When Austin jewelry magnate Kendra Scott hosted the VIP grand opening of her new flagship store on South Congress Avenue last month, it was an affair to remember, complete with a glitter-dusted yellow carpet (yellow is the brand’s signature color), a DJ, a macaron tower and lots of bubbly.
For Scott, who used $500 to start the popular jewelry line in the spare bedroom of her home in 2002 and has since grown it into a billion-dollar fashion brand, there was much to celebrate.
“This community has been so supportive of me over the last 17 years that I’ve grown this company,” said Scott, who wiped tears from her eyes as she took in the completed store for the first time. “To be able to have a space like this where we can really celebrate Austin, this amazing place where we all get to live, it’s a really special, special moment.”
As excited passers-by snapped photos in front of the flagship store's mural, which is adorned with gems and reads, "Anything is possible in ATX," Scott caught us up on her three favorite things: family, fashion and philanthropy.
American-Statesman: Why was doing a flagship, and doing it in Austin, important to you?
Kendra Scott: South Congress to me is home. It’s everything I love about Austin — its mix of people, the vibrancy, the music, art, food — everything you want, you can find in this part of town, on this street. When I opened my first store I knew it had to be on South Congress, and when I opened the flagship, I said, "We’ve got to keep it on South Congress." This is where it all began, and we wanted to really put our roots in and have something that we can be proud of.
The store includes the brand’s first cafe, Sips and Sweets. Why did you want to include a café?
If you know anything about the Kendra Scott brand, if you go into our stores, we really believe in desserts, and we love Champagne. We actually did a bakeoff in my corporate headquarters with all different bakeries in Austin, and they presented their Kendra Scott treats, everything from gem-inspired cookies to a Maggie Louise gem candy box. This was the best part of the job, tasting all these amazing desserts. We really wanted to do a curated mix of Austin’s best and celebrate again all of these unbelievable shining stars in Austin. We will be having fresh deliveries every day and have desserts coming in throughout different seasons of the year. We have a full Champagne and wine bar and a frosé (frozen rosé) machine, and cappuccinos, espressos, tea. We’re going to do high teas on the weekends so moms and daughters can come in and do high tea service and really have that London and Paris experience of high tea. Again, we want this to be about family. Our foundation is family, fashion, philanthropy. This flagship epitomizes our core values in every way.
Since 2010 you’ve donated more than $25 million to charities across the country. Why is giving back so important to you?
When I started, I decided that if anybody would call, even when I was making jewelry out of my bedroom, I would always have something to give. It was, for me, success. I lost my stepfather to cancer, and I think having that happen to me at a young age, I realized we have a short time. He always taught me to use the gifts you’ve been given to do something good. When I started Kendra Scott, I didn’t have a lot of money, so all I could do was make product to give. But I decided I would not say no, I wasn’t going to turn somebody away who needed help. Seventeen years later it is a company policy — we will not turn anybody away. We will figure out a way to help you.
How has your philanthropic approach been received by other companies?
(Early on) I was told we could never grow a successful company by giving so much away, and here we are, one of the only retail brands succeeding in this environment today. I do believe good things happen to good people. If more companies understood that when you give and you have an authentic heart and a good heart, customers and people will be so loyal to your brand. We’ve certainly seen it in Austin where we started. I am the most proud of that. I look at our top-line revenue, but I’m also looking at my give-back dollars every day. That number is like the most important thing to me because the more we’ve been able to grow, the more we’ve been able to give.
What role has Austin played in your success?
I wouldn’t have been in the position I am right now with the success that I have if I didn’t start this in Austin. I firmly believe that. If I would have started in any other city, a girl with a tea box full of jewelry, carrying around a baby store to store, I don’t know what would have happened. But in this community, they embraced me and they lifted me up and they believed in me. There are so many amazing people in this town that truly care about helping each other succeed. I will never leave Austin. This brand, the DNA of this brand, is Austin.
What makes Kendra Scott different from other fashion brands?
We’ve always had our own voice in fashion because we weren’t coming out of New York or LA, we weren’t worried about trying to do what everybody else was doing. We did it in our own unique voice. In the beginning they said, "You can’t have a real fashion brand out of Austin, Texas! That doesn’t happen." Now those same editors are calling me asking me what’s trending in jewelry and fashion. Never say never. And don’t ever mess with a Texan, because we’ll surprise you. We also love it when people tell us we can’t do something.
Why should people come see the new store?
This is a really unique, special place. Come visit, experience it, enjoy coffee on the patio. We’ve got two outdoor patio spaces and free valet so you don’t have to worry about parking. We tried to make it to where this is such an easy, enjoyable experience for everybody to come visit. We hope everybody loves it.
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