I love wearing Walker & Wade because it supports one of my best friends, Laurette Kittle, who I’ve known for 30 years! I also love her husband, Kit, an incredible photographer — you can follow him on instagram, too. Some trivia – his dad and my dad went to college together! Here’s the story of how she started her business…at 60! AND she’s giving Wake-Up Call readers 20% off her cute summer frocks with the special code, katie20, until July 31st! So make sure to take a look at her beautiful designs and then read our conversation below!
Katie Couric: I’m so proud of you! You started this company when you were 60 and it’s going gangbusters. How did the idea for Walker&Wade (your sons’ middle names!) come about?Laurette Kittle: 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 my home town 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!
Katie: You’ve always been so creative, Laurie. Tell everyone about your background...
Laurette: Color and design have always been my passion. Since I was a little girl, I loved to draw and the 64-pack of Crayola Crayons was my treasured possession. I was a fine arts major at the Rhode Island School of Design. After college, I worked in New York City in textiles design for over 20 years, designing fabrics for Waverly and Schumacher. My work evolved into a small company, Laurette Designs, creating home product designs for large manufacturers. When everything moved overseas to China, it was back to the drawing board for my career.
Katie: What have been some of the big challenges starting your own business?
Laurette: Inventory! We make a limited number of pieces for each style and you can never know what’s going to fly off the shelf. Building relationships with dependable manufacturers and mastering the supply chain is key.
Katie: All of your clothes are made in Bali, so you travel there regularly. What has that been like?
Laurette: Enchanting. Bali has an ancient Hindu, mystical-culture that permeates every aspect of daily life on the island. The art, religion, architecture and traditions cannot be separated from one another. Beyond the surreal natural beauty, we are blessed to work with 12 amazing women bead workers coming from a long lineage of Balinese artisans. Most families don’t have cars, so we deliver and pick up the garments, giving our hard working mothers more time to spend at home their kids. There are always young children laughing and playing around the shop. Not to mention, chickens, dogs and monkeys running around the surrounding jungle. Honestly, I cry every time I leave.
Katie: This isn’t your second act, it’s your third act. What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own businesses?
Laurette: Most people, including myself, have no idea how to start their own business. You have to learn by doing and not let fear of the unknown stop you. Start with why. At W&W, we make beautiful, bright clothing because we believe every woman is a goddess. Find your why and everything else will follow. Think global and act local. We have customers all over the world today but started very small with friends and family. Even 5 years into the business, I’m constantly on the road selling clothes hand to hand at trunk shows and sharing our story with new customers. Understand your customer base. Focus on how you can serve them in new and exciting ways. Finally, if you have a story and a passion, take every opportunity to share it with the world.
Katie: Thanks so much, Laurie!