It’s All in the Details

Silicon Valley designer Heidi Carey brings her Ralph Lauren pedigree and elegant eye to a range of exquisite jewelry, accessories, perfect white shirts, and even covet-worthy bathrobes.

  • Category
    Fashion, People
  • Written and photographed by
    Heidi Lancaster

On a beautiful spring day, designer Heidi Carey walks through her flower-filled garden in Hillsborough describing how nature informs her work, from the delicate blossom that will appear on a piece of fabric to the undulating lines of stone that may make its way into trim.

Heidi Lancaster: How did your design journey begin?

Heidi Carey: I have always been drawn to personal style and design. I went to Barnard College in New York to study economics and took night classes at Parsons School of Design. I feel like designing stylish things others can enjoy is my purpose. You might say it’s in my blood too—I come from a long line of women with an appreciation for art and design. My great grandmother founded the Shelburne Museum. She had such a great eye for American Folk Art and my mother had an English Antiques shop. Expressing my sense of style is innate, I can’t help myself.

When I graduated from school, I went to work at Ralph Lauren and had the good fortune to be on the team with Vera Wang. Years later I moved to San Francisco and launched a line of cocktail and evening dresses that I sold to Nordstrom and Bendel’s. I took a break to raise my boys, but as soon as they were off to college, I jumped back into design and launched my Heidi Carey brand.

What is your vision for the business and what are your goals?

Carey: My goal is to design things that make my customers happy and feel stylish. As the business is starting to get bigger, I want it to become better. I am laser focused on quality—quality of design and craftsmanship.  My only investors are my customers—every time they buy, it’s an investment for them and me. I love getting input from my customers on design. Building a community around high-quality design and style is my primary goal.

What’s next?

Carey: I have a white shirt line as well as a backpack that I am working on and very excited about. Actually, both are also good examples of my community of customers giving feedback and helping me with design decisions. I have lots of new necklaces on the way, too.

I like things to be classic but with a twist. Ralph Lauren hired me because of how I dressed. I fit his look for American style in the English tradition. My things will always be classic, but never expected. The line appeals to a broad spectrum of women, particularly tech execs. There’s an effortlessness to my pieces that helps women look pulled together without thinking about it too hard. I always think clothes and accessories should work for you without a lot of fuss.

Your line started with jewelry and accessories—what prompted you to venture into robes and white shirts?

Carey: I think of white shirts and robes as elegant essentials. When I thought about designing a robe to start the day, I knew it would be a pretty floral print with scalloping. I am crazy about scalloping; to me it is very graceful and you don’t see it much, which makes it special.

My white shirt line came into being at a tailor shop in Hong Kong. Whenever I am in Hong Kong buying stones for my jewelry, I have clothes made by a wonderful tailor. I often post photos from the design sessions on Instagram for fun. It didn’t take very long for people to start requesting I make some of the products I was wearing for sale—especially the white shirts. The shirts are not fancy, they have a simple, crisp style that can be worn any day with almost anything. I want customers to feel like they are wearing a custom-made shirt every time they put one on—fit is essential.

What inspires you?

Carey: I design mostly by intuition rather than inspiration. Growing up in New York I was exposed to European influences. In the last 30 years of living in California and traveling extensively throughout Asia, my design influences have become more global. I love things that are simple, elegant, and easy to wear. My color palette is very tonal, which I believe is always flattering to most women.

You love travel… what are some of your favorite places to visit?

Carey: I love Asia: Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and of course India. I can’t wait to get back to traveling again.

More Stories
Fashion, Homes

Earth Song

Achieve a balanced, nature-inspired space by mixing playful prints and focal-point wallpaper with subtle textures and surfaces that evoke the elements. 

Fashion, Homes

Different Strokes 

Angles meet curves. Rich spatterings of paint sit alongside inky contour lines. Throw expressive strokes together for an artful and fashion-forward room with all the right marks.

Fashion, Homes

Crème Fresh

Creamy pastels are all grown up. Pair these velvety runway-inspired shades with a dramatic wood grain or set them against sumptuous metallics and black accents for a room with serious edge.