I’m so excited for today’s Stripe Talk feature. Not only is Natalie Holst (the designer + brain behind HOLST + LEE) a close personal friend, she’s also one of the coolest and most creative people I’ve ever met. The first time we ever met was to shoot our first series of designer DIY projects (we made this tassel necklace + these earrings.) She picked me up in her bright blue truck and we drove to her studio in Brooklyn. She was wearing her vintage floral dress backwards because it looked cooler and immediately offered me a mimosa, because crafts are better with champagne. I knew we were going to be fast friends. Over the last couple years we’ve gotten to know each other better and have had some of my favorite nights (always with Alex.) And we’ve made two more projects (these hoop earrings + this bag charm!) Read on for a fun + inspiring interview. Natalie has one of the most interesting backgrounds (and shares some amazing beauty + style tips, too!) (top image via Valentine)
Grace: You have such an interesting background… I know your story but would love for you to share it here… tell me about how you got your start in New York, and how you started designing jewelry.
Natalie: Well, I am a Southern girl who moved here 11 years ago with big dreams of being a fashion designer. I had a background in Art which naturally brought me to the Fashion World. So I got an internship at Marc Jacobs and learned from the bottom up. Because being an intern paid so much (ha) I had to get a job at night and I went to the place where everyone in Fashion and Entertainment ate and I got a job at Pastis, the famous Keith McNally eatery.
I worked in the best Fashion house during the day and then at night would watch the most fabulous people eat (Anna Wintour eats a lot of salad) . That job introduced me to so many key players in my development including Lazzaro and Jack of Proenza Schouler where I eventually also worked and Adam Lippes who gave me my first real shot at designing on my own. I also learned how to dress and how to express myself and developed a “style.” I didn’t have a lot of money so I would make accessories and wear them to work to make my outfit look better. And I got such an awesome response. Eventually I went to work in the summers at The Surf Lodge in Montauk which is really where HOLST + LEE took off. The ladies in the Hamptons loved the bright colors and would literally buy the jewelry off my neck while I was working!
Grace: How has your background in the restaurant industry come in handy in running your own business and designing your own line?
Natalie: I learned so much working in restaurants. The same rules apply to any job that you have. I really feel like I learned customer service is vital to having a successful business. Your customers are your blood line and I try to never forget that. I love getting emails from customers praising the service they received. It’s how you build brand loyalty by letting people know that you genuinely care about their experience.
As far as design goes, the places I worked taught me everything I needed to know about what the chicest and coolest New Yorkers were wearing. It was literally like a daily fashion show.
Grace: Walk me through your typical day.
Natalie: Well, it seems as a small business owner no day is typical, but I usually wake up have coffee and a smoothie and drive, yes drive, to work (the perk of a Brooklyn office) Then it’s straight to business. Ordering, emailing, contacting the factories, putting the assistants to work on making things, filling orders, then shipping. I usually save the designing for the later part of the day because to me that is the fun stuff and doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s the best part of the day. That and coming home to my awesome husband who helps me so much with the house stuff cause I usually don’t get home til late.
Grace: Tell me about your own beauty routine… what are your favorite products?
Natalie: I’m kind of a natural girl, but I do have a routine. I use Clarins face lotion everyday to try and fight the whole aging thing. I also have a beautiful friend named Carmindy Bowyer who gives me such amazing things to work with everyday. She was the makeup artist on “What Not to Wear” and now has her own line of products. She gave me this thing called 5-Minute Face. And literally it’s 5 minutes and you’re done. Moisturizer, Eye Makeup, Blush, and Lip. So practical for me cause I’m always rushing out the door.
(image via Valentine)
Grace: Let’s pretend that you are traveling for the next month and can only take along three beauty products… what would they be?
Natalie: Definitely my Clarins lotion because it has SPF which is so important. I would say a really bright red lipstick (Carmindy has given me so many!) And my perfume for sure. I’ve been wearing the same perfume since I was 13. Ironically it’s called Design.
Natalie: Holst & Lee is one of the most creative + cool jewelry brands out there right now. I’m obsessed with your upcoming Spring line. What inspires you when designing?
