Lizzie & Kathryn Fortunato
Founders, Lizzie Fortunato
Elizabeth and Kathryn Fortunato are the sister-sister duo behind the ever-so-coveted Lizzie Fortunato accessories line (and yes, they’re twins!). One could truly call them the dream team as Lizzie heads up the design and creative direction while Kathryn handles all things business. What might come as a shock to some, the statemement pieces made from found, reclaimed, and precious materials are not driven by trend, but are actually taken from their travels (which makes them VacationStyle royalty!). The two travel the world together for inspiration, collecting treasures from all of their exotic escapes, and eventually turn their travels into modern wearable art.
Hence why we were so excited to sit down with Lizzie & Kathryn - to not only pick their brain on their fashion sense, but also get the ins-and-outs from all of their lust worthy travels!
Lucky for us, Lizzie and Kathryn have an appreciation for vintage textiles and bring their travels back – curating a shop on their website of all of their one-of-a kind ‘Fortune Finds’. So the next time someone asks you where you got your rug, you can say your long-lost friend found it for you in Morocco…
VacationStyle: Tell us a little but about where you got your travel bug from? Do you two normally travel together?
Lizzie Fortunato: Our parents were very adventuresome and always traveled with us when we were growing up. One summer we were in Crested Butte, Colorado for the better part of our summer and the house we were staying in was rented for a few days in the middle of our stay… Instead of finding other accommodations my parents decided we would hike to another town for those few days. There was always this sense of adventure and exploration that has stuck with us. Kathryn and I have never been good “resort” travelers; we tend to get off the beaten path. I for one am always looking for a market!
We travel a lot together for work — visiting stores, Paris market weeks, sourcing. We also try and vacation together as well. Fortunately our boyfriends get along well so it’s pretty wonderful when the 4 of us can get away together.
VS: Why the decision to have everything made in NY?
LF: When I started the line I was hand-making everything myself, I was sourcing and stringing beads myself, working with local metal-smiths to create castings and finding trims and fabrics right here in NYC. By virtue of working so closely with a huge range of vendors I was able to create complex styles that incorporated a huge range of techniques and materials: beads, tactile fabrics and leather trims, metal castings, enamel, found objects, etc. To find an overseas factory that can work in all of those realms to create “mixed medium” pieces like those that we were doing locally is nearly impossible. Further, it meant something to us to have developed really intimate relationships with local vendors and be able to oversee the process ourselves.
The exception to this is our embroidered clutches, which are hand sewn in India. I draw (by hand and on the computer) each of the motifs that adorn our Safari and Port of Call Clutches. Our decision to do this in India was simple — their embroidery is the best and we would never be able to afford to do it locally. Kathryn and I have been before and the watching the embroidery come to work on the looms is extraordinary!
Kathryn Fortunato: When we set out to found Lizzie Fortunato Jewels, we really sought to create special pieces that “told a story”. We never wanted to start a company and produce “stuff” just for the heck of it. Having real people, making things by hand and with integrity was always very important to us so creating in the USA (we produce in NY and LA) where you can visit your vendors and understand / see the process is crucial to us.
VS: What’s your creative process of turning your inspiration into a vision from start to finish?
LF: I’m typically inspired by fine art and architecture, as well as travel and the handicrafts that I discover in a new place. Sometimes a textile will inform an entire collection or a single ceramic bead that I’ve brought back from a trip will dictate how the collection comes to life. I source materials first after I have the initial inspiration laid out. Then I let those materials dictate the creative process. I begin laying out designs and putting things together (and taking them apart) and that’s how the collection comes to life. I’m not someone who can easily sketch something in the beginning of the season and then make it without adapting as I go. Rather everything is changing during the sampling process until finally I get it to a point where I feel it’s right. With the huge multi strand necklaces that I’ve been making the past few seasons I’ll often string them 8 to 10 times before I’m happy with the look.
VS: What was your career ‘AHA' moment?
LF: I think there are too many highs and lows all the time to pinpoint just one thing as a “turning point". When Kathryn joined me full time (and left her wall street job) it was a big “Eureka” moment because finally I could focus exclusively on design and she could really absorb operations. It was a game changer. Early on (I think in 2008 or 2009) I woke up to find one of my necklaces printed huge, on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily… I think that was the moment that I thought “this is real” and “we’re actually just doing this!”. Then just this past December, Booth Moore wrote an incredible profile of the brand in The L.A. Times. it was the article that I had always wanted — it explained our inception, our mission, what drives us. I think when things like that happen you’re reinvigorated to re-focus and push yourself further ahead.
KF: I feel like we’ve had a few; every so often you have those moments that justify the hard work and late hours. A few include: Our first WWD cover; a full page spread in Harper’s Bazaar; traveling to Japan and seeing a fashionable girl on the street wearing one of our purse’s; Lizzie’s induction into the CFDA last year (2015).
VS: If you could close your eyes and have anyone wearing your jewelry who would it be and where would they wear it?
LF: Our brand is not celebrity driven at all, so it’s really hard to say. I want women who are adventurers, intellects, artists, pioneers and free spirits to be wearing the line. Women who dress for themselves and dress to tell a story — who want to wear things with purpose.
KF: Michelle Obama, anywhere!
VS: Your Fall 2015 Collection was inspired by Morocco - what was your favorite part of Morocco and where did you find your inspiration?
