profile shot of Jason Schott

Schott NYC: An Iconic Leather Brand

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted on New Jersey Monthly on March 22, 2016.

A leather shop in Union has been catering to celebs and stylish folk for over 100 years.

Jason Schott helms the business his great grandfather started in 1913. Right, a 100-year anniversary book chronicles the company's history.
Jason Schott helms the business his great grandfather started in 1913.
Photo by Anthony Lukas

Jason Schott, 42, spent his childhood sweeping the floors of his family’s New Jersey coat factory.  Now, as COO for the Union-based company, Schott NYC, he still loves the smell of leather as he walks the floor, managing day-to-day operations of the brand his great, grandfather Irving Schott started with his brother Jack in his Lower East Side apartment in 1913. Irving first made a raincoat; later, the brothers were commissioned by the Air Force to make bomber jackets and pea coats for soldiers in World War II. After the war,  the pair created a classic motorcycle jacket that landed on the back of Marlon Brando in The Wild One and became James Dean’s signature look. Both styles are still in the line today. In the ’70s and ’80s, the brand, known for its rebel look, became a favorite of rock and punk artists like Bruce Springsteen, the Ramones, Blondie, Joan Jett and the Sex Pistols. Today’s superstar fans include Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna.

But mere mortals have loved Schott’s jackets for years, and now a new legion of fans have discovered the collection. “For years people saw us as a jacket company. [We’re] now a lifestyle brand with sweaters, shirts, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts,” says Schott. He’s even collaborated with designer Ralph Lauren, who visited Schott’s New York store one day and admired the vintage jackets on display.  Schott worked on a few styles with the designer under the Double RL label, which retailed in both companies’ stores.

The majority of Schott’s time is spent in Union at the offices and factory with his mother, the president, and his uncle, the CEO, and 100 employees. “We invite people to tour our factory, and they are amazed at the amount of work that goes into one jacket,” he explains. It takes about eight hours to complete one, and 40 to 50 hands touch it. Prices range from cloth coats at $175 to leathers that run as high as $1,300. When many companies moved production overseas for cheaper prices, Schott resisted.

“In places like Japan, they’ve appreciated made-in-America brands for a long time. In the last five years, I think Americans are doing the same. Through our website and social media, we have told the story of how the product is made, and customers are interested in that. I think the trend in fashion is supporting heritage brands, things that hold up over time.”

Women’s rust-brown leather jacket with asymmetrical zip; $720.
Courtesy of Schott NYC
A 100-year anniversary book chronicles the company’s history.
Courtesy of Schott NYC
Men’s cowhide Perfecto leather jacket with antique brass trim; $785.
Courtesy of Schott NYC

Could Nanotechnology Dramatically Reduce Clothing’s Environmental Impact?

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted on Sustainable Brands on October 27, 2015.

Image credit: Dropel Fabrics
Image credit: Dropel Fabrics

If washing and drying clothes is a major culprit in the environmental waste wars, what if there were more natural fabrics that repelled stains, resulting in fewer washings? One such solution, introduced by Kelby & Co. at the Fashion Tech Lab demo day this summer, is being rolled out in the market next month.

Dropel fuses hydrophobic (water- & stain-repellent) nanotechnology with cotton fibers to create enhanced cotton that resists stains as stubborn as soy sauce and red wine. Spills can be rinsed off with a squirt of water.

Founders Sim Gulati and Brad Feinstein are working with cotton now, though they say they have the capabilities to blend all types of natural fabrics such as cashmere, silk, linen and wool.

“Maintaining natural feel (softness), breathability, draping and all other fabric characteristics are our differentiators,” Feinstein says.

He says Dropel is working in the types of innovation usually reserved for polyester.

“We want to move away from synthetics towards a world where we can use natural textiles with added benefits that require less energy and resources in the process,” he says. ”We’ve used synthetics for decades and we believe we’re at a point now where we no longer need to resort to petroleum-based fabrics for innovative properties. We provide a sustainable alternative.”

The proprietary development process was designed in a research lab and adapted for mass-scale manufacturing. Feinstein and Gilutai have filed their first patent application for Dropel.

