Lisa: My longtime friend, Cara and I had been hoping to start a business together for a while, but we had floated a lot of ideas out there and none of them stuck. That all changed after the 2016 election and the subsequent resurgence of the women’s movement. We were motivated and inspired to celebrate influential women. I was actually putting my son to sleep the night before the inauguration when the idea came to me - we should design neckties for women that are each inspired by an influential woman and they should be accompanied by a storyboard that can tell her story. Neckties were the accessory of choice because they were something women began wearing when they were working their way up the corporate ranks in the late 70s and early 80s. To fit in with their predominantly male counterparts, they would emulate their attire, wearing a neck bow with a pantsuit. We wanted to bring the accessory back, but flip it on its head and now have them be statement pieces inspired by amazing women. We were both immediately in love with the idea and got right to work.
FT: What has been your most satisfying or rewarding moment in business?
Lisa: We went into business kind of blind, not sure of all the complexities of building and growing a business. We even started with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to get us off the ground. Another process we were unfamiliar with outside of supporting a few campaigns personally.
The growth we have made as people and friends while learning how to run a business has really been rewarding. Additionally, we feel very fortunate to have met and collaborated with so many amazing women so far. But the ultimate moment has to be when Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote us a handwritten thank you note after we mailed her our ‘Justice for All’ necktie. The necktie that was inspired by her brilliance. We will forever cherish that.
FT: Who is your dream dinner guest?
Lisa: This is such a hard question! I feel like I want everyone there! And I don’t even know why I say that because as soon as I see a person that I admire in real life, I freeze and can’t say a word. So…I wouldn’t be the best dinner guest, but if I am dreaming, I would have to say, Michelle Obama. I am an even bigger fan after reading her book, Becoming, and I think she would be so fun and real to be around.
FT: Which pair of Fancy Troubles sunglasses speaks to you most?
Well, I own the Festival pair so I am a little bias. I love them! As soon as I put them on, I feel like an elevated version of myself :) But a close second would have to be the Starlette - I just can’t decide between the black or flame color!
FT: Are you the designer of the neckties? If so, do you have a background in design? What is your process is creating an accessory to symbolize these iconic women?
Lisa: Yes! My business partner, Cara and I design all of the neckties ourselves. I have a graphic design background and after having a career in marketing, went back to school for fashion. I joke with people that on the first day of fashion school, we had an illustration course and we were taught how to draw a bow. At the time I thought it was pretty strange, thinking I will never have a need to draw a bow. And look at me now. That is quite literally the only fashion sketch I draw now!
Regarding our process, once we decide on our muse for an upcoming design, which can be a terribly difficult task, we will research the woman heavily. Then go to the drawing board to discuss possible designs. We will pattern and sew up samples as well as sketch a custom textile if the design requires it. We source materials and after we are set on the design, we pass the production to a women-run manufacturing house in Manhattan.
FT: Dream vacation destination?
Lisa: Another tough question! I haven’t traveled much since I backpacked through Europe after college 10 plus years ago. I am also kind of new to New York, living here less than 2 years, so I feel there are so many places I still need to explore in and around this city, but I definitely have Iceland on my wishlist, specifically the hot springs. I would of course also love to be hanging out on the beach in Cinque Terre :)
FT: When Gabby, the founder of Fancy Troubles, moved abroad to London, her grandfather gave her these words of advice: "Stay away from fancy troubles” (she didn’t stay away, for the record lol). Those words struck Gabby, as she didn’t exactly know what he meant by that at first. What does this advice mean to you?
Lisa: I am so curious to hear how others have interpreted this advice! Also, bravo on making the move to London, sounds dreamy! In this context, I equate ‘fancy’ to meaning ‘big’ and therefore believe it means you should get into some trouble, test stuff out, live a little, but know you need some boundaries.
FT: I know it's hard to pick, but who do you find to be the most inspirational woman to you?
Lisa: I ask this of women all the time and know it is a terribly difficult question to answer. I am inspired by so many women and for different reasons, but there is one person that I credit for inspiring me to take the leap into fashion, which has ultimately allowed me to grow tremendously, and that woman is Jenna Lyons.