Colette Malouf celebrates the 20th anniversary of her famed accessories brand this September. Recently, we got a chance to ask her a few questions about her company – from the infamous Malouf Pouf to her advice for aspiring designers – and you don’t want to miss out on her answers below.
The Daily Obsession: Where do you get your inspiration?
Colette Malouf: I love to travel, and being of Lebanese decent, I have family all over the world. Diversity in cultures, customs and natural environments are very inspiring to me. The history, the local craft, the landscape and the lifestyle from Europe to the Middle East to Asia is fascinating to me.
TDO: What is the process of creating one of your pieces â€“ from design to production?
CM: Since I work with many different materials, I must approach each one differently, but basically, I begin with a sketch and a color palette. Then I guide a sample maker to follow my specs exactly. I document every detail of the design, which includes all the materials, swatches, the measurements, and steps on how to complete the design. Every style in the collection follows this process and is part of an overall collection plan. Once I approve all first samples, then sample orders are placed. Once the collection is sold, then production is commenced.
TDO: Why do you think women love the “Malouf Pouf?”
CM: When the Malouf Pouf first came out in 1987, it was the first unstructured soft accessory, which was completely innovative at the time. The Malouf Pouf looks like a rosette in the hair and is an elegant version of a fabric ponytail holder. Incredibly easy to pop in and out of the hair. It makes everyone’s top knot look full and elegant.
TDO: You were only 24 when you started your company – and it took off immediately. Do you think you filled a hole that was missing in the accessories market at the time? Tell us more.
CM: The hair accessory category was born in 1986 with the ubiquitous “bow” in all shapes and sizes. Some bows were as big and cushioned as the pillow on your couch! I entered the market with a soft, unstructured shape that came in the most glamorous couture silks. I had the eye for fabrics from growing up in my father’s couture dress house.
TDO: This month is your brand’s 20th anniversary. Congratulations! Since launching your company in 1987, what has been the biggest change? What achievement are you proudest of?
CM: Cultivating and managing people as well as managing production and growth. Manufacturing is the absolute toughest business to be in!!! Anyone would agree. I am proud that I have grown a brand from a small niche product line: hair accessories. I have also managed to create a very harmonious and productive team. I just took a two week vacation and returned to find everything on schedule without any problems or accumulated work. I am proud of my staff.
TDO: You began with your hair accessories line, followed by your jewelry line. Which area do you prefer working in?
CM: I love both, but what I love most about designing the hair accessory line is that I use so many different types of materials and work with a variety of color palettes. I adore working with color and texture.
TDO: What would be your best piece of advice to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps and establish a design/accessories company?
CM: Get work experience first! I didn’t and made expensive mistakes. I also encourage joining any organizations in you industry and others that teach business organization and nurture leadership. I have been a member of the CFDA and Fashion Group since 1993 and a member of the Entrepreneurial Organization since 2000. All have provided invaluable learning and contacts.
TDO: What are your daily must-have accessory?
CM: A statement necklace, a sterling silver jaw clip and an elastic on my wrist (always ready for a ponytail!).
TDO: What is your favorite way to see your designs worn by women in the â€œreal world?â€
CM: Their individual way. I teach 4 different ways to do twists (French Twist, Figure 8 Twist, Chignon Twist and Stick Twist) and use combs.
TDO: When you see a woman wearing one of your designs on the street, what is the first thought that pops into your mind?
CM: It puts a smile on my face. Then I check her out from head to toe, to see what else she is wearing and what her personal style is.
TDO: Many women feel like they don’t know how to use hair accessories properly. What advice do you have for someone who loves your designs, but just doesn’t know how to make them work for her?
CM: Check out our website and inquire about scheduled personal appearances at Henri Bendel’s!
1. Favorite hairstylist? Orlando (Pita)
2. Favorite traveling companion? My Lumix camera
3. Favorite street in New York? That’s a tough question! I love Wooster and Green for the strip of stores; Barrow Street is the most charming in the city and Elizabeth Street is a funky mix of fashion and Little Italy.
4. Favorite breakfast spot? My favorite thing is to do is invite my friends for breakfast for a special Russ & Daughters selection of bagels, the most delectable smoked salmon and the freshest cream cheese!
5. Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving…because I like to go on a yoga retreat and not eat very much