The World of Kelly Wearstler
by emili vesilind
Helming a top interior design firm responsible for some of the world’s most supremely chic hotels, shops, restaurants, and private residences would seem to be a big enough job for any one person. But designer Kelly Wearstler—who’s almost as well known for her daring personal style as she is for her eclectic interiors—added another arm to her considerable LA-based empire last year with the launch of two sister collections: ready-to-wear and jewelry.
The collections—which are full of wearable-with-anedge pieces—echo the Paris-cum-Palm Springs vibe of Wearstler’s much-copied interior work (which will be showcased in a new Rizzoli New York book, set to hit stores this fall) at such locations as the Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, the BG Restaurant inside Bergdorf Goodman in New York, and countless private residences, including some in the Trousdale Estates.
The petite designer, whose envelope-pushing outfits and hairstyles (think frizzed-out locks and hugely puffed sleeves) proved as entertaining as the challenges on Top Design, the Bravo reality show where she was featured as a judge, admits she was initially “tremendously nervous” about delving into fashion. “But all the knowledge I’ve gained over the last 15 years—balance, texture, scale, being aware of my surroundings, and becoming more confident as a designer—prepared me for this.”
Wearstler opened her first-ever retail store in West Hollywood late last year, showcasing both home-décor products and fashion in one elegant space. A collection of knitwear and denim “inspired by the idea of mixing a little punk with a little pedigree” will be added this fall. She plans to open her second boutique in New York next year, once she finds the perfect space.
There is a lot to be done—and Wearstler is not the type to shy away from a challenge. “I work really hard,” she says, perched on a custom Kelly Wearstler-designed chair inside the persimmon-toned conference room in her sprawling West Hollywood office. “I’m not meeting my girlfriends for lunch or to go shopping. That absolutely is not in my workweek at all. Thank God for online shopping.”
Wearstler, who lives in Beverly Hills with her two young sons, Oliver, 9, and Elliott, 8, and husband, property developer Brad Korzen, also surrounds herself with “amazing people” at work. “You have to have a good team, and I love criticism. I want someone to say, ‘Oh my God, Kelly, that’s too much.’”
Her strict workday schedule, which begins at 5:45AM, keeps her on track. “I get up super early and go to Barry’s Bootcamp and get my ass kicked,” she says with a laugh. Then it’s back home to get the boys ready for school. “Then I literally have 20 minutes to throw myself together.”
You’d never guess it: Wearstler has enviable personal style, full of edgy basics, such as skinny colored jeans, leopard-print stilettos, and leather motorcycle jackets. Once in the office, she typically meets with her fashion team for a few hours, then “I’ll go and deal with an interior project or two.” Next up is a meeting with her public relations team, followed by another with her social-media experts. Lunch is usually takeout from Urth Caffé or health-food store Erewhon, which Wearstler loves for its “incredible juice bar.” Finally, the designer meets with her jewelry team and tends to any book or additional projects that need her attention.
The subtle entryway to Wearstler’s office on La Cienega is swathed in large slabs of stone in sun-bleached shades of black, rust, and cream; shapely stone sculptures are perched on high and low tables. French Modern chandeliers (designed by Wearstler) hang throughout the otherwise low-key space, which boasts a white loft-style metal ceiling. The whole vibe is casual-luxe.
She surrounds herself with photos of her sons—surfing, playing ice hockey, and posing with their three-piece rock band, The Negotiators. “They can actually play!” says Wearstler. The office also includes a well-appointed design room and a wall-sized board where paper doll-like cutouts depicting every piece of apparel from the Fall 2012 collection are tacked up and organized by store delivery date.
Wearstler’s home by 6:30 every night to have dinner with her boys, followed by a bath and family games. Self-discipline is a trait she’s already instilling in her kids. “We have a no-technology-during-the-week rule,” she says, “which means no TV, no computers, no cell phones. Luckily they’re boys, so they like to run around.”
At the end of the night, she often dozes off in one of her sons’ beds, but wakes up soon after and typically spends some time checking e-mails. “I’m so busy, it’s sometimes the first time I’m checking e-mail for the day,” she says. Considering how many balls she’s juggling on any given day, that sounds about right.
photography by Ashley barrett