While the company is currently working with a handful of luxury menswear ecommerce companies, the team sees the fabric as being suitable for women’s and children’s wear, home furnishings, and uniforms. Dropel Fabrics is expected to come to market soon – the company has begun trials with several brands for Spring and Summer 2016, with some doing full garment manufacturing with the company and others sourcing the fabric. Regardless, the company says brands like that the innovative fabric with embedded technology is a purchase consumers can feel good about.

“We feel sustainability and environmental care are elements of our value proposition,” Feinstein says.

Dropel is the latest in a spate of recent fabric innovations aimed at decreasing the environmental impact of textile production and use:

  • In 2014, Scientists at City University in Hong Kong revealed a new treatment for cashmere that enables it to self-clean with some help from the sun. The technology coats cashmere fibers with tiny particles of the mineral anatase titanium dioxide. When exposed to sunlight for 24 hours, the mineral starts a chemical reaction creating oxidants that act as tiny electric currents to break down dust, dirt, bacteria and even trickier stains such as coffee and wine. If the project succeeds and is commercialized, it could lead to substantial savings on energy, water, washing liquids and dry cleaning chemicals.
  • In April, textile upcycler Worn Again announced a partnership with H&M and Kering to trial a first-of-its-kind textile-to-textile chemical recycling technology that is able to separate and extract polyester and cotton from old or end-of-use clothing and textiles. Once separated, the aim is for this unique process to enable the ‘recaptured’ polyester and cellulose from cotton to be spun into new fabric, creating a circular resource model for textiles.
  • In August, Swiss upcycled bag and clothing brand Freitag expanded its F-abric line of European-grown and -produced workwear with a compostable, cotton-free jean — the E500 jean line will comprise 81 percent linen and 19 percent hemp. The jeans will contain neither rivets nor nylon thread, making each pair 100 percent compostable after the removal of buttons.
  • In September, adidas announced Sport Infinity, the sportswear giant’s plan for a new breed of sporting goods that will never be thrown away. Instead, football (soccer) players will be able to constantly reimagine and recycle their dream products using an inexhaustible 3-D “super-material.” The company’s goal is for every gram of sportswear to eventually be broken down to be remolded again into new products in a waste-free, adhesive-free process
  • And just last month, Levi Strauss launched its Levi’s Wellthread™ Collection, which touts a holistic approach to sustainable product design: The line was made in 100 percent cotton for easier recyclability, by empowered workers — and includes the first garments to feature Levi’s Water<Less™ fabric, which saves more than 65 percent of the water in the dye process, as well as Water<Less denim finishes, which use up to 50 percent less water.

The Stars & Stripes Store: A Philadelphia Story

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted on The Americanologists on October 18, 2015.


In November of 2012, the giant red doors of Stars & Stripes Ltd. on Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street were opened to the public. The building is a circa-1881 decommissioned Gothic-style church with original wood details and soaring leaded glass windows. Inside, you’ll find an elegant shop with a stylish collection of American-made clothing and home goods.


The store is owned by the husband and wife team of Jan and Robert Chevalier. Ten years ago they bought the church to house Robert’s furniture business, but left the parish house empty. A friend suggested it would make a great store. “Why not?” thought Robert, who has been an entrepreneur his whole life. ” I never want to look back and say I wish I had tried that.”


They filled the space with antique displays, but found it challenging to stock those displays with the Made-in-USA clothes they imagined. Their first season, they found only 30-40 vendors. “We found, in the beginning, everyone wanted to talk about it but no one wanted to do it,” says Robert.


“We would stop by booths at the trade shows and tell them that we wanted Made-in-America merchandise. They’d say, ‘Good luck with that’,” says Jan. Now the store, which is meticulously styled with vintage art, artifacts and accessories, has merchandise from close to 175 vendors.  They also wanted the merchandise to cater to a range of customers – from the college student to the career person who lives or works in the area.


The look at Stars & Stripes is classic American style with a twist. The men’s area is stocked with heritage brands like Bills Khakis (above), which makes sportswear ranging from boxers to overcoats; Haspel,which brings a new perspective to traditional gentleman’s style; Gitman and New England Shirt Co, two storied Ameircan shirt-makers; B. Ella, a knitting mill producing fun and comfortable socks for men and women; R. Hanauer, a manufacturer of classic silk repp ties and bowties, and Schott NY, a company that has made iconic coats for over 100 years.


