THE IN-THE-KNOW NINE
Jana Platina Phipps of Trim Queen, is a trimmings expert known for her artful embellishment of fashion and home furnishings. We wanted to know the secrets to her inspiration, creativity and resourcefulness when it comes to her work and her life as a busy entrepreneur, wife and mother. Here’s what she shared:
1. How did you get interested in interior design and, specifically, trimming?
I originally moved to NYC to get into the fashion business. I was working for an accessory designer when she sent me to a factory in the garment district to pick up some materials. When I entered the trimmings factory, a gregarious older Italian woman greeted me and gave me a tour of the place. You know the feeling when you knees weaken and you realize “This is it!”? With industrial-era machines whirring out braided trims, and a bank of old Italian women making tassels, I fell in love. I eventually went to work there and found my voice. I began designing accessories, then pitched the owners on a plan to start a home division in response to the rise of Martha Stewart. Over the subsequent 5 years, I built a brilliant team with national distribution that eventually grew the business to $4,000,000, surpassing it’s fashion division. It was an exhilarating time.
2. What was the first step to starting your own business?
To be honest, when I returned to work from my inadequate six week maternity leave after the birth of my daughter in 2003, I was a wreck. Giovanna was collicky, not sleeping, I was exhausted, pumping breast milk throughout the day, and commuting from the suburbs. I asked the owner of my company if I could possibly work from home one day a week until things stabilized and he said, “Kelly Ripa was back to work after two weeks.” I left his office composed, then cried in the stairwell. I resolved to never let someone have that control again then hired a coach to help me navigate an exit strategy and write a business plan. The projected numbers gave me the courage to make the leap.
3. What have you found to be the biggest challenges?
Time management and finances are my challenges. I’ve had my business for over ten years and it has always afforded me a good living. But now building my Trim Queen brand to be an alternate revenue stream has me working around the clock, even with an assistant. So I set a goal this year to finally focus on the BUSINESS of my business, taking a deep dive into the numbers to analyze the my return on investments, both in time and money, to guide my decisions. I am working with a local Women’s Business Development Council, along with a peer mentor, to help me. One only sees the highlights on Facebook, not the daily struggle.
4. Where do I start when it comes to “trimming” my home?
Decorating is a form of self-expression, just like the clothes you wear. Think of trimmings as accessories. The EASIEST way to add your personality to décor is by adding embellished pillows, whether they are purchased, custom-made, or DIY, to your living room and bedrooms. I call this process of embellishing with trimmings, Trim Alchemy — the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary using trims. What is it that you want your décor to say about you? That you are bohemian jet-setter who loves traveling to exotic locales? If that’s you, add jute fringe and ethnic banding to your pillow. If you’re a connoisseur of the arts and a history buff, then add a Greek Key or a Fret Tape as the pillow’s gusset. Do you appreciate all things handmade? Add an over-scaled passementerie to your sofa pillow. Pillows, grouped together, can begin to express the complex story of who you are – just like accessories do. If all the textiles in your home are flat, it can look like a hotel room. Layered textures add to your story and give décor provenance. After pillows, think about window treatments, upholstery, lampshades, bedding… I have great Pinterest boards to give you ideas.
5. What are ways for broads over 40 to embellish their clothes and not look “cutesy?”
Don’t look to Target for inspiration, look to high fashion brands like Gucci and Balmain! Use luxury materials to embellish the ends of your jeans, your denim jacket, cuffs and collars of your suits or dresses. Look for beautiful quality, jacquard tapes, rich poms, slinky fringe. And the #1 rule is to OWN IT. If you pair pompom-hemmed denim with stilettos and confidence, you will rock it!
6. What is your favorite trim and why?
I adore fringe because it has so many personalities. It can be super sexy when in silk like Balmain, or feel bohemian in jute or western in leather. Fringe isn’t for wallflowers, it gets attention in motion, so swing it! My favorite day on Instagram is #FabFringeFriday.
7. How do you balance your career and motherhood?
True balance is elusive. Not only am I juggling my job and my children, but also my marriage, extended family, my friendships, my home, my community, and my well-being. I had a mentor who once told me, “You can have it all, just not at the same time.” I have found this to be true. After a heavy work push, I carve out time with my kids to do something special, even if it’s just a breakfast out. Driving to school instead of taking the bus means a lot. Connecting at bedtime is a must. Double dipping gets big results. I took my daughter with me to Italy on business last year and we stayed a few extra days for vacation. It was a huge effort to make it happen, but it was worth it and we made memories for a lifetime. Other words that guide me are, “ in juggling work and family, you have to know which balls are glass and which are rubber.” I think this is a more realistic picture of a working mother.
8. What are your favorite ways to relax?
Playing tennis is my elixir. I don’t think about anything else but the ball when I’m on the court. As a ranked teen in Northern California, I found tennis competitive and stressful. But coming back to it at 40+ has been a joy. Not only is it rewarding to be good at something, I am no longer defined by winning, so the big pressure is gone. Now instead of beating myself up for mistakes, I parent myself as I would my children. “Mistakes are for learning Jana, just do your best!” My other bliss is travel. Encountering new people and new ways of living, visiting museums and experiencing art, is transcendent and widens my lens as a designer (double dipping). I also find scouring flea markets a calming pastime; hunting for something, finding an unexpected treasure, imagining the history of these objects — that’s heaven to me. When I bring it all back to the studio and make stuff out of it, my endorphins kick in as I get lost in the creative process.
9. What quote or motto has inspired you?
Arthur Ashe said “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” When I feel overwhelmed, this quote reminds me to just start, and in all of my 49 years, momentum has followed.
Affectionately called “Trim Queen” by her clients, Jana has become the “ambassador of trimmings,” sharing the history of passementerie and modern embellishment trends presenting at The New York School of Interior Design, the Country Living Fairs, Robert Allen Continuing Education Seminars, and at the IWCE International Window Coverings Expo. She is a regular contributor to IWCE Vision Magazine and Universal’s smartstuff Social Station.
Jana resides in the Hudson River Valley, north of Manhattan, with her husband, writer Lang Phipps, and two children, Wilton and Giovanna, in an old Bavarian-style home that is in need of TLC and more trimmings. You can find Jana at www.trimqueen.com, on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.