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Gray Antiques and Interiors

  • Inspiration: Olivia Joffrey
  • Author avatar
    Carol Vargo

Inspiration: Olivia Joffrey

We love to look pulled together without trying too hard.  Enter Olivia Joffrey.....the Santa Barbara,California based company known for their chic caftans and dresses.  Founded by namesake Olivia Joffrey, her designs are, in her own eloquent words, "low key glamour."  Her dresses instantly elevate your look, whether you are on a date night in town or running errands in the country.  Read on to learn more about why we love Olivia, her self-described "visual storytelling," and her inspiring company. 

We love your designs.  They are so easy breezy chic.  What inspired you to create Olivia Joffrey and how did you land on the designs?

Thank you! I grew up in the Northern California beach town of Santa Cruz in the 1970s. My mother and her friends, many of whom had been expats in Europe, were worldly and stylish but in a casual nonchalant way. It had an impact on me as a child. They epitomized a specific kind of low key glamour you don't see much anymore. Once I started a family of my own, I longed for the same easy cotton dresses/caftans that I remember my mother wearing. Not a fancy dress, but a narrow cotton caftan with side slits that was no dressier than jeans (could be worn barefoot or with satin slippers), but a bit more feminine and refined.
Olivia's inspiring collage of her parents and their expat years in Spain.

Who have been your mentors and what have you learned from them?
As a thinker, and a visual person, my professor Dr. Joe Corn at Stanford University really shaped my eye and my thinking early on. He taught us to see the material world like anthropologists -- how did it get that way? Why this shape? What else was going on in history? He let me write a paper on the History of the American Wet Bar! As a result, I don't consider myself a designer, but a storyteller.
My creative friends are mentors: Claudia Schwartz  of Bell'occhio in San Francisco has been like a big sister to me. She tipped me off to The World of Interiors and the films of Agnes Varda. A mere thank you note from Claudia is worthy of framing. Another friend, Anne Reilly of Mott50 has generously taken time to show me the ropes. I have a few creative muses,but mostly my mother Anne-Marie shapes the narrative of our collection.
Our favorite design, The Capitola Dress
What are your favorite aspects of running your business? What are your least favorite aspects?
 
I love writing copy for my website and Instagram, and selecting fabrics. It's like setting the table for a highly anticipated dinner party. My least favorite aspect is approaching stores or showrooms (fear of rejection.)

How would you like to see your business grow in the next three years? 
 
I admire the Los Angeles based company Doen -- they are women-run, and exist online rather than wholesale to stores. I think it may be the way of the future. My manufacturing is in downtown Los Angeles, but within the next three years I plan to also set up a workshop here in Santa Barbara with a flexible studio space storefront where I could hold events, trunk shows, host wine-saturated lectures. In my fantasy, it's the bottom floor of a courtyard building filled with Spanish tile and tropical plants. 

Whom do you count among your favorite style icons, whether it be in Interiors or fashion? 
I worshipped the mothers from my very laid back shabby tennis/swim club in Santa Cruz circa the late 1970s. Gorgeous, feminine women with chestnut-colored tans and glossy hair in low chignons. Up their forearms, piles of silver bracelets from Mexico. Melodious voices and laughter and hushed discussions of books.
Olivia's beautiful mother, Anne-Marie
The doyenne of my parent's social set was a woman named Sharon Cadwallader. She was a celebrated food writer and had a popular restaurant in town. I will never forget her house. It was a tiny beach bungalow right on the cliffs where all the surfers lived. Inside were lots of books, Oaxacan textiles, Mexican leather chairs and Jimmy Buffet on the record player. It had a front porch with a hammock. Bouganvillea engulfed half the little structure.  At Christmastime she would decorate her tree with shiny tin ornaments from the Yucatan and little wicker birds. Her kitchen smelled of freshly chopped cilantro and limes. She was tall and lanky and looked great in caftans. Sharon drove a beat up little green Honda and was the most vivacious, larger than life, charming, generous person. Hug hug, kiss kiss and 100% unpretentious. She was friends with literati and longshoremen. She taught me that style has nothing to do with money. It's about expression and generosity of spirit, and a curiosity with the world.
You share our passion for reading. What book did you last read?
Just finished Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. Talk about style! If he surfs as stylishly as he writes (which I am sure he does) it's got to be something to behold. It's one of the best memoirs I have ever read. 

 
Four Favorites....what is your favorite:

Way to spend a Saturday? 
Barefoot morning walk on the beach in Montecito, coffee in bed with my husband and three little girls, leisurely family trip to the Santa Barbara Farmers Market and then an afternoon cooking and preparing for a dinner party at home. Lots of wine, maybe paella, laughing with friends and watching the kids run around the pool. Maybe a surprise visit from a mariachi band.

Room of all time? 
I loved our sunroom at our old house in Winnetka, Illinois. It was an enormous rectangle, 75% of which were windows facing the garden. The other wall held an oversized fireplace. Very high beamed ceilings. The sofas we inherited with the house -- the prior owner had upholstered the entire place in Le Manach fabric circa 1982. Each piece was so worn down and soft to the point of shredding. It was the best room from which to watch a snowstorm by a massive fire. To my eyes, it looked best a little tousled after the kids had been making forts and the adults had been lost in the Sunday New York Times for a few hours.


Movie? I Am Love by Luca Guadagnino

Vacation/Destination? I will always love going to Mexico. But other cities I would love to go to are Buenos Aires, Beirut, and Istanbul. 
 
 

 

 

  • Author avatar
    Carol Vargo

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