Interviews / People

What’s In Your Bag: Wendy Brandes

1. Chanel Lipstick 2. Passport 3. iphone with her Mr. Fitz case 4. Mirror 5. Prada Wallet 6. Prada business Card case 7. Metro Card 8. Work related stuff.

What’s your biggest accomplishment? Winning Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award for fine jewelry in 2012 was a huge thrill. As a designer, you work so hard and then wonder, “Will anyone like or appreciate this?” To have designers and other industry people say, “Good job” means a lot. I was on a panel with some of the other Rising Star winners a few months later and when asked what the award meant to them, everyone said, “Validation!”

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned since starting your career? You can’t plan for all circumstances. You have to be able to go with the flow.

What’s your advice to someone interested in starting their own business? You know how people say it takes 10 years to be an overnight success? That’s not a joke or an exaggeration. It’s real!

Where do you receive inspiration? From two polar-opposite sources: medieval history and 21st-century social media.

How does one make it in the jewelry industry? That 10-year/overnight success rule means I have two more years before I can report back on that!

Do you feel your life is balanced between work life + personal life? I think that when you’re doing something creative and entrepreneurial, you never shut it off. Everything is inspiration, everything gives you ideas for new opportunities. I’m fine with that. It’s enjoyable. It’s not like bringing home a ton of paperwork from a job you’re not emotionally invested in.

Wendy purchased this Louis Vuitton bag in Paris in 2011

Wendy purchased this Louis Vuitton bag in Paris in 2011

I know last year you had the issue of big retailers stealing your designs. What were your first thoughts when this happened, and how do you feel about big retailers stealing from independent designers? Let me tell you — if you tell an emerging designer that imitation is the highest form of flattery, you’re risking a slap upside the head. We’ve put blood, sweat, tears and a lot of money into making our work and promoting our work. We often haven’t made a cent back when some big company sends a picture to China or India and makes a quick and dirty version. Not only do we not make any money — we don’t get any publicity. If you’re an emerging designer whose name isn’t really known outside a small circle, no one looks at the knockoff and says, “Oh, that’s obviously a Wendy Brandes.” They think, “Topshop has good ideas!” Christina Binkley of the Wall Street Journal wrote a great story called “The Problem With Being a Trendsetter” in 2010. It describes the designer of Otrera scarves. One of her retailers stopped ordering her scarves in favor of knockoffs from an overseas manufacturer. The designer said, “I’m not Louis Vuitton. It’s not like whens someone buys a Raj scarf that they know it’s an Otrera knockoff.” Plus the value of our original work is degraded because now that look is “everywhere” and “cheap.” I really gained an understanding of why big luxury houses like Vuitton and Chanel put so much effort into blocking knockoffs and counterfeits, even though it’s a Sisyphean task. Before I was in business for myself, I thought, like other people, “Why do they bother? Everyone knows the originals are the best quality.” Now I realize that the consumer only understands the value of those brands because of the effort they put into protecting their images.


What is your indispensable gadget: I have my iPhone with me all the time, but I think I’m more dependent on my MacBook Air. I do a lot of writing for my blog and the Huffington Post, and I can’t do long-form writing on a virtual keypad. So I value a regular computer even more a phone or a tablet.
What’s your favorite app? I can’t stop checking Instagram lately, specifically for the #exoticshorthair and #pekingese hashtags. I adore flat-faced cats and dogs.
What’s your favorite account to follow on Twitter: How do pick one out of 2,500? For retailers, @bergdorfs is great. They have the perfect tone: sassy but professional. For industry news, @JCKMagazine. Also @FitzRoyBrandes. Yes, that’s my flat-faced cat’s Twitter and he’s very entertaining!
What’s your favorite item in your closet: That is always changing. My favorite right this second is my faux-ostrich-feather chubby jacket by my friend, designer Stacy Lomman. People stop me on the street when I wear it. And I know this sounds perverted, but I’ve always wanted a “chubby”

To learn more about Wendy, follow her on twitter, read her blog and of course shop Wendy Brandes store.

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