged interview

Interview with the woman behind le larc

Q&A With Janette of Simone & KoZ

image of Simone & KoZ weekender bag

I had the privilege to spend a little time with Janette Simone of Simone & KoZ Handbags the other week. I learned a lot about Janette and her unique leather products. For starters, the mission behind her high quality, handcrafted designs is to provide women the opportunity to be noticed wearing a unique one-of-kind bag.  Here is some additional insight I gathered!

StyleBust: How did the concept of Simone & KoZ come about?

Janette Simone: This is a bit of ‘an out of the ordinary’ story. I was unfulfilled working in a conventional role in Australia so I took a quantum leap by immigrating to California where I ‘gave birth’ to my company Simone & KoZ. Being a lover of all things animal hide, I collaborated with a designer and created a collection of handbags that push the boundaries combining the traditional with the outrageous while remaining beautiful and timeless. I recognized a niche where I could provide women with a completely unique, animal hide handbag that assures individuality and exclusivity.

SB: Is your background in the fashion/accessories industry?

JS: Other than being an avid fashion consumer with an eye for detail and style, I do not have direct lineage to the fashion industry. This is a newly created part of my life journey which allows me the pleasure of offering women another way to express their wild side by accessorizing with animal hide handbags. My handbags are a conversation piece; they are also functional and designed to accommodate a woman’s lifestyle needs.

SB: Describe your current collection.

JS: Handbags are not just a fashion statement anymore. So, my collection is designed to be large, sturdy and functional to support the many needs of today’s lifestyles. Currently, my focus is on three sizes of goat-hair/leather bags. The ‘My Everything’ handbag – aptly named because it’s a basic part of my everyday toting essentials that easily carries my iPad and so much more. I love the ‘Overnight Desires’ cabin bag because it’s an easy, throw-everything-in bag for those quick (romantic?) weekend getaways and the ‘Travel With Me’ bag is a superb weekender that is large enough to pack everything you could possible need. I can’t forget the ‘Me & You’ that is just a fun, cross-body, non-gender specific satchel with room for you iPad that appeals to everyone.

SB: Where can we buy your bags?

JS: I’m selling my bags at Wonderland SF, Shoes for the Stars in LA, and at

SB: How is your line different than the average handbag lines out there?

JS: Each bag is unique; no two are alike and no one will have the same bag as you. You will have to endure a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as people will literally cross the street to compliment you and ask all sorts of questions about your handbag. That will be your price to pay for having a keen eye for fashion and choosing a completely unique handbag that inspires you. I would have to say that if you don’t want or like attention, it’s probably best not to buy my bags! (big smile)

image of Simone & KoZ Yopu and Me Satchel

image of Simone & KoZ The Everything Bag

SB: Are you manufacturing your products locally?

JS: No, my products are manufactured off shore. I care about the off shore local artisans who manufacture my products and donate a portion of my profits back to their community.

SB: What types of women respond to your line well?

JS: Most women consider their handbags to be a staple wardrobe item. Statistics show that on average, women bought 3 handbags per year and own 7 or more handbags. My exquisite handbags appeal to a broad demographic of women (and men). Specifically, those who like to be noticed wearing trendy, exclusive, fashionable accessories that are on the ‘edge’ and that aren’t necessarily available to the masses. My customers expect to purchase an eye-catching, conversation-starting handbag and demand a well made, quality product. Women want a handbag that supports and assures their uniqueness and exclusivity. My customers have an appreciation for animal hide accessories and want to make an investment in their personal style with a unique handbag. They won’t compromise when it comes to being noticed and standing out in a crowd. It has been said that we may like clothes, makeup and love shoes, but we are addicted to HANDBAGS!

SB: What are the challenging parts of starting your own line?

JS: Probably the biggest challenge has been the shift from thinking like an employee to thinking like a business owner and realizing that all decisions lay with me – right or wrong! Effectively managing my time and resources means I have to strategize constantly depending upon which ‘hat’ I’m wearing at any given moment. It’s challenging to keep everything in balance and to find time to complete tasks while working on growing my business. Fortunately, I am persistent and happy with my chosen profession. I don’t see failure as an option.

SB:  Who are the handbag designers you admire, and what about those designers/designs stand out to you?

