Re-Inventing Style With Smart Talk

At a recent session of the Smart Talk Series in Wilmington, I was honored to meet Karen Menke, the chairwoman of the organization. She picked me out of the crowd to compliment me on the jacket I was wearing and we struck up a conversation.

So imagine how excited I was when Karen invited me backstage to talk to the latest guest speaker, Jane Pauley. Looking stunning in a tailored white and gray suit, Ms. Pauley lectured about the importance of reinventing ourselves. In these tough economic times, she told us not to see being laid-off as a negative, but as a chance for reinvention.

Not only that, she also brought with her Sigrid Olsen, the fashion designer and artist, to share the Smart Talk stage with her. I had the honor to chat with Olsen back stage.

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Olsen (age 55) said she started her career as an artist and morphed onto the fashion scene 25 years ago, heading up her name-brand clothing empire. She designed for “real” women, using bright colors and simple classic designs that became her trademark.

However, a few years ago that all changed. With the economy sinking, Sigrid left her business to start fresh.

“My company had become so large that I did not get to do what I loved to do, which is creative based,” she said. ““I ended up just being the head of my company and doing meetings all day. I had lost touch with my roots and doing my passion which is art…I am much happier now.”

So what does that “now” look like?

Olsen, who lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, runs a retail boutique called Isla Beach House, just a few steps down the road from her home. She sells her sunny, beach-inspired art, pottery and other unique finds at the boutique. Her line is great for summer dressing, and the styles are, as Olsen puts it, “ageless.” I love that!

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I also picked her brain a bit on where she likes to shop (besides her own store, of course).  Sigrid admits that it is hard to shop after 50, but she likes to mix her bargain finds from Target and J. Crew in with designer clothing.

“Accessories are also key to looking pulled together. I like to find new artists and help promote them in my store,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. She is obviously passionate about her new venture.

A self-professed “doer” Sigrid is living her passion and thanks to her creativity we can now bring a piece of her colorful world into ours!

So if you’re seeking a place to be inspired and dress up too, check out next year’s Smart Talk series at the Hotel du Pont.

Smart Talk Series:

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Isla Beach House by Sigrid Olsen:

Sigrid Olsen:


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