We love celebrating strong, successful folk at The Caviar Spoon AKA our #Rebelleboss brands. These are women and men who are owning it in life, work, and everything in between. These are the humans and brands we hunt down not only for inspiration but for killer collaborations. It’s a matchmaker’s dream and these are the brands you “should” know about.
Our newest #rebelleboss is Janet Gordon of Janet Gordon Style based in New York. Having seen a recent collaboration with another #rebelleboss Denise Manning, we were blown away by the designs and story of the lady herself.
Hi! I’m Janet Gordon and I am the designer and founder of my company, Janet Gordon Style, a new American brand of luxury accessories for women of style, substance, and purpose.
I studied costume design at Brandeis University and then moved to NYC. I landed a job assisting Tony award-winning costume designer Willa Kim on the Broadway show, Sophisticated Ladies. Ms. Kim was lovingly referred to as ‘the dragon lady’ for her no-nonsense approach to ‘getting the job done’. I fondly remember being told to get a bathing suit shipped from LA, so that it would arrive by a certain time the next day. Flustered and not knowing exactly how to accomplish that, Ms. Kim stared at me and simply said, “Just do it”. (Perhaps the folks at Nike knew of her!) So, I ‘just did it’ and was forever grateful for the ‘get it done attitude’ I learned that day.
Fully equipped to handle the needs of demanding art directors, I embarked on a successful career as a freelance fashion/photo stylist. My career focus shifted when I no longer had to meet the demands of Madison Avenue, but those of my three sons!
Two of my three sons were born hard of hearing, so I went back to school to become a speech-language pathologist. I earned my Masters from Columbia University, Teachers College. I taught for over twenty years until it became absolutely necessary for my soul’s well-being to create something beautiful.
As a former costume designer and New York City wardrobe stylist, I have always understood how designers pay homage to those from the past to create for the future. Initially, I struggled with the fact that I was a ‘stylist’ not a ‘designer’. But then I read how Coco Chanel once so eloquently quipped, “Only those with no memory, insist on their originality”. Yes! I had THE infamous woman of style, substance, and purpose giving me carte blanche to ‘style’ and create a handbag line inspired by my vast vintage handbag collection.
My brand’s aesthetic is fueled by my passion for the art, music, and fashion icons of the 1960s and 1970s. It is my intent to create a line not to just emulate, but to enhance and elevate personal style, because as I now so eloquently quip, “No style is more powerful than your own”.
Hence introducing my Flare Collection: Wider at one end like the bell-bottoms of my youth, the Flare currently comes in four styles: the Flare, the Slim Flare, the Flare Pouch, and the Flare Luxe featuring our signature lucite handle. Sizes range from micro-mini, mini, midi, and maxi, a nod to the hemlines I wore growing up.
Each bag is masterfully handcrafted in NYC and rendered in either smooth calfskin or exotic skins. I believe a handbag should look good from every angle. Turn it to the side and you will see the beautifully executed construction of our signature bi-color double teardrop. Turn the bag over to find the engraved JG logo on its 18K gold plated protective feet. Look inside to find a full lining in our signature red Ultrasuede® complete with three gusseted pockets – one zip pocket with engraved logo pull, the other two with magnetic closures.
Only one question left to ask: How will you wear your Flare, you #rebelleboss ladies?
When did the AHA moment happen to launch Janet Gordon?
My AHA moment was the day my sister Ilene, showed me a piece of paper with a four-inch square design she had hand-drawn. I took one look at it and said, “What the @!%&*, you did this? I must use this on my handbag!”
She continued to send me more and to date, we have amassed quite a stunning exclusive collection. Each drawing is an intricate, geometric design in kaleidoscopic colors. The possibilities for using them are endless and not just for handbag interiors and exteriors, but for scarves, blouses, dresses, coat linings, not mention home goods, sheets, towels, blankets, dinnerware – but I digress.
It is all so exciting to be creating something with my sister. Up until then, I had been purchasing beautifully embroidered textiles from Spain which of course are readily available to other brands. But these designs were mine and would definitely set my brand apart. I use my sister’s drawings to create overall patterns. Then I work with my leather printing factory to enhance the colors and size the design to be framed like a piece of art deserves to be. Once the line was completed, Janet Gordon Style was launched on June 10, 2018, at the International Polo Event in Greenwich, CT USA.
What is the purpose behind the brand?
To disrupt the luxury handbag market by offering women of style, substance, and purpose a superbly crafted American-made option. Competitively priced, the handbag feature prints exclusively designed for Janet Gordon Style making them a truly unique purchase.
Competition is fierce – how do you remain true whilst standing out?
Your right, the competition is fierce. When looking to buy a high-end handbag, stylish women look to the heritage brands. That’s why I have made sure that the Flare collection is masterfully crafted in NYC by one of the few remaining artisans capable of producing superb quality. It is our hope that we will ‘stand out’ by offering and encouraging our customers to bespoke their Flare handbag. That way they can truly boast owning a one of a kind luxury handbag. Remember my motto: No style is more powerful than your own!
