Dugan and Kanter sit on, and nearly everything
else at Serena & Lily — can be found in the
fast-growing home goods maker’s catalog or on
its website (Grand Lacquered Tray, $265).
But none of the projects in the trays are
to occupy the afternoon when I visit Dugan
and Kanter in the studio. Instead, Dugan eyes
two 7-foot blank canvases leaning against the
“Today, I’ll put on overalls and I’ll be making
giant paintings to be installed on the walls of
our L.A. store,” says Dugan, who is the company’s chief creative officer but also a decorative
painter and designer.
Opening two new locations (the other is set
to open in a historic mansion in Westport, Connecticut, in early 2016) is part of a retail expansion that Kanter and Dugan plan to continue.
“We’re looking at a number of markets right
now on the East Coast and in the Southeast,”
says CEO Kanter, whose previous life as a
Microsoft executive prepared her to be a retail
entrepreneur more than you might think: she
was hired to manage sales to the retail industry
in the western U.S. In 1999, she created her first
industry-disrupting store: microsoftSF in the
Metreon, the software maker’s first retail venture.
“I wrote a business plan and took it to Bill
Gates and Steve Ballmer and they funded it,
so that’s what brought me to the Bay Area,”
She left Microsoft at 35 when expecting her
first child, giving up life as a road warrior to
open Mill Valley Baby and Kids Co., a retail
store intended to help fund the hands-on
philanthropic work she had begun as a Microsoft executive. It put Kanter on the cover of
Time as the only female face in a crop of “New
But if Kanter thought the baby store would
keep her life quiet and close to home, she was
only partly right. That store led to Serena &
Lily, a company now on a roll, not just opening
new stores but expanding from home goods to
apparel with its women’s collection in 2015.
At the same time, Kanter and Dugan are constantly pushing at retail’s boundaries, lately
by making the customer’s experience on the
website, mobile site and catalog more immer-sive — “bringing the design shop to them,” as
Dugan puts it.
Serena & Lily’s website and catalogs already
make the brand more accessible to consumers
than some other high-end brands that sell
mostly to professionals, says Chicago interior
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