JS: Alexander Wang, Prada, Fendi, Burberry, Balenciaga I could go on…..they all exude luxury, fashion and style. How often do you see something like a special edition Swarovski encrusted crystal handbag designed by Chanel? It’s the exciting, outrageous designs and intricate details these designers incorporate into their products that get my attention.

SB: What is you favorite trend of the season?

JS: I like the strappy wedges – you know, the sky-high ones that boost you above the crowd (for height challenged women like me, they’re perfect). Combine the shoes with a print pencil skirt or maxi dress layered with bangles and of course all the great new takes on animal print to create a bold and edgy look. Round it all off with your leather motorcycle jacket….in white! Ultimately, fashion is an individual thing and whatever makes you feel good.

SB: When you’re not working, what are you doing?

JS: Hmm, it feels like I’m always enjoyably working one way or another. I often say that my vocation is my vacation. When I actually do put time aside, I regenerate by being near the ocean.

Interview With The Inspirare Team

image f Inspirare logoInspirare is a local brand that helps expose new fashion designers to shoppers through an exclusive eCommerce shopping experience. *Bonus, designers who sell their goods on Inspirare get fully funded by Inspirare. The site was founded last month, by Sean Peng. I sat down with Sean to get more insight on this innovative concept. Inspirare team members Kate Blank and Anne McEnroe also chimed in to answer a few questions below.

Where did the idea of Inspirare come from?
Over the last few years I noticed many flash sale sites growing rapidly, I wondered how we can use social platform to promote creativity and maintain the value of the product, rather than just bringing consumers discounted merchandise. The last 12 months I’ve been fine tuning this idea of connecting creativity and consumers. This is how the Inspirare model was born. I wanted to build a solid platform for talented, emerging designers to connect with their customer directly. Providing an umbrella company assures both consumers and designers consistent branding, quality and a consistent experience.

How does it work?
Inspirare’s Discover page provides an online network that allows fashion designers to share their designs and reach a worldwide audience at no cost. This community gives members the opportunity to vote and give feedback on work, allowing talented designers and their creative designs to get discovered. The Inspirare team then takes on all the tasks of getting the designs made here in San Francisco, selling online to consumers who seek original designs and support creativity.

What makes Inspirare different from other eCommerce sites?
Inspirare is really unique; it’s different from other fashion eCommerce sites in that it does not limit creativity. Within women’s wear, designers can upload just about any type of design, design submission is free. Also, it’s not limited to predetermined options. For example select 1) A shape, and 2) A color and you have your ‘designed’ end product. Our products are genuinely designed from start to finish, by our Designer members. Designers simply upload their sketch or sample, and we work with them to make it into production.
Also, Inspirare is building a solid launchpad for emerging talents by providing 100% production funding and by managing everything from manufacturing, photo shoots, quality control, consumer fulfillment and support. Both the consumer and designer will have a consistent, high quality experience, ensuring longevity of the designer and satisfaction of the customer.

In your opinion, why should fashion designers work with Inspirare?
We feel we’ve really addressed many of the major obstacles limiting the emergence of new designers. One of the major risks is of course financial. It can be difficult for new talents to find the capital that is required to fund the production, promotion and sale of a collection before any money has come back into their label. By working with Inspirare, Designers get the production of their design 100% funded, so they take no risk but still receive a royalty on all of their sales.
Secondly, the royalty payments are, as mentioned above, generous. A designer can earn from 10% to 20% of the gross sales of each garment sold as well as one off Effort Bonuses.
Third, Inspirare takes care of all of the production, logistics and customer support, which can often be difficult to master in those early stages of label’s development when there are so many areas you need to juggle. Designers can really focus on fine tuning their craft and staying creatively focused, rather than spending 70% of their time tending to administrative, financial and operational details.

How did you pick San Francisco as your manufacturing base?
San Francisco was once one of the major apparel manufacturing cities in the US. As more and more people turned to mass produced clothing and outsourced to Asia, the apparel factories here sharply declined. Currently there is a hint of a reemergence in the area and it’s something that we want to be a part of and support the regrowth of jobs in this specialty industry in San Francisco.
Local production also gives us an opportunity to make smaller runs of unique products. We can closely monitor the quality of our goods and ensure fast turnaround times, getting the most popular designs in store and to the consumer quickly. Developing an efficient online model ensures that we can absorb the higher, local production costs.