One key business tip that has served you well?
I was told no one will promote your brand better than you. You are the brand, it is your story. Go tell it.
If you could turn back the clock to when you started out, what’s one thing you would change immediately?
I would get everything in writing before writing a cheque! And I would try harder to get a business partner from the get-go. Like all entrepreneurs, I was wearing all the hats: designer, sourcing agent, copywriter, website developer, photographer, setting up the LLC, the business accounts, etc.
While it’s important to understand all you can about the industry you want to be, it is better to recognize where your true talents lie and build a ‘trusted’ team around you to take care of what they know best how to do. But in the beginning, I was all I had.
I began by taking my designs to a factory in NJ who loved my project but knew they couldn’t produce the quality I required. They saw my passion and wanted to help me, so they created relationships on my behalf with factories in China and an R & D team in Korea. The issue was that I wasn’t there, wasn’t ‘allowed’ to directly speak with them and eventually, our communication broke down.
The Jersey factory treated me fairly, and I learned a lot from them about the industry. Again no mistakes, just lessons.
It was my next collaboration that I would change immediately. I was introduced to a factory with a true artisan capable of producing my designs and hardware: in his heyday. I was so green and hungry to see my project take off that I put myself in his hands, believing he was doing right by me. Two and a half years later, with many a written cheque, I walked away from that relationship to begin again. Moral of the story – Do not give up. When you do, it is over. So I didn’t!
How have collaborations helped you grow your brand without overspending
I am currently collaborating with an overseas boutique, Denise Manning London, who is debuting two of my styles for her London audience. Shipping was my only cost – so definitely did not overspend!
There is a brand I would really love to collaborate with – Edie Parker.
I was at a party back in 2011 and talking to a woman about the handbag line I had just started designing. I explained I was inspired by my first vintage bag that I had gotten at a yard sale for 50 cents! It had a lucite handle and a removable cover – three looks in one.
Even though this bag from 1958 was out of production, its hardware was still patented.
So I came up with a new sleek alternative that would auto-align the covers perfectly. This woman, a friend of Brett’s mother, knew of Brett’s love of vintage design and suggested I speak with her. I read about Brett Heyman online, and like me, she wanted to bring back a design she loved that was no longer being produced in America – the lucite clutch. I emailed Brett hoping to pick her brain and share our passion. It was about two years after she first launched her company, and though she responded, she was extremely busy with growing her brand and we did not meet. Recently I noticed the Edie Parker line includes vintage-inspired handbags in other fabrications, not just lucite clutches. I would love to collaborate with the Edie Parker brand and see my geometric patterns in kaleidoscopic colors (designed exclusively for me by my sister, Ilene) on a lucite clutch…
What is your biggest regret? What are you going to do about it (if you haven’t already)
Aaahhh, no regrets, no mistakes, only lessons. It is the only way to view business (and life for that matter) that allows us to keep going. But if I must, I guess I would say my biggest ‘regret’ was not including a sales incentive program when I hired people to help promote my brand.
Has fear stopped you from trying out an idea where you ended up missing an opportunity?
Not so much ‘fear’ unless we include the fear of risking money. So yes – I would say I haven’t participated in as many trade show opportunities as I would have liked, especially overseas.
What are your tricks for calming nerves and maintaining focus before a big moment?
Simple – On the outside – I make sure I choose an outfit that I feel really comfortable in, that I feel is really me. On the inside – I look in the mirror and say, “You got this; you deserve this, now breathe and go have fun!”
What’s one thing you wish people knew or understood about your world?
I’d like people to know that my life’s purpose is to raise awareness and to help end the stigma associated with those living with serious mental health conditions. I am a proud member of the NAMI Southwest Ct Board of Directors, and a teacher of their FREE family education courses. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
According to both the National Institute of Mental Health and the World Health Organization, one in five people will be affected by mental health or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. You are not alone.
I’d very much like to collaborate with other brands to launch a ‘Hope In A Handbag Initiative’ to raise funds for organizations that further an understanding on how to treat and live with serious mental heath conditions, and to give funds to those who are in need of treatment and simply do not have the ability to afford it.
Give us a book that we need to read
Suggesting two – one for your ‘inner beauty’, and one for your ‘outer beauty.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. Life is beautiful. Life is hard. You will get punched in the gut again and again. It will hurt and you will not deserve it. It’s nice to know someone has the answers. Strayed tackles all life’s deepest questions with raw honesty, empathy, humor, and above all else, hope. This is one helluva resilient woman. Brava!
The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garcia. I truly believe this book should be given out to parents when leaving the maternity ward. That’s because I believe every girl deserves to grow into a woman of great style, and every boy should learn how to recognize one!
And Ms. Nina Garcia, if you are reading this, I do hope you will consider choosing one of my handbags to become the 101st piece every stylish woman should own 😉
Ask a question?
Oh, that’s easy! How will you wear your Flare?