That adage, “do one thing and do it really well”, is exactly what designer Heidi Wynne has accomplished with her collection of cashmere wraps, Irish knit sweaters and straw bags. Before deciding to go out on her own, Heidi spent several years learning about and perfecting the creation straw bags for a major company. Five years ago, she launched her eponymous line of timeless designs which are now sold at places such as Moda Operandi and have fans like Elizabeth Hurley. Nothing is better than a generously sized cashmere wrap, to me they are like a security blanket–a constant to keep with you at all times the minute the temperature drops, and I can attest Heidi’s are the have-forever kind (and at $275 and less, a good price). Heidi has zero interest in chasing trends, but creating pieces you want to keep for years to come. Here she shares the women who inspire her, how a good friend can be integral to your business, and her favorite hobby that involves getting out on the water in her hometown of Philadelphia.
What is your career path to date and what lead you to create your collection of bags and knitwear? I always knew I wanted to start my own company and have had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as I can remember. I took a small business class at Wharton many years before I started my company. I was the Director of Product and Sales for a straw handbag company for just under 8 years and we were in Nordstrom and many other retailers and received quite a bit of press. I handled sourcing, design and sales and opened major accounts like Target. It was a great place to learn however for as many roles that I held there it was never my own and I didn’t have equity. Starting my own business was not something that I took lightly and I had many years of planning and preparation. I wanted to create a collection that would be timeless with excellent quality and also somewhat accessible.
My background was in straw handbags however I was always drawn to the feel of cashmere, it’s one of my favorite materials. I’ve always loved a classic Irish knit and work with a factory in Ireland. It looks modern in the sense that it’s so timeless.
What is your signature item? What inspired it and how has it evolved? The cashmere wrap. I started with just the winter weight Isabelle and eventually added a lighter version, the Bela, a polka dot print, the Caruso, a python print and leopard print as well as the Alexandra Wrap which is medium weight with a fringe on all sides and our new Claudia which is an ultra lightweight cashmere wrap.
Who is the Heidi Wynne woman? She’s classic, confident and sophisticated.
When you launched your collection, what came easiest for you in the beginning? Sourcing the product was definitely the easiest. I could quickly identify the best factories and have formed lasting relationships.
Hardest part of starting out that no one warned you about? How quickly you burn through money and how difficult it is to reach a larger audience. I also struggle with selling for myself. I can sell for other companies however for some reason feel uncomfortable when it is my own line. I am useless at trunk shows and would never want anyone to feel pressure into buying something. My friends end up doing the selling for me and I’ve learned that trunk shows just aren’t my strength.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: Perseverance and true love for design and creating product.
Role model: For fashion I would say Ines de le Fressange. I love her classic style and natural approach to beauty. Another role model for me is Kamala Harris. I’m so impressed by her intelligence and strength.
Best career advice you received: My friend Ann Caruso has helped me immensely with my photo shoots and I’m eternally grateful. My image needed a serious intervention when I first started and she pointed it out in a constructive way and helped me improve. I think having friends who are honest and truly want you to succeed is essential. She has also had to act as my therapist at times because being an entrepreneur can be so stressful.
Your advice to a new entrepreneur or someone starting out in your field: It will be unbelievably difficult and incredibly rewarding. Don’t give up and don’t listen to people who are afraid of risk. The worst advice I’ve received is from people who have never started anything of their own. Listen to those who have done it, believe in yourself and make changes when necessary but don’t get too discouraged. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone has their own path and their own pace and the behind the scenes is always different from what social media might suggest.
What has been your biggest success? I collaborated with Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic on a neutral buff shade for my cashmere Bela Wrap that has been a phenomenal success. Another success is my classic Raffia Edgartown Clutch. It was on Moda Operandi and the Zoe Report and has continued to perform so well.
What has been your biggest dud? What did you learn from it? I introduced Made in the USA cotton tank tops a few years ago and unfortunately they didn’t sell. I still receive compliments on mine when I wear them however I think the fit and quality didn’t translate online. I’ve learned that my customers don’t need cotton basics from me unless what makes them special is easy to understand.
Three words that describe your company: Classic, quality and luxury.
Three words that describe you: Passionate, loyal and eccentric.
What motivates you? I always want to become a better version of myself. I don’t compete with others at this point in life rather am motivated by a will to improve and grow.
What’s next for your company? I recently introduced men’s and would like to expand that category. I would like to do more custom collaborations and also introduce classic shirt dresses.
Life goals: Country House in the Hudson River Valley and to have a nice backyard and add a big dog to my family of two small dogs.
Daily goals: Think positive and be appreciative. My default is the opposite so I try hard to focus on what is working and to be grateful for how far I’ve come and for the good things in my life.
Favorite inspirational/motivational read: I’m a huge fan of self-help books and inspirational reading. I would say Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles has helped me more than any other book. Eckhart Tolles’s A New Earth is a book I go to when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life and not centered. A favorite Podcast is How I built This–especially the one with the Founder of Patagonia.
Daily rituals: I start the day with warm water and lemon juice. I try to incorporate one avocado into my diet each day. I was working with an amazing nutritionist, Jennifer Missoni, who taught me so many great habits. I now drink matcha tea and a very healthy smoothie. My energy level is higher and I feel less stressed.
How do you unplug: A long run along the river. I also light my favorite Diptyque Feu de Bois candle, play classical music, usually Mozart or Wagner, and take a long Epsom salt bath with lavender oil.
Hidden talent/hobby: I enjoying rowing crew–especially in the evening when the sun is setting and the water is flat. For me it is like meditation.
Favorite charity: BCRF (Breast Cancer Research Fund.)
Do you collect anything? K Jacques sandals. I have about 8 pair and am still going for more…
Biggest splurge you don’t regret: As a self funded entrepreneur I have to be so careful however I would say my Lanvin flats, Barbour jacket and Gucci loafers are three purchases that I will never regret. In addition to the classics I listed I always invest in at least one great fitting pair of jeans per season and I think Moda Operandi has one of the best selections. My latest favorites are a pair of high waist straight leg black denim jeans by Khaite.
Favorite small indulgence: Aesop body lotion.
Album currently on repeat: Mozart’s Requiem and Drake’s Scorpion.
Scent that brings back memories: Chanel N° 5.
Lucky charm: A cashmere wrap-I carry one always, even during the summer.
Favorite hour of the day: Early morning from 6-7 when the city is quiet and I can stretch and breathe deeply and start a new day.
Follow Heidi: Instagram.