Are there any special tips & tricks for designer submissions?
Kate Blank (Director of Fashion Design at Inspirare): Presentation and an individualistic style that runs throughout. I really love when I go to the designer behind a submission, take a look through their profile, and find a clear and concise representation of what they are all about. It’s all about the details.

What can consumers do to help Inspirare succeed?
Anne McEnroe (Part of the Fashion Design team at Inspirare): The success of any business depends on getting the word out there. Telling others about us, becoming a member of the Inspirare community though our website and shopping at our online store are several ways consumers can help us grow. Inspirare is not just about manufacturing and selling clothes. It’s about supporting emerging designers, keeping manufacturing local, and creating a quality marketplace for San Francisco fashion. We believe that our success is everyone’s success, and that’s worth sharing!

Tell us about the Inspirare Design Competition.
Kate Blank (Director of Fashion Design at Inspirare): It’s a really exciting opportunity for designers to win some amazing prizes but more importantly, receive some incredible media exposure and get their name out there. We are on the hunt for a stand out women’s wear design to be the first listed for sale on the Inspirare online shop. We are going to make their design into a product, sell it, promote it and as always, share the profit with the designer. The garment and the talent behind it will benefit from the huge advertising and marketing push that will be in place during our Shop Launch phase. It’s a really great opportunity for someone just starting out. On top of that, there are also some amazing prizes for both the 1st place winner and 29 runners up.

Who can apply for the Design Competition?
Kate Blank (Director of Fashion Design at Inspirare): Anyone who is creative and designs women’s wear. It is aimed at non-professional, emerging design talents so we have left it quite open as far as who can enter. We aren’t accepting garments that have been produced and sold, because we really want to see something new and fresh. The idea of Inspirare is to give a leg up to new designers. We really want to discover someone amazing and feel that this competition will help them on their road to success.

Interview with Alp Sagnak of Atelier Minyon

Once, years ago when I was in Mexico, I saw a yellow gold paperweight in the shape of a skull, about the size of someone’s fist, with diamonds for eyes and shiny as all get-up.  Who needs a gold and diamond encrusted skull paperweight?  Nobody.  Who desperately wants a gold and diamond encrusted skull paperweight?  Me.  My interest in the skull came as a total shock since I am not into the macabre, but for some reason I was captivated how an object that is generally considered grim was transformed into something attractive.  When I discovered that Stylebust was invited to a trunk show on February 18 at Gallery of Jewels on Fillmore Street to interview Alp Sagnak, the designer behind the line Atelier Minyon, I jumped at the opportunity because, as I discovered, Alp has a profound affinity for skulls.  Viewing his collection brought me back to that market in Mexico.  Although many pieces from Atelier Minyon appear to have a dark side, with Alp’s craftmanship and passion for making beautiful objects, the pieces are somehow transformed into something quite charming.  Nothing is mass produced, so you can be sure that the item you are wearing will be a definite attention getter.

image of Atelier Minyon Triple Skull

What about the jewelry design industry has changed the most in the last 5 years?  So when you’re asking this question you have to know that the whole jewelry design industry is concentrated on bridal collections, especially in the United States.  Ninety-nine percent is completely out of bridal because that’s the thing that everybody buys.  But we are the other jewelry designers that are not targeting that market.  It is a very niche market, a very small market, and everybody is so good, and in the past five years I think the designers were a little bit afraid to put money into the new collections and to express what they were feeling because they couldn’t make money.  So, they had to change the metals they were working with, they had to change the stones they were working with.  It was a challenge, I think.  But in the past five years, whoever was still creative and still brave enough to introduce new things, i think now they are having those advantages.

How do you remain inspired during a creative block?  Let’s say I went to Susanna Segal [manager of Gallery of Jewels] to sell my product and she said, “No, this is not for us.”  Then you get so angry and you try to make something that would prove them wrong, so most of what you see from this trunk show is coming from this anger.  For the last three years, it has been like that for me.  I’ve always thought that there are a lot of great designers that you have to compete with, and when I see someone doing something better than me, it makes me angry.  So that is the answer to this question.  Anger – you always have to compete and it is such a fun process.

