Laurette Kittle is this week’s Meet a Mom, and we’re thrilled to feature this Greenwich Mom of two sons, Cody (30) and Henry (27). We love highlighting women who have created “second acts” and are excited to be telling the story of how she started her new business…at 60! Walker&Wade, Laurette’s “beach to table” resort wear line is hand made in Bali and launched a little over 5 years ago. Laurette started Walker&Wade after a 25-year-career in textile design in NYC where she created prints for home products, including fabrics, wall coverings and bedding.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Laurette and her brand manager, Molly Peterson (27)—who also grew up in Riverside and went to Greenwich High School with Laurette’s son Henry—in their colorful, vibrant studio, to learn more about Walker&Wade, and her life in Greenwich.
You worked in textile design for 25 years in New York City—that must have been an amazing experience…
It was a different world back then before Photoshop, so I did all of my colorways and designs by hand. I created home products for large manufacturers such as Waverly, Schumacher, and Martex. It was labor intensive work, but I learned every aspect of the design process.
When I met my husband, he was a freelance adventure travel photographer. He wanted me to have flexibility to travel with him at a moment’s notice. I loved traveling and it was a wonderful source of inspiration for my design work, so with the support of my family and a few good connections I made in the textile business, I ventured out on my own!
I was just married and knew down the road we wanted to start a family, so I started Laurette Design in 1987. The business gave me the flexibility to create my own hours, so I could spend as much time with my boys as possible. I worked all my meetings around their schedule. I was lucky to be so passionate and to feel so fulfilled with work while still never missing out on my boys growing up, which was everything to me and my husband. Looking back, I feel so grateful to have started my first business because it gave me the courage to start something even bigger later in life – my second act, Walker&Wade!
So amazing. Have you always been an artist?
Yes! I’ve always loved to draw, paint and create! I have fond memories of my Dad and I at the kitchen table sculpting extravagant art pieces together. He was a good craftsman and encouraged my creativity. He made me believe any idea was possible with his “let’s do it” mantra. I loved art in high school, and I went to Rhode Island School of Design for college. After graduating, I set my sights on NYC, a mecca for art, and got a job in the Garment District as a colorist right out of college. In those days we had to hand paint our designs with Luma dyes, which is an unforgiving transparent medium. The editing sessions with the head designers were tough, but it led to rapid creative learning. All of the design trial and error at the beginning of my career gave me thick skin – I learned not to be afraid to fail. Mistakes are all part of the creative process!
When did you move to Greenwich?
We moved to Greenwich about 25 years ago, when my oldest started first grade at a beautiful little elementary school called Parkway. Both my kids went there, and we all loved it! My oldest son now lives here in Backcountry and my younger son lives in New York City.
How did you start Walker&Wade?
Walker&Wade started with a kaftan and a family trip to Bali. In between surf sessions and exploring the island, my boys stopped to get custom suits made. Bali has a long tradition of master tailors, so I decided to design a few dresses and beach coverups that I wished I had on the trip. When summer came around, I started wearing them around Greenwich and everyone kept asking where I got them. With the encouragement of my family and friends, I journeyed back to Bali and designed a collection of pieces for the beach lifestyle I know best. The inspiration for my line is to bring a little bit of the beach back home. It’s my “beach-to-table” philosophy!
What is your favorite piece from the collection?
The first piece I designed was the Goddess kaftan. Each Goddess kaftan is made in a 3-step process out of organic butter soft rayon. First, each piece is carefully hand cut and sewn, then individually dip-dyed to achieve the ombre effect. Lastly, each neckline is hand-beaded, creating a scattered sparkle. The women artisans put so much love in each garment they create, and we feel that positive energy gets passed through our clothes to our customers. We love that we get to support these women (in particular, our bead workers) by delivering garments to their homes so they can do the beadwork while they care for their children.
Another one of my favorites is the Kelsey dress. This dress is our number one seller and we now carry it in 8 prints! Our original print is an Ikat design which is very symbolic of the rich Indonesian culture. Each island in Indonesia has their own signature Ikat design that has been passed down for generations.
Where is Walker&Wade sold?
Walker&Wade can be found in select boutiques and resort Hotels around the US and some Caribbean islands. To name a few, you can find us in the Boca Raton Resort in Florida, The Ocean House in Watch Hill RI, The Kemble Shop in Palm Beach, Matilda’s Lifestyle in Stuart FL, Sip Sip in Harbour Island, and many more! We are in about 50 boutiques in total. You can also find us online at www.walkerandwade.com where we are continuously releasing new products! If you are local to the Greenwich area, we are open for private appointments on request, where you can come to our showroom and shop. We love meeting our customers and working with them in person. Sometimes customers will just call us up and come over to update their wardrobe before vacation. We always have Whispering Angel on hand at the showroom and have so much fun styling our friends and customers for their next adventure!
Who is your typical client?
I would say the majority of our customers are aged 35 to 65. In the past year we have expanded and created a kid’s line with adorable dresses that match some of our women’s dresses. The “mommy and me” trend is so popular now, and we love seeing mother daughter duos in Walker&Wade. Regardless of age, though, one thing all of our customers have in common is that they are adventurous, enjoy traveling the world, and they love to look chic and comfortable while doing it!
What’s next for the business?
Our top priority in 2020 is to continue to grow our brand awareness. In 2019 we introduced our Mommy & Me line which has been very well received. For Spring 2020, we are introducing a new “Guest Of” collection of dresses for summer parties and destination weddings in gorgeous chiffons and silks. For next Summer we are working on a menswear resort mini capsule! My sons Cody and Henry have been pushing for this since we started the business. This was a big reason we did not want to just use my name Laurette for our brand name, because we knew that we did not want to confine ourselves to women’s wear. We knew down the line that we wanted to create the whole vacation package. Our goal is to continue to create comfy, lightweight and easy to pack brightly colored pieces that speak our motto, “Everyday should be a beach day!”