A fashion designer proves she’s more than a one-hit wonder.
For years, Jenni Kayne was on the tip of every fashion insider’s tongue. Her eponymous label launched in 2002 and quietly built a cult following on its refined California cool. Kayne was a secret of the West Coast’s style set until one design blew her cover. In a matter of weeks over 2006, seemingly all of Hollywood stepped out in her D’Orsay Flat footwear. Ten years later, Kayne proves that her approach to design isn’t just about one shoe, or even a collection, but embodies her way of life.
Thank you for inviting us into your home. It really captures your spirit.
Last year we sold the Beverly Hills house that we built, and we’ll break ground on our new place soon. I painted this picture in my head of exactly the rental I wanted in the meantime—a quintessential California ranch, clean, whitewashed but organic. It took us a year to find, but we ended up in such a charming home with the right energy for our family.
Will your new home be similar?
It’s inspired by California architecture—almost a Cliff May ranch in concept, but not in proportion. We also took inspiration from Georgia O’Keefe, and from Belgium. We’re working with Vincent Van Duysen, an architect from Antwerp who happens to be my favorite architect in the world. I was so excited to have the opportunity to work with him, especially because I’m very involved in the design.
Do you look for similar inspiration in your personal style?
I stick to what works best for my body type, and I never liked paying attention to trends. My daily uniform has always been a flat—a loafer, D’Orsay Flat or mule—with high-waisted jeans and a collared shirt or thin knit. I make knits that are like t-shirts but more luxe, so I’ve been wearing a version of that look for at least 12 years.
How did your uniform develop?
If you figure out what makes you feel good and works for your lifestyle, life is easier. Why stray from what can take you from the floor of your kid’s music class to a work meeting? Consistency simplifies things. You don’t have to constantly reinvent yourself.
You call the D’Orsay Flat your go-to shoe. Did you have any inkling in the design phase that it would become an iconic piece?
Never! I always make things I believe in, pieces that I think are cool. But I don’t have an ego about it, so it never would have occurred to me that it would become such a hit. It was flattering to have it take off.
There’s some irony in someone who doesn’t follow trends being behind an “it” shoe.
It’s trendy, but it’s a classic silhouette. It was kind of unsettling to see something so special and so niche appear everywhere, but I’m excited to see women in my designs. I want them to enjoy them as much as I do.