What is the least favorite part of your job?  The cash flow, I think.  If an artist, if you call me an artist, cannot find the money that needs to be used for the other collection, then you cannot produce.  Especially when you’re working with gold or precious stones, those kind of things, they all need money to make new things.  For example, let’s say I believed in this cable [points to a cell phone charger] that it would sell and I made this cable and it didn’t sell – that’s the least favorite part because first of all, you failed, and second, you could have used that money that you allocated for this cable to another cable, or the plug.

Describe your jewelry in one word.  Awesome.  No, no, I’m changing it.  Sexy.  That is, for some reason, my mission, really.  I love sexy women, and I think our jewelry makes them sexier.  Or, if someone else were to say that whenever I put any of your pieces on and I felt stronger, that would make me so happy.

The person I respect most is… a self-confident person because the self-confidence would allow others to see who really he or she is.  He or she doesn’t have to play or try to be someone else.  Let’s say I am a plumber.  If I am self-confident with being a plumber, first of all I know that I can do the job right, and if I’m a plumber I’m not trying to be the President of the United States, I am a real person.  There are a lot of people in New York that are trying to show themselves as more than who they are, that’s why I think they are not confident in themselves, but a self-confident person doesn’t have to act like someone else.

What is your biggest weakness?  Ego — I want everybody to love what I do.

Name one thing that your jewelry business does that you think no one else does.  I think we are so much faster than everybody else with introducing new collections, which might be wrong, speaking as a business person.  I think we are moving so fast and the reason is that we are new to the United States market.  We are trying to expand as fast as we can, but it needs time for a company to be known by a couple of different looks that they would say, “Oh, this is classic Atelier Minyon.”  I think it takes time, and it needs depth.  That’s why I think we are moving so fast.

I’m jealous of… sometimes other jewelry designers, if they do something better than we do, but the jewelry business is not my whole entire world.  I am jealous of live performers.  I envy when I see someone acting onstage, or singing onstage, because I would want to be them, if I had the chance.  I never took the time to concentrate on that, but I would love to be on stage.

Five years from now… I hope I’m still alive.  And I want everybody to know what we are doing.  I want to be the most successful brand in the jewelry industry.

image of atelier Minyon Serpent Cuff

image of atelier Minyon Baroque Pearl Ring

image of Atelier Minyon Black Diamond Skull Cuff

*image source: Atelier Minyon

Q and A with SF Based Fashion Designer Jess Lindgren

Nikki Lindgren in clothing by Jess LindgrenI’ve been fortunate enough to know Jess Lindgren for all my life since she’s my older sister. I have fond memories of putting on fashion shows in our backyard as young girls. It’s been a lot of fun to watch her grow into the stylist and designer she is today with her self titled label Jess Lindgren. She’s gives me a lot of outfit advice, helpful pointers, and recaps of the best fashion trends. I can’t even begin to count the number of times she’s outfitted me for parties and events.

Here are a couple of questions and answers with Jessi Lindgren, my sister.

Style Bust: How did you get into fashion design?

It kind of just happened. I’ve always been into clothing, but actually designing and making clothes started a few years back when my parents gave me a sewing machine for Christmas. Since then I’ve been making clothing for my sister and myself. Anytime we have an event or family function to attend I make our dresses!

But, I used to make clothes for my Barbie’s – maybe you could say my interest in fashion design started back then!

Style Bust: What is your philosophy on fashion?

I’m a believer in wearing the old with the new. Trends can be very uniform looking which is why I love mixing a trend with something classic or vintage. Mixing adds a little character and personality to an outfit. Though, I’d say above anything else, its most important to wear whatever makes you feel good!

Style Bust: Where and what did you study in college?

I took some classes at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Upon learning how awesome San Diego was, I transferred to FIDM in San Diego and studied Merchandise Marketing.

Style Bust: Are you working on your fashion line full-time? If not, what else do you do for work?

Unfortunately for me, designing clothes doesn’t pay the bills. You’ll find me at the Woodhouse Fish Co. most days, serving some amazing lobster rolls and other seafood goodies! And you can read my weekly blog posts right here at

Style Bust: What’s your favorite part about designing?

