Jessie Randall is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Loeffler Randall—the shoes and accessories brand held close to the hearts (and heels) of New York women. In a world where success appears to happen overnight, Loeffler Randall has been in the game for almost 12 years—Jessie and her husband Brian started the company in 2004. LR products are special—anyone will tell you that—and Jessie (along with Brian) have cultivated this magic the old fashioned way: years of hard work, sticking with it, and being nice to people. I caught up with Jessie to talk about how she’s evolved with the brand, what matters most, and what real life looks like for her.
“Before Loeffler Randall was a real thing, I remember going to Italy to find our agent and factory. I was trying to make it seem like there were lots of agents and factories in the running for our non-existent business. I’m a very honest person and a terrible liar, so that was pretty ridiculous. But somehow the agent bought it, signed us on and we started the line. It feels like it was such a fairytale how quickly it started and took off. I wanted to succeed so badly, I couldn’t sleep at night. Brian and I worked on our business around the clock. I remember for our first trade show, I made a mini diorama of our booth, complete with miniature satin and snakeskin pillows I had sewn for the mini photocopies of the shoes to sit on. Huge milestones for us in those early days were being taken on by Steven Alan and Bergdorf Goodman. When we sold through that first season, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
I’m a natural leader. I’m emotionally intelligent. I’m good at the creative side. Luckily, Brian makes up for the areas that I fall short in. I made a conscious choice to start my business with a business partner who was strong where I was weak and vice versa. Some of the best advice my old boss gave me before starting LR was: “Get a business partner and make sure whatever you make comes in sizes.” Over the years, I’ve had to let go of being so hands-on with the creative. I’ve needed to let go so I can take on a bigger role in the marketing and branding, and have the creative headspace to get inspired. Brian is a risk taker and a true entrepreneur. He’s more optimistic than I am. I am more rational, more risk adverse. I think it’s a good mix—we balance each other. Brian is able to be tougher than I am in a lot of situations, but in times when he’s less strong, I’m able to step up and make hard decisions. We’re good at dividing and conquering.
Both of us put a lot of effort into keeping the momentum going.
I don’t think it ever feels forced, but it’s not something that we just let come along whenever. We design a lot of product, and we think about it carefully and thoughtfully. I’m up in the middle of the night thinking about whether a color is right and if there’s a way to improve a fit, or a design that could be more functional for our girl. We are constantly trying to make every product we design better and better and better. I always say that without Brian, I’d be hand-making shoes in my kitchen—he’s the one who has the big business drive and mindset, and I’m the one that helps to make the product special. We just redesigned our office on a very tight timeline, and ran up against many challenges. Our interior designer said “It was Jessie’s vision and Murphy’s law.” We laughed about that.
When it comes to balance, I think it’s really tough and nobody knows the answer. I read somewhere that between family, friends, work, exercise—you can pick three things. I do find that’s pretty true. For me the exercise part tends to be the one that goes out the window. On the flip side, when I don’t take care of myself, I am lousy at taking care of other people. It’s a constant juggle. I feel happiest when I am in a workout routine, I am sweating several days a week, and eating healthy. It’s just very hard to fit that in. Two things I never stop prioritizing are my kids and my company. With my kids, I like to let them get bored—it’s the way I grew up, and I think it forces you to get creative. I had to make do with very little and come up with solutions as a kid—which, if I’d had a ton of art supplies or toys at my disposal, I wouldn’t have had to do.
It made me very determined to work on something until I got it right, and also gave me an enormous threshold for being bored, which is a really important life skill!
Not all work is fun or interesting. There are large chunks of my job that are not fun. I have an ability to stick with things and push through until I get the result I want. That helps with motivation, but so does the tuition at my kids’ school! When my business is growing, I feel energized, inspired, and alive. That feeling during the process of growth is more what I’m going for—not necessarily the result of growth itself. I have accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed of with twins and a little one to boot. As long as I can provide for my kids, continue to grow as a person, be a good friend, learn new things, (and have nice shoes in my closet!) I am fulfilled and happy. I feel like turning 40 this year put a lot of things into perspective for me. I don’t waste time on people or thoughts that don’t serve me.
I’m trying to be the best person I can be and at the same time, accept that there are certain things about me that aren’t likely going to change.
I don’t feel very insecure at this point in my life. I have a wonderful family and kids that love me, and that’s my biggest measure of success. Yes, I’m getting a bit older and I wish some things about my physical appearance looked a little better, but I’m doing OK. I try not to compare myself or my business to anyone else’s, I keep my head down and focus on what I’m trying to accomplish. Something I’ve been thinking about this year is how to make my job work for me instead of worrying so much about working for my job. I’m an incredibly hard worker and very driven, and know that things will always get done. This year, I’d like to spend more time in the afternoons with my kids because they really need me right now. I’m looking at ways to be more flexible, more efficient, and feel less guilt about my work.
I think I’m the same person in my work life and my home life (although a lot more affectionate in my home life!) My life and my line are so intertwined at this point I can’t separate them. I care a lot about being authentic and kind, but I have faults, a lot of them. But I try to own them and realize that this is who I am, and that all parts of me contribute to what ultimately make me successful. For example, I’m kind of a homebody. It seems like everyone else loves to travel. For me, and for my creative process, there is something that works about being mostly a homebody. I could never pretend to be someone I’m not—I just want to be real about who I am and how I live my life. Real life for me also means having a child with some unique challenges, but I believe that these challenges make our lives richer and more expansive. I often say to my kids: “How did I get so lucky to get you?” And I do feel lucky, regardless of the challenges we face. I think remembering to be grateful is important, and that being thankful every day is key. Real life is all of the serious things and not so serious things—like needing the photoshop liquify tool on lots of my bio pics, ha! Real life can be unglamorous, but I love my life for what it is and I don’t take it for granted. Nobody’s life is perfect. I think perfect is really, really boring. I love the things that make my life a little bit messy.”
Photography by Amy Woodside
As told to Amy Woodside, April 2016