We can’t help but gush over our latest interview with cool girl and mama, Kristen Lee Cole. As creative director of ByGeorge in Austin and co-owner, creative director and buyer of TenOverSix in Dallas and LA, she is a busy woman who manages to have her finger on the pulse of all things cool, all while being pregnant with baby number two. Kristen is also mama to five year old, Jackson. We met up with Kristen at ByGeorge in Austin and chatted about her personal style (because what does one wear when they have access to everything?), her favorite up-and-coming indie brands, and of course, how she balances it all. Photography by Katie Jameson
Tell us a bit about your morning routine.
Normally, it starts with making a strong pour over coffee. I’m pretty obsessed. Being pregnant now, I’ve replaced that habit with water or tea. I really miss my coffee! I usually read a little news, make breakfast, occasionally exercise and get my son out the door to school.
How, when and where do you find time for personal wellness?
I make time. On the weekend, I try to get some exercise outdoors, or practice yoga. I try to put down my phone/ laptop/ iPad in the afternoon for a bit to pick up an actual book, get inspired or just drink a cup of tea without my work and distractions. Just slowing down and making the effort to enjoy the things we do every day, like having a glass of wine and playing some music while cooking dinner, make a big difference.
You are the creative director for Austin-based fashion institution ByGeorge and the co-owner, creative director and buyer TenOverSix in Dallas and LA. Busy lady! What was the journey like to get here?
It’s been a long one! I’ve been working in fashion and design for eighteen years, mostly in New York and Los Angeles. After NYU and Parsons, I started with many internships, assistant designer positions, designer positions, fashion styling for national art, culture and music magazines and commercials, opened my stores in LA and Dallas, and have designed and consulted for retail, restaurants and hotel interiors. I started TenOverSix in 2008, as the first true concept store in LA. I love the idea of mixing fashion, art and design- my three passions. I moved to Austin two years ago, for personal reasons. After moving here, I was approached to creative direct ByGeorge. It was an unexpected engagement, but one I’ve really loved. Working with an established and beloved institution like ByGeorge forced me to flex new retail muscles. And I’ve loved working with my friend Larry McGuire, he’s very smart and talented. We have a strong vision of where we are taking the brand, while preserving it’s many fine points.
How do you manage both roles?
Discipline and lists. During my working day, I really split my time between wearing my ByGeorge and TenOverSix hats. We all have a lot of hats we wear, so it’s really nothing extraordinary. I’ve always had a lot of creative projects going on simultaneously, because I love what I do! I’ve only in the past few years become better at saying “no.” I do have an incredible number of tasks to accomplish every day, so I keep a lot of lists in my planner. As Creative Director for both brands, I tick through overseeing the Buying, Editing, Marketing, Merchandising, Design, and E-Commerce needs pretty much every day. I get creative down time on the weekends, when I travel, and in stolen moments to refuel.
Has motherhood changed your approach to your personal style?
Well, I have larger tote bags, because I have more to carry all the time…like Hot Wheel cars and snacks in addition to my things. But aside from that, I’ve made an effort to not get too comfortable in my day to day. I do work in fashion after all… When I’m not working, I’m usually in my Converse.
How do you balance being a working mama?
I have no idea. Many of us do it, it’s totally possible, but I don’t think I have any secrets. I’ve always looked to the many strong, successful mothers out there, across many industries, for inspiration. Having a real and supportive partner is a gift. Some help and meticulous scheduling are also requirements.
What brands or pieces do you wear on repeat?
I have a good collection of dusters and coats, that can cover any quick or comfy outfit. I’m so glad it’s coat season finally. I love my Converse and Golden Goose sneakers; I wear those pretty much whenever I’m not in fashion shoes. I wear a lot of Rachel Comey, Creature of Comfort, Electric Feathers, Acne, and vintage. I have quite a few rings, cuffs, and chokers I wear pretty much every day.
Favorite up-and-coming indie brands we should keep our eye on?
There are so many! This is one thing I love about my job, every season I am surprised, inspired and excited to wear something new. There’s too much talent out there. Too much to pick up. The hardest part of my job in terms of buying and setting our rosters is the edit. I’ve recently picked up the following lines across TenOverSix and ByGeorge (and I only buy my favorites!): Catherine Quin, Khaite, Ekhaus Latta, Jaquemus, Vetements, Sandy Liang, Lemaire, Dear Frances, Modern Weaving, Brother Vellies, Mari Guidicelli… just to name a few.
What are your favorite children’s clothing brands?
For the basics, I love American Apparel, The Gap, and J.Crew. Nico Nico is probably my very favorite small specialty line for my son. Boy + Girl, Pop Up Shop, The Great Mini, Bobo Choses are all adorable. We sell those brands across TenOverSix and ByGeorge.
How do you find time for yourself and relationships between juggling parenthood and your professional life?
Discipline. Discipline was a big thing for Diana Vreeland. She is one of my all-time beloved strong female fashion role models (who happen to also be mothers), and the concept of discipline has come to mean a lot to me too. I have a lot of disciplined habits that allow me to do everything I do, and carve out time for myself, for my family and for fun. Putting my phone away for the night at dinnertime is a big one. It frees up my whole night, so long as I bust my hump to get everything done by the early evening. Clearing the noise and distraction from some areas of your life can really open up time. I love nothing more than my evenings with my son and husband. My weeks are like sprints, and by the weekend I try to relax with my family and friends. My husband and I are also cool with each other about giving each other space and freedom to go out (not every night, but regularly), while one of us stays home. And we try to do a date night, just the two of us, as often as possible.
What’s next for By George and Ten Over Six?
At ByGeorge, Larry and I are continuing to refine our concept and brand and I think we are getting to an amazing place. We have such a gorgeous roster of goods, and are focused on bringing a beautiful edit of the world’s best fashion to Austin. With TenOverSix, we are continuing with what we do well, discovering the new, stocking the best of the emerging market in fashion and design, and curating art.