Foreword by: Danae Edmonds
I recently realized this amazing interview from our May 2014 issue never made it to our website by some super unintentional injustice and immediately wanted to rectify the situation. Besides being an amazing and interesting writer and artist, Taryn St. Michele is a beautiful person inside and out. Her passion for what she creates is undoubtable and apparent with everything she touches! (…pretty sure it all turns to gold;)) For those of you who were already introduced to Taryn, I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do and are looking forward to a second time. For those of you who missed it on the first go ’round, without further adieu, Taryn St. Michele.
Name: Taryn St. Michele
Job Title/Company: Founder, Taryn St. Michele
Education Background: San Diego State University
1. How did your brand begin?
Hold on to your jewel encrusted collars because Taryn St. Michele began in a very unexpected way. It all started behind a blandly colored fabric cubicle on the 11th story of a corporate office. Not even a hint of the pastel, feminine flair my brand evokes. In fact I created my store out of a desperate desire to live a prettier, more adventurous life. A life just like my Pinterest. I would spend endless hours scrolling through my feed asking, “How can I create this as my daily world?, How can I make these lovely photos become my reality?”
I booked a trip to London and Paris and that is where the feverish drive to make this brand happen took flight. Both cities have such magnetic creative energy it’s nearly impossible to walk the streets without feeling it. My first two photos were taken on this trip and I realized I had something great. While editing the photos, I experienced a kiss of creativity: The Lippy Lippy print. That was it! Taryn St. Michele was born. I took my first step towards bringing the dreamy vision boards I had created to life. The doors of Taryn St. Michele opened with just a lip print and a Chanel photo. Or what I like to say, “A kiss from Coco.”
2.What were your initial goals and how have they evolved?
In the beginning, setting goals and creating expectations for my store was not the primary focus. I was solely driven by my passionate desire to bring to life the fanciful ideas that were prancing throughout my brain. One, two, even three months went by without a single sale. I constantly fought off doubt and insecurity that was aiming to pop my pastel daydream bubbles. I kept going, added a few more designs and after five months of being in business, with only a handful of sales, I received an email from West Elm and Mrs. Lilien requesting my participation in their Pop-Up shop event. That’s when things began to take off and my designs evolved into what they are now.
The college courses I took didn’t necessarily equip me with the skills needed to open my store. However, Freshman English introduced me to the deliciously romantic, witty world of Jane Austen. This discovery opened up a whole new imaginary space for me. Mr. Darcy, the English countryside, London and Pemberley were happy thoughts indeed! Absolutely necessary skills for embarking on any career.
As the vision for Taryn St. Michele began to grow, I taught myself the skills I needed to create my designs. I took some online classes through Lynda.com and various other sites. Lynda is really an exceptional resource! Most importantly I began researching other designers and creative personalities to discover what their beginnings looked like. Think JK Rowling, Grace Coddington… I became a documentary junky. Still am! Those studies sessions were the most empowering.
4. What was your first job out of college and how long did you hold that position?
I left college early and began working for an upscale fashion retailer. I probably stayed there for about four years before I decided it was time to move on. Breaking up with an employee discount was hard to do.
5. What advice would you give your 25 year-old self?
In the words of Edna Mode, “I never look back darling, it distracts from the now.” A conversation with my 25 year-old self is not something I think I’d enjoy. She’s a little crazy and still listens to NSYNC.
6. What is a typical day like for you?
Typically my day begins with one of my morning mantras, “Today is going to be a great day!” or I’ll ask myself some empowering questions like “What do I want to accomplish today?” or “How can I make today better than yesterday?” These are especially helpful on bad hair days and anytime the sun isn’t out. Next, I’ll workout for about an hour, get dressed, answer emails, ship out orders, work on new designs and search for creative inspiration. The never-ending, always exhilarating hunt for inspiration is my absolute favorite part of the day!
7. What was the biggest obstacle you faced while pursuing your dreams?
There are always obstacles that come up during this entire pursuit. Some small, some big but I’d say the single biggest challenge I face is myself. The mean girl in my mind can really talk some smack and kick up an awfully dirty doubt filled dust cloud. It’s not pretty! Changing my thoughts, focusing on the positive, stating what I want and pushing through the weak moments has helped tremendously. And shopping. Retail therapy really does work!
I truly find inspiration everywhere. Whether it’s the latest spread in Vogue or the happy wildflowers lining a road, I’m always keeping my eye out for anything that sparks my creativity and ignites a wildfire of design ideas. Also, listening to the success stories of others inspires me. It keeps me thinking, “If they can do it, I can do it!”
9. What keeps you motivated?
Seeing my entire vision become a reality is what keeps me motivated. There really are pretty little thoughts dancing in my head and that’s what drives me. My prints and photos are just the beginning!
10. When do you get your best ideas?
Odd but true, my best ideas have come during a night of restless sleep. The madness of insomnia can produce some pretty fabulous ideas. Also, traveling has a way of renewing my creative brain. It’s always refreshing to explore new places.
11. What does your ideal workspace look like?
White walls with parisian moulding, herringbone floors, pastel party dresses on a rolling rack, a large gold Louis XV mirror and a fluffy white bunny hopping around.
12. How do you unwind?
This doesn’t happen often but a warm bath helps me relax and unwind.
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