Grace: Geez, Thanks! You know it’s never one particular thing. I find the best inspiration is when I think about what I really want to wear right now. It’s kind of selfish but I do oftentimes design for myself. I’ll think about something that has been missing from my wardrobe lately or something that would just complete a look and I go from there. I spent a lot of time last summer out in the Hamptons and totally picked up the surfer chic Hawaii vibe that you can really feel out in Montauk. So I thought about a really badass surfer chick who travels around and what she might wear and that just began the flow of creativity. The collection is called ‘Aloha Friday’ and it makes me yearn for the Summer!!
(image via Valentine)
Grace: What’s the best place you’ve ever traveled to?
Natalie: Hands down, Indonesia! I just got married in October and my husband J and I went to Bali and Lombok. It was seriously a life changing trip. We love to travel and before I started the company we made it a point every year to take a trip in the winter. We did a lot of South America and North America but for our honeymoon I told him I wanted to go to the other side of the world. Let me just tell you everyone should go! It was magical, the people, the places, the vibe, the spirituality, the culture….it was everything!
Grace: Where do you want to go next?
Natalie: Well, I’m actually headed to the British Virgin Islands in one month!!! I’m so excited to get out of the cold! My awesome in-laws have rented a Catamaran with our own Captain and we’re going to go all over the Islands. I could not be more excited and can’t wait for the inspiration…..and the Vitamin D. Other than that I told my husband I really want to go to Italy for our anniversary. I’m part Italian and I’ve never been. Unacceptable.
Grace: You have a knack for putting together outfits that are easy… and no matter what, you always look cool! What advice do you have for The Stripe readers looking to hone in on their own personal style?
Natalie: Oh man thanks! Hahaha . I’m laughing because I usually go through 5 outfits in the morning. It’s not because I don’t like one or the other I just have to find that one outfit that speaks to my mood. Like it has to match or it’s just not right. And I have to feel pretty. It just sets the whole tone of the day. And, not that this is a good habit, but sometimes I just want something new. There’s just something to be said about getting new clothes. You feel awesome. I guess my advice for personal style is don’t ever let the clothes wear you. The clothes should match you and express you because if you feel good, then you’re gonna look good. No matter what.
(image via Valentine)
Grace: Also on personal style… who are your favorite designers?
Natalie: My favorites that I can’t afford are as follows: Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, and Dolce & Gabbana
My favorites that I can afford: I dig the sites ASOS and Free People. They have so many options that are just awesome. I also love Madewell. So effortless and chic. And I am a diehard Vintage shopper. It’s a bit of an obsession.
Grace: What are your favorite places (to eat + shop) in the city?
Natalie: My husband just started running an amazing little restaurant in Soho. It’s called Navy. It’s a 35 seat adorable spot that just has the coolest vibe and delicious food. I also love Miss Lilly’s which happens to be diagonal from it. The girls there are gorgeous, the vibe is fun, and the food is great. And I couldn’t be a bigger fan of The Bowery Hotel. I try and only have meetings there because it is just the coolest place and it’s the closest thing to the Chateau Marmont New York has to offer.
I pretty much do all my shopping in Brooklyn. I like the independent labels that are repped over here. I’d tell you where my favorite vintage shopping is but then I’d have to kill you. J
Grace: What about vintage? You always find the best stuff… where do you go?
Natalie: Oh, jumped the gun on that one! Alright, I’ll give you one. There’s a cute little Aussie Vintage shop on Bedford Ave between North 6 and 7 in Williamsburg in the Mini Mall. I actually don’t know that name but they have amazing things and great prices.
Grace: If you weren’t designing jewelry, what would you be doing?
Natalie: That’s tough to say. I actually almost opened my own restaurant shortly before I started HOLST + LEE. I love the business and I loved the idea of designing my very own place. I just feel like it’s like putting on a show every single night. The cast is all there and you call action and it just rolls and changes and you have to improvise and deal with so many different personalities. Maybe it’s just a NY thing but I loved the drama of it. And designing spaces is one of my favorite things. I change my house around every 6 months or so so it feels new and fresh.
Grace: What’s your proudest moment?
Natalie: It’s hard to say. I think the time I remember feeling like Wow this is all really happening was the first time I showed at New York Fashion Week with Mara Hoffman. I literally stayed up for 3 days in a row to finish and when I saw the girls all dressed up and on display I just burst into tears knowing that I finally got a chance to have a voice and for people to hear and see it. It may have been sleep deprivation, but I was overwhlemed with one of the best feelings I can remember…..and that was only the beginning.
A huge thanks to Natalie for participating in Stripe Talk… read past features here!