Jenni Kayne’s namesake brand speaks to more than just silk button downs and cashmere knit sweaters (though that’s what she’s best known for—along with those enviable mules). In her 16 years in business, with six stores, a beautiful ecommerce site, and wildly popular blog Rip & Tan under her belt, Kayne has weaved her personal style into a lifestyle brand that reaches far beyond wardrobe. Chances are high that if her essential yet thoughtful clothing line (built around timeless, elevated separates in sumptuous warm hues) checks all your boxes, so too will her home goods and beyond.
Her new book, Pacific Natural: Simple Seasonal Entertaining, perfectly encapsulates her effortless aesthetic through the lens of party hosting (which means nubby neutral linens and simple ceramics aplenty). It’s her world and her way of living well that we (and women everywhere) can’t get enough of, which is why we were thrilled to talk to the Los Angeles-based designer and mother of three about how she does it, all while making time to slow down and prioritize family.
How did you get started? What did the brand look like when you launched?
As a super ambitious and naïve 19-year-old, I started a fashion business that I always envisioned becoming a lifestyle business. I lived in Los Angeles but produced everything in Italy, so I traveled to Italy for three weeks at a time back and forth for the first two years until I figured out how to produce the line locally. Sweaters were the most popular item, and to this day, it’s still sweaters and shoes that are most popular. Then the line grew to be everything—blouses, pants, skirts, dresses. I was a lot younger and my life was a lot different at that point.
How did you initially fund your company?
My dad funded my business in the beginning. I’m fortunate that he was my partner—and he’s still my partner and mentor in business.
Tell us a little bit about your Rip & Tan blog and how it fits into the business?
I started it because I had friends asking me things like, “What do I cook for this dinner party?” or “What’s your favorite wellness thing?” As a Virgo over-researcher, I’m a wealth of knowledge and I wanted to put it all down somewhere where everyone could find it. I named it after my kids, Ripley and Tanner, and tried to keep it separate from the business. But as the business grew, I decided to integrate it into the website. It’s been an amazing platform for us. We use the stores to bring to life what you view on the site.
Even though this is your namesake business, I’ve heard you don’t always love being the public face of the brand. Would you say Rip & Tan was an outlet for you to step into that role on your own terms?
It was. At Jenni Kayne we stand for living well. Quality of life is paramount. I have three kids now, and spending time with family and friends is the whole premise of the book—coming together and creating traditions and slowing down and living in rhythm with nature. You can’t do all of that and run a business and be a public figure and be a mom. That means being super picky about how I spend my time. I would rather spend it designing a beautiful collection and putting together a book and entertaining and all of that stuff rather than running around being in the public eye.
Can you share an example of a time in your career where you failed forward?
Having a second child really threw me off balance. It became clear that the only way to be successful and happy would be to find a really good team at home and a really good team at work. Finding the team at home proved a lot easier than finding the team at work. Even though I had so many incredible people working with me, I really needed someone to help me run the business so that I could have more time with my family.
After trying four different people, I really thought I was done. As much as I loved what I was doing, I wanted to enjoy my children and my life and not have any regrets. As I was making the decision to wind down, a woman I had just hired said, “Give me a chance to grow the business and see how you feel in a year.” She’s been my partner and the president of the company for four years now. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. She’s completely transformed the company.
At The Helm, we often talk about how you actually get it all done—and juggle all of the things from your work life to your home life and everything in between.
I really do believe you can do it all, but emotionally, you need to have boundaries and you need to have balance in order to do it all happilyl.
The book is so much more than a guide to entertaining. It’s also illustrative of living well and creating meaningful connections through food. What do you hope readers take away from it?
The book is a love letter to California. The premise is that entertaining should be effortless and that anyone can do it. A lot of the tablescapes can look aspirational based on where they are, or maybe the florals look a bit more elevated than what the average person would do on their own. But all the tips and tricks are attainable. The other message is one of living seasonally and in rhythm with nature. Slow down, take time to come back into the garden or the kitchen and celebrate over dinner and drinks with friends and family. Our lives are so crazy there’s something really important about getting grounded and living in the moment.
You’ve said that having children forced you to adopt a uniform. How has motherhood informed and changed your personal style as well as that of the brand?
We did a whole campaign called Find Your Uniform based on this premise. Ask yourself: What do you want to wear every day? What looks good on your body type? What works for your lifestyle? Once you find that, if you really pay attention, you realize that you wear the same thing over and over again anyway. So instead of feeling pressure to wear new things or be trendy, figure out what you look and feel beautiful in. For me, that’s a pair of high-waisted pants or jeans with a Jenni Kayne knit or collared shirt tucked in. I also live in my Jenni Kayne mules. If I want to add something to that, I can change up my accessories—whether it’s my sunglasses, a hat, a different purse, or a statement jacket. You don’t need to reinvent yourself or try on a million things before you go out nor constantly buy and sell things. We design core pieces in our collection that we do over and over again. There’s always some newness, but nowhere near what it used to be. Why do we need to make all of this extra stuff? It’s really just a waste.
Can you apply the uniform idea to your table?
Yes. Get beautiful neutral ceramics and simple glassware you can use over and over again. Have some neutral linens, and then mix it up with colorful flowers or candles—things that are easy to introduce. You really don’t need that much.
I know you’re a die-hard Californian. Do you think it’s possible to achieve some of your quintessential style here on the East Coast?
Totally. You can achieve these looks anywhere—even in a small New York apartment. Bring nature in wherever you are. You don’t have to be under a canopy of olive trees to have a great dinner.