It’s really rewarding to have an idea, buy some fabric and in the end be able to say, “wow, I actually made this!”. It’s exciting to see someone wearing your designs!

Style Bust: Describe the collection you’ll be showing at the Give Back Gala.

I’m designing a resort-wear collection that has a bohemian vibe. And for once, you’ll see NO black!

Style Bust: What inspired this collection?

My inspiration for the color story comes from a photograph my boyfriend took on our drive back from Stanislaus Forest. It just finished raining and the colors were absolutely gorgeous. As far as my designs go, I was inspired by rockstar girlfriends from the 70’s (Bianca Jagger, Francoise Hardy, Jane Birkin – you get the picture).

Style Bust: Why should people come out and see your work at this show?

I don’t think anyone should attend the Give Back Gala just to see my collection, I think people should come out and support two great charities and see some extremely talented and hard-working designers!

Style Bust: How can people learn more about your designs?

You can visit my website: Jess Lindgren (thanks to Nicole and Tyler for hooking me up)! Or email me [email protected]

Interview with Sacramento Based Fashion Designer Tiana Vega

Tiana Vega

Tiana Vega is my favorite thing about Sacramento, California. She is upbeat and a ton of fun to be around. Her personality comes through in her unique self titled clothing line Tiana Vega. I’m looking froward to working with her for the upcoming Give Back Gala fashion show.

Here’s a couple of questions and answers with Tiana.

Style Bust: How did you get into fashion design?

I have always had an eye for fashion. My infatuation in the fashion industry stems from my the early years of my childhood so I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. After high school I attended FIDM where I got my degree and have been working freelance ever since!

Style Bust: What did you think about the fashion school experience?

I attended FIDM in Los Angeles to obtain my degree in fashion design, my experience there was nothing short of amazing! I met a lot of great people who I still keep in contact with! It’s always fun to see what everyone else is doing with their experiences they’ve gained after school!

Style Bust: Are you working on your fashion line full-time?

Yes I am. This is my job…I eat, breath and live for designing! I couldn’t see be happier doing anything else.

Style Bust: How long have you been designing fashion as an independent designer?

I have been designing fashion as an independent designer for about 2 years now.

Style Bust: Describe the collection you’ll be showing at the Give Back Gala.

The collection has a 1940’s flair with intricate beading and beautiful style and cuts in each piece.

Style Bust: What inspired this collection?

This collection is actually inspired by my grandmother who passed away in November, I was close with her and so losing her was pretty hard on me and my family…but I decided to use her sense of elegant and graceful style to inspire me to create a beautiful collection dedicated to her and the beautiful woman she was.

Style Bust: What inspired this collection?

Well this collection has a fresh new take on the following seasons coming up, so if you’re a fashionista and you are always looking for new and exciting fashion forward pieces, than coming out to the fashion is a must!

Style Bust: What have been some of your biggest accomplishments as a designer?

One of my biggest accomplishments was when I teamed up with a nonprofit know as Sweet Dreams Foundation and produced one of the largest fashion shows in Sacramento, raising a good amount of not only publicity for our charity but the money they needed to help a local child get the remodeled room she had always wanted.

Style Bust: Where can people find out more about your collection?

To learn more about me and my designs you can go to my website at

Q and A with SF Based Fashion Designer Jennifer Ly

Jennifer Ly Fashion Sketches
Jennifer Ly Sketches

I’ve been working with Jennifer Ly over the past couple months in preparation to the Give Back Gala, which she will be participating in as a designer. I’ve asked her a couple of quick questions to help our readers get to know here before the big event!

Style Bust: How did you get into fashion design?

Completely by chance, although I’ve always been interested in fashion even at the earliest age of my life. I actually majored in Computer Science before deciding to pursue fashion.

Style Bust: Where did you study, and what did you think about the fashion school experience?

I studied at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. My school experience was fast and intense. My teachers were amazing and pointed me in the right direction to reach my full creative potential. I really owe a lot of what I’ve accomplished in my career to me stepping stones at FIDM.

Style Bust: You’re working full-time at Gap Inc. Can you tell us a little bit about your role there?