LF: I found inspiration all over — the markets were literally overflowing with it. The dusty, rusty colors of the markets and the rugs and jewels and beads and silver that overflowed out of them informed the palette of a lot of the pieces. However the sleek, tiled riads that we stayed in, completely with their glistening reflecting pools and manicured courtyards were in stark contrast to the chaos of the markets, and they equally provided inspiration for some of the more refined styles in the Fall ’15 collection.
KF: The endless markets are incredibly inspirational. They are brimming with rugs and spices and copper and colors and smells - it’s a sensory overload. I also loved Essaouira, a chiller beach town where we stayed in Villa Maroc, a beautiful hotel. Jimi Hendrix went there to surf and write music.
VS: We hear you like the art of dressing to telling a story, how does that play a part in figuring out what to pack for a trip?
LF: I tend to pack pretty simply (and lightly!) because I’m always trying to leave room to buy things. I usually end up shipping things home but you always want room in your suitcase for the fragile items! I pack lots of layering pieces and solid colors: shawls, scarves, navy, black and white. Then I bring jewelry in bubble wrap and layer it on to change my outfits up!
KF: I let my accessories do the talking! That means investing in wearable, classic separates and layering a great necklace, clutch, or accessory with a simple (neutral) wardrobe. Apiece Apart is a personal favorite and pairs so well with Lizzie Fortunato. I love their mantra: classic separates for a well-lived life.
VS: What are some of your favorites designers you love to wear on vacation and compliment your jewelry well?
VS: If you were to go back, what’s something you have to do again? Where else are you dying to go in Morocco?
LF: We spent a day at The Beldi Country Club which is a hotel outside of Marrakech. The pool and outdoor restaurant is divine and their spa services were out of this world. After hunting in the markets and getting dirty exploring every day it was a decadent reprieve! I’m dying to Fez. We didn’t make it there and its famous for incredible pottery. I will definitely be back there! Our first trip to Marrakech, we stayed at Dar Charkia - I would definitely love to stay at Richard Branson’s sisters hotel, El Fenn.
VS: Past collections were inspired by Mexico City and Hawaii? What are your must-do’s or favorite parts about each place?
LF: Mexico City is incredible — good food, culture, green spaces. I was totally impressed by the city and loved visiting Frida Kahlo’s home “Casa Azul”, eating lunch at Contramar, going to the Jumex Museum and of course shopping in the markets. I’ve only been to the island of Kauai in Hawaii. This is much less of a ‘sourcing’ destination but positively an adventure destination… I love hiking on the Napali coast, boating, paddle boarding, and attempting to surf!
KF: Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City! The markets in Oaxaca! And we LOVED the ruins of Monte Alban, outside of the town of Oaxaca: incredibly graphic and inspirational ruins that informed our SS15 collection.
VS: Favorite hotels and/or style of a hotel?
LF: I usually opt for small hotels with an intimate feel. I don’t need high luxury but love thoughtful, considered design. Favorites include Villa Maroc in Morocco; Hotel Garzon in Uruguay; Benesse House in Naoshima, Japan; Table on Ten in Bloomville New York…Right now I’m planning a Vietnam trip and am equally excited to sleep on a 5 cabin junk boat in Ha Long Bay and the exquisite Six Senses in Con Dao. Top of my “wish list” right now is the Fogo Island Inn.
KF: Small and personal. Nothing beats a great design boutique hotel. A few favorites include: Hotel Garzon in Uruguay, Hotel Splendido in Italy, Benesse House in Naoshima, Japan, and The Standard in Miami.
VS: What’s on your bucket list?
LF: Vietnam has been at the top of it for several years and I’m trying to make it happen this Spring! Also, Fogo Island Inn in Canada, Sayulita Mexico and Copenhagen are all places I’m hoping to visit soon!
KF: Hmm, a lot! On the short list I’d love to visit Africa and do a Safari and explore a lot more of South America, especially Patagonia.
VS: If you could choose 5 items to fill your vacation suitcase with right now, what would it be?
LF: Illesteva Leonard Sunglasses in tortoise, Apiece Apart Taiyana Wabi Wide Leg Pants in navy, Robert Cleregie’s multicolor slide sandals at Kick Pleat, Shaina Mote’s draped dress in sand, Lizzie Fortunato x Sally King Benedict Face Tote Bag, which is hitting stores in just a few weeks!
KF: This Apiece Apart trench for city travel, this Marysia 2-piece for a beach vacation, a black leather Hacienda Montaecristo wrap belt I bought from this most amazing shop last summer (it goes with everything and dresses up a simple beach cover-up, it’s the perfect outfit addition!), the Lizzie Fortunato Safari Clutch in “Love” (it’s bright, sunny and packs flat. It also comes with a removable chain strap so can be worn as a purse or clutch), and my Ann Mashburn oversized oxford shirt paired with skinny jeans (it makes for a chic travel outfit).
VS: Favorite ice-cream shop?
LF & KF: Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn
VS: Favorite cocktail lounge?
VS: Favorite vintage shop or site?
LF: Too many good Etsy ones to mention… I love Iridium Interiors on Etsy. They’re based in LA and have amazing things at great prices.
KF: AP Shop Lakeside - they do vintage textiles with a few modern / new items mixed in.
VS: Favorite beach town?
LF: Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
KF: Miami to party, Tortola to chill and Portofino to feel like a celebrity.
Dominican Demi-God to Vacation Fashion tells us whos suitcase she wants to raid and what hotelier shes just plain addictedread more
The Swimwear Designer takes us to her insider spots in Maui and explains how shes stays bikini fitread more