Boss Lady is a series by Social Stylate that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we talk to Delaware natives and the sisters behind Lizzie Fortunato Jewels, Kathryn and Lizzie Fortunato. What started as a hobby has turned into an extremely successful business with a huge following, not to mention features in Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar; the list goes on. Most recently the girls were featured in Sorel’s “Get Your Boots Dirty” campaign for fall.
Tell us a little about yourselves.
[Kathryn] We are twin sisters. Lizzie is the creative and I am the numbers so we make a great team. We launched Lizzie Fortunato Jewels in 2007 after we started the business (as a hobby) at Duke University. We live in NYC where we live, work, play and spend a lot of time together.
What prompted you to start Lizzie Fortunato Jewels?
We developed an unintentional following down at Duke, where girls noticed Lizzie’s designs and didn’t have many shopping choices in Durham, NC. Friends and friends-of-friends would knock on our dorm room door and ask to borrow or buy Lizzie’s creations. Following Duke, Lizzie worked only one year in fashion PR before deciding to launch Lizzie Fortunato Jewels full time. At the time I was working long days (and nights) on Wall Street and so would just help with LFJ in my free time — nights and weekends. It wasn’t until 2010 when the company had grown that I left my finance job to work full time at Lizzie Fortunato.
From the beginning Lizzie Fortunato Jewels grew organically. It was the demand of young, stylish girls at Duke and then in NYC that prompted – and allowed – us to make the company our full time occupation!
What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
[Lizzie] I find inspiration all over – the people that I see walking around in downtown Manhattan on my way to work, in art and architecture, and from design movements (in particular mid-century American design) – but my primary inspiration is travel. I grew up regularly visiting the American West (Colorado, Wyoming, Montana) with my family and the forms in nature as well as Native American influences have really manifested themselves in my design. And now, I travel as frequently as possible to new places (most recently: Peru, Guatemala, India, and Japan) and the people that I meet as well as the native crafts (I’ve collected so many textiles from my adventures that it’s becoming a problem; they no longer all fit in my 5th floor Manhattan walkup!) really inspire my work.
What is your most successful form of marketing?
Instagram and bloggers. It’s incredible how a street style blogger might wear or post about a piece and we’ll see an immediate spike in sales.
What would you recommend to those looking to start a business?
Hard work, a great product and the ability to balance the details with thinking big. We found the accessories and general fashion community in NYC to be an incredible network. Fellow designers, store owners, buyers, and editors have proven to be incredible mentors along the way. Networking shouldn’t be underestimated when starting, or growing, a business.