GS: This is Interiors.net reporter Grace Stokes and it is my absolute pleasure to be here today with Kathy Ireland, Chief Designer and CEO of kathy ireland Worldwide® (kiWW®) and Nicholas Walker, Design Ambassador of kiWW®!
Swimsuit model, actress, entrepreneur and author, Kathy Ireland is one of most famous supermodels of the 80’s. She’s graced the cover of Sports Illustrated 13 times and later launched one of the most powerful licensed brands in the world from her kitchen table. kiWW® has morphed into what Forbes has called a “$1.4 billion a year design empire” and ABC news recently reported that Kathy’s company is expected to rake in 2 billion in sales this year. Whatever the actual number in billions may be, Kathy’s success is surely no accident. Her entrepreneurial spirit first surfaced at the age of 4 when Kathy and her sister painted and sold rocks from their little red wagon.
Kathy now lends her name to about 15,000 different products. There’s Kathy Ireland furniture, dishes, tables, carpets, rugs, lamps, floor tiles, window replacements and even temporary tattoos. Kathy’s mission is, “…finding solutions for families, especially busy moms”, yet you won’t find Kathy putting her name on just any product. She values the effect that her products have on people and on the environment. She’s an active member of the Sustainable Furnishings Counsel, an organization which promotes sustainable practices among manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. By recognizing the overwhelming scientific consensus that our world is experiencing dangerous global climate change, members acknowledge the tremendous urgency, and take immediate steps to minimize carbon emissions, waste stream pollutants, un-recyclable content and primary materials from unsustainable sources from any product platform under their control.
GS: “Kathy, long before global warming became a hot topic, you started your company with a line of athletic socks made from recycled materials. When did you become so concerned about the environment and sustainability?”
KI: I just feel that we all share that responsibility. When I was a kid one of my favorite books was Dr. Suess’s The Lorax, it had such an impact. Do you know the story? The evil ones lurk, chop down all the trees and the swami-swans have no place to live. There are no fish to fish, factories are clumpiting and clompiting up everything. The story really had a lasting impact on me.
I worked for the last century as a model, I had a great education, modeling was not part of my plan, and the entire time I was trying and failing at businesses. Part of that process was meeting people who didn’t share my values, and finding people who did.
Nicholas Walker, who is amazing and really keeps our team accountable, is just extraordinary! He’s a world renowned landscaper, his work is featured in Architectural Digest, he’s been on Oprah, he’s just amazing! He really brings authenticity and integrity to our brand, and to his brand, Jardin™. So it’s about people, we work with great people and there were some that I met that care about environmental issues, about animal cruelty, and so we work with them. We stared our brand with a pair of socks and one of the things that was intriguing about these partners, potential new partners, and these manufacturers was that the socks were made out of recycled soda pop bottles. I loved that! And, people gave us so much grief. They laughed in our faces and people said to me, “You can’t start a brand with a pair of socks. This is a stupid idea!”, and they didn’t understand. Some people thought I was just putting my name on a product, and they didn’t understand that I had spent my money, rather than on fancy clothes or cars, I was investing in a team, investing in people, to see what we could bring to products. I invested in people that have gifts that I don’t have; art director; creative director; vision strategists, and experts in marketing and production. Doing that is important to me. Although there’s nothing wrong with endorsing something and putting your name on something it’s just not our path and for me that wouldn’t help me with our desire to make sure that our products are sustainable. To be able to have that control, to be able to ask the tough questions and demand the tough answers, to go to the factories and find out what’s being done.
GS: Do you think you could do more?
KI: Can we do more? Absolutely we can! The more that we dig into it, the more that I see that we are not doing what we need to do to get better. We are on it! Nicholas is crackin’ that whip on us and we love him for it! It’s great! We need that!
GS to NW: So you are her accountability partner?
NW: Her watchdog, Yes!
