I am lucky enough to know Lisa Paolozzi, 56 of Weston, Connecticut (and Palm Beach.) We are all even luckier that she left the corporate luxury goods business to build her brand of beautiful shirtdresses, called Xander. You will want to own one or two and you’re lucky enough to have a discount code. Go shopping over at Xander and enter in the code ITG for a 25% discount!
Give us an overview of your career.
My career ranges from big corporations to start-up companies and brands. Within these organizations, I’ve held leadership positions in Marketing, Business Development and Strategy. I particularly enjoy the luxury goods and lifestyle sectors. In my last corporate role, I served as an EVP of Business Strategy for a joint venture between Diageo and Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and after 20+ years on the corporate side, I decided to give the entrepreneurial side a go.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
Since 2015, I have been working on launching and building Xander – a boutique women’s clothing brand with a specific focus – The Shirtdress. We are slowly and steadily working toward becoming a brand synonymous with The Shirtdress!
I have always admired the ease and sophisticated looks that come from men’s dress-shirts and for years I’ve been “borrowing” them from my husband’s closet. The model for Xander Shirtdress was inspired by this concept of a gentleman’s shirtmaker along with the versatility of men’s dress shirts and the staying power of the shirtdress.
What gave you the courage to start your own fashion line?
I do not have a technical design background or formal design experience, but I do have a high awareness for aesthetics and enjoy using design to frame images and create moods & experiences. My courage to start Xander came from my confidence in my business ability and the simplicity of Xander’s business model. I made a conscious effort to think of Xander as a creative venture with a specific focus (this specificity was essential for me).
Have you been surprised by any of the challenges?
Absolutely! Manufacturing is a constant challenge. We make our dresses in NYC and are proud to attach a “Made in the USA” label to them but compared to manufacturing overseas, it’s quite expensive particularly for a start-up brand. The biggest challenge we are currently facing is around growth and if, how and when it’s best to scale.
We quietly launched the brand by selling to select, high-end boutiques across the country. This type of soft launch has given us the ability to pay attention to details and gather feedback and, we’re very grateful for the brand support and product validation these retailers provided. Over a year ago, we shifted our route-to-market from wholesale to direct and presently sell via www.xandershirtdress.com.
How would you describe your style?
Modern Classic. I love clean lines that are simple yet sophisticated.
How has your style changed as you’ve gotten older?
I have always admired styles that endure and realized that simplicity is the thread that runs through designs that I like most. As I’ve gotten older, I still gravitate toward these styles but place more value on comfort and versatility and pay more attention to small details that make a big difference to me like side pockets on a dress or a button placement (to create the perfect “V”) on a shirt.
Walk us through the design process – where do you get your inspiration ?
Xander’s design vision centers on making women’s lives a little easier by simplifying her daily routines with single easy pieces. Each design concept stems from this desire to simplify. I quickly learned that creating designs with strong simplicity is anything but simple. A new collection typically begins with researching fabrics, creating boards, sketching new designs and repurposing existing styles. However, the studio process (from pattern development through sample fittings) is where the fun happens. Working with my patternmaker and seamstresses is exciting, and we were fortunate to find incredible design and development talent in NYC.
Our customer is always in the forefront of our minds. We design for modern women with busy lives who aspire to live with more ease and elegance. Her real, everyday life is her priority. She is our inspiration, and I am one of these women.
Who are you favorite designers working right now? What are you excited about in fashion?
I love Gabriela Hearst and everything in her collections. A few of my favorite aspirational brands include Lemaire, Martin Grant, Tomas Maier and Salvatore Piccolo (brilliant shirtmaker).
Sadly, today, aging is viewed as this sad thing. In reality, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t feel bad or sad. I feel better than ever. What’s the key to changing the conversation about aging? Any advice?
This question made me think of a quote by Colette, “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner. We all know that everyone’s time on this planet is limited, but it wasn’t until a certain age (around 50) that I began to respect where I was on this timeline. For me, thinking in this way is liberating and emboldening. My advice would be to use your age to remind yourself to live well and more fearlessly.
I try not to waste what age has given me (self-awareness, perspective and confidence). My life today has more breadth and depth than it did in my 30s and 40s.
I think a key to changing the conversation is to keep sharing women’s stories, and the wider the range of stories and definitions of success, the better. Real-life stories are the best way to break the stereotypes about aging and, sometimes we need others’ stories to help articulate and inspire our own.
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?
“Daybook,” by Anne Truitt. I also recently read and enjoyed “Inheritance” by Dani Shapiro.
What’s your go-to hostess gift?
I don’t have a go-to. Usually, my gift depends on the hostess and occasion. I do have a file folder with hostess gift ideas gathered from things I see or hear about. In The Groove recently shared an Instagram story about a healthy dog treat recipe, and I just used it to create a fun gift for a hostess who is a dog lover. I bought an adorable “doggy treat” canister and filled it with homemade peanut butter, pumpkin treats.
Do you have any family traditions?
I value traditions and have embedded many (big & small) into our lives. One of my favorite traditions occurs every summer with my husband’s extended family. All 18 of us spend a week together on Bald Head Island in North Carolina which is accessible only by a ferry so there are no cars on the island. It’s a wonderful week full of lazy days, laughter and a lot of cocktails!
What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
Two things come to mind: The first is an antique locket with my son’s picture in it. The second is a gift that I found after my parents died. I was cleaning out their home and found a cardboard box with hundreds of love letters written between my mom and dad during the time my dad was serving in the Korean War.
Your biggest splurge lately?
An Altuzarra handbag (for me, handbags also have that enduring quality about them).
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
To fly or better yet to have access to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane!
If you had a warning label what would it say?
“Not Before Coffee!”