I’m currently a Designer for OLD NAVY. I design all the denim and woven bottoms for girls ages 5-16. I design all silhouettes, washes and finishes, and manage all product from development to production.

Style Bust: How long have you been designing fashion as an independent designer?

I haven’t been designing fashion as an independent designer at all. Upon graduating from FIDM I got several freelance design gigs and never really had the time to focus on my own work. This collection is my first I’ve ever done.

Style Bust: Describe the collection you’ll be showing at the Give Back Gala.

My collection is playful and quaint. I love the use of clean lines with a variety of textures and mixed symmetry. The color palette is soft with tones of white, grey, blk and mauve.

Style Bust: What inspired this collection?

The collection was inspired by whimsical winter snow. I was inspired by 70’s silhouettes and early roman body adornment.

Jennifer Ly Fashion Design
Jennifer Ly Designs
Jennifer Ly Transit

Interview with Indu Arora of RockChiq

RockChiq designer Indu AroraIndu Arora is an established designer in South Bay who makes very high quality, tailored women’s clothing under the label RockChiq. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her during this year’s Give Back Gala, which will be held on April 2nd at the J.W. Marriott in San Francisco.

I spent some time with Indu for an interview, enjoy!

Style Bust: How did you get into fashion design?

I was artistic and sketchy form young age, that’s when my mother taught me how to sew. My elementary/middle school back in India had students from almost all parts of world. I remember a student named Uday from Africa, Arman from Iran, Urmi from London. At this school we had a global fashion scene in one place. My Passion for fashion developed at young age.

Style Bust: Where and what did you study in college?

I am self-taught in this discipline. Back in India; where I come from, I was majoring in medicine. I went through a career change into fashion when I came to USA.

Style Bust: Are you working on RockChiq full-time?

Yes I am working full-time for fashion although this line is financially supported by my parent company Indu Fashion Services Inc. A California corporation providing designing and production services to other start-ups.

Style Bust: How long have you been designing as an independent fashion designer?

I have designed for the past 3 years.

Style Bust: You are an established Bay Area designer, tell us about your journey.

I migrated to USA in 1998 after getting married. As I mentioned earlier, I was majoring in medicine back in India. That same year, the HBO show Sex and the City aired its first season, and I instantly fell in love with the fashion scene of the sitcom. It was so inspiring I made up my mind to chase my passion for fashion and take it to next level.

I started freelancing my designs to independent clients. One day a client on the East Coast called and asked me to handle their denim line. I accepted the project. By this time, I had made few connections back in India with manufacturers and such. That started my parent company Indu Fashion Services Inc. Today I have 8-10 steady clients whose entire line of clothing from sampling to production is handled by me.

That became the base of financing for my Ready to Wear line for women under the brand name RockChiq which launched in year 2008. I roll out two collections annually during the Summer and Fall. I am placing myself in Boutiques in and around Bay area since last year . The response has been good and I am getting buyers attention. I’ve recently been invited to take part in the FOCUS Apparel & Accessories Show as an emerging brand. This show goes hand in hand with LA Fashion Week.

RockChiq Black Dresses

Style Bust: Why should people come out and see your work at this show?
This collection is all about high end evening dresses and gowns.

Style Bust: What inspired this collection?
The inspiration for this collection is basically San Francisco fashion crowd. We see such crowds in many small and big fashion shows all around SF Bay area. High end social events and parties such as those hosted by Trendy Lime are good examples of my inspiration. In a timely fashion some of the very high-end parties and events. I always add to my clients list every time I have attended their parties.

Style Bust: Style Bust: Why should people come out and see your work at this show?

My designs are very tailored high-end look .I put my passion into it. If any one is looking for high end sophisticated, colorful eclectic evening dresses and gowns; this is the collection to see as you will find something for yourself.

Style Bust: Where can people find your clothing?

My collection sis visible online at On my ecommerce site: Pink Weave. They can buy it at four stores where I am retailing from RAGS CO-OP and LOFT in SF, Isabellas’s boutique in Sunnyvale, Ayurvastram in Los Altos.

Check out Indu’s interview on Joonbug Glam Damn It!
RochChiq by Indu Arora

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