KI: …and our Design Ambassador. Nicholas has a complete line of products from furnishings to…
NW: …well the whole philosophy of Jardin™ is to bring the outdoors in, so we have top of bed accessories for example, were we have a beautiful replicate of a blossom, it’s a bed, but it’s inspired by a magnolia blossom. We have candles that are made in America, supporting American farmers, that are soy based candles so it’s all sustainable. It’s a great product, it burns clean and you bring in scents from the outdoors so you have say an orange blossom that people love outside so we bring it inside.
GS: Many of your products are for the home, and you’ve branded other products as well.
NW: Yes, we have jewelry where we go out in nature or in history, we have the olive branch which is the symbolism of peace and we have the laurel branch and that has biblical anchors it goes way back to biblical times that’s reflected in the actual very well selling piece of jewelry by Jardin™. We have lighting floor covering, rugs, it goes on and on.
GS to NW: It must be very exciting to be a part of a company that is successful and remains in touch with nature.
NW: Yes and not just with nature but in touch with the world. Kathy has developed and brought 8 style guides to our customers. You basically go through the whole world starting in the island of Hawaii, you got, Aloha, Americana, Architectural Style Guide, European Country, Russian Style, Farm Industries, Ivory Coast and if you go through all of them it’s based in present with my world, Jardin™, it’s based with the gardens of the world.
GS: Where can our viewers find the kiWW style guides?
NW: So if you go to our website http://kathyireland.com/style-guides/ it’s an informational educational communicative base; giving back to our customers; our philosophies, our solutions and Kathy has charged us all with really listening to the customer, she is our best teacher, our best coach, our best critique and basically is our free marketing feedback.
GS: Kathy, can you tell us more about the books you’ve written?
KI: Certainly! The most recent book is Real Solutions for Busy Moms, our guide to success and sanity. I really believe all moms work whether they get paid or not. I mean it is the toughest most important job there is and often times it doesn’t receive proper empathy or respect because a paycheck is not attached. Being of service to busy moms everywhere is a passion of mine. My first book is called Powerful Inspirations, 8 Lessons that will change your life. I learned these lessons the hard way and I’ve written some children’s books as well. I am now in the process of writing a book with the CTO of IBM on technology: Making it real, bringing technology to the 21st century, to people, to entrepreneurs, whether they are building an organization or a traditional business, it can be intimidating to people and what I’ve gone through, what I’ve experienced , what our retail partners are going through, family businesses for generations and the need to get on board with technology and how that helps us with sustainability as well, these are really powerful tools. And, Don Campbell CTO of IBM, he is just a genius, and so to be able to work with him to make it real so that it is not intimidating, so that we can all get it and understand it.
GS: Seems like you are covering all areas, technology, sustainability, interior design, and you provide solutions for just about everything. What do you do in your free time to relax?
KI: Nicholas and I were just talking about that. We both have our own families and kids and spending time with the family and with my kids, that’s really my greatest joy.
GS: Do you talk about that in your books, about your busy schedule, about how you make time to spend with your kids?
KI: I do, I really do I mean I talk about in my most recent book, Real Solutions, and I’ve got to preface it by saying; “It is so much easier to give advice then to take advice and I don’t always take my own advice!“ It’s a daily struggle, it really is. Someone recently asked me “How do you have such balance in your life?”, and I say, “Who said that I have balance? Where’d you get that idea?” Every day is different but I really believe that each person has to figure out what their values are. For me, it’s my faith, it’s my family, and then it’s being of service through our business. When those priorities are not honored and are not in order, it’s a disaster! Stress gets unmanageable and it just doesn’t work. Figure out what your values are and put boundaries in place to protect them. We were talking about sustainability, think of what your values are. There are people who will try to get you to conform just to compromise for a dollar and to compromise your integrity. That is not living a dream, it’s living a nightmare! I just really encourage people to really stop and think, to stop and ask themselves “What is important to me?”
GS: Kathy you certainly have a lot of insight to share with people, where can we buy your books and products?
KI: We do not directly sell anything on our website we are a communication channel but we have dealer locators so
http://kathyireland.com is a good source to go to.