On the women’s side of the store there are Leota, NY wrap dresses, architectural-looking career separates from Nora Gardener, new takes on classic shirts from Bell by Alicia Bell and merchandise from Fresh Laundry, like the sweater coat shown above. In accessories, there’s jewelry by Jan Michaels of San Francisco and Brewster Designs of Lambertville, NJ.


Felt and leather Graf and Lantz (Los Angeles) handbags pop on the shelves and are among the most popular items in the store.


Home pieces include Faribault Woolen Mills throws (Faribault, MN), and Visual Comfort Lighting (Houston, TX).

Stars and Stripes Ltd. is open daily 10 to 6, Sundays from 11 to 5. The store is located at 2129 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA. They can be contacted at (215) 587-2129.

Philadelphia’s Economy Boosted by Influx of Retail, Investments

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted on on September 22, 2015.

This fall, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and the Forbes Under 30 Summit will descend upon Philadelphia, putting the city in a spotlight not seen in many years. Next July, it’s the Democratic National Convention that will come to town, bringing with it throngs of delegates and tourists who like to shop.

They’re in the right place.

Since 2013, 25 national stores have come to Center City Philadelphia and nine retail-driven developments have been built or are under way in Center City. In the next few years, more than 2.3 million new square feet of fresh retail space is expected to be added to what has already helped earn it the number-two spot on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of best cities and neighborhoods in the world for shopping and fashion, as chosen by the magazine’s readers, behind Barcelona. In 2014, national stores making a big splash included a 100,000-square-foot Century 21, a 39,000-square-foot Nordstrom Rack, and a 29,000-square-foot Uniqlo, which is the Japanese fast-fashion giant’s only free-standing flagship outside of New York.

But it wasn’t that long ago — 2007, to be precise — that Michelle Shannon, vice president of marketing and communications of the Center City District, sat around a table with brokers, developers and retailers wondering how they could attract more stores to plant a flag in the district.

The data seemed strong enough to entice businesses to come to town: Since 2000, population increased 16 percent downtown. According to the 2015 State of Center City report, Millennials (ages 19-34) now represent 40 percent of the greater Center City population and household incomes are hovering around $107,000.

But back then, brokers had a hackneyed image of the city.

“People thought Philadelphia was an old Rust Belt, blue-collar city that was unsophisticated and whose main diet consisted of cheesesteaks and soft pretzels,” said Shannon.

So she gathered a team that could show outsiders the “new Philadelphia story.” Shannon formed The Philadelphia Retail Marketing Alliance in 2008 to improve the quality and quantity of Center City’s retail offerings. PRMA started advertising in trade publications and chatted up the city at retail trade shows. A glossy promotional piece, with images of independent stores and restaurants along with testimonials was presented to potential leasees. A site was created,, to highlight shopping; it has an accompanying campaign with the tagline “Be In On It.” Shannon brought fashion designers to the Eventi hotel in Chelsea to meet writers and tell them about the fashion scene in the city. She paired with partners, the convention and visitors bureau, and the City of Philadelphia and held a press conference in New York to say “give us a look.”

Laura Krebs Miller, vice president of Cashman & Associates, a public relations and marketing firm, invited writers to check out firsthand what Philadelphia retail was all about. She took them on tours of top shopping neighborhoods, experiencing The Philadelphia Collection (Philadelphia’s version of fashion week) and visiting the design spaces of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s, both initiatives that were outgrowths of the PRMA.

“Many hadn’t been to Philadelphia in seven to 10 years,” Miller said. “They couldn’t believe how incredible and lively the whole scene was — shopping and dining, arts and culture. Writers would often make comparisons — while shopping in the boutiques and designer co-op shops in Old City neighborhood, they’d say ‘This reminds me of Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, or The Village.’”

“The surge of Philadelphia’s retail offerings and commercial development over the past several years is a reflection not only of our city as a highly desirable place to live, work and visit, but also of the determination of the individuals on a civic level that work through the mechanics of the infrastructure to help make it happen,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “There is heavy investment from the City in seeing these large-scale capital projects and marketing efforts through and we’re proud of how far we’ve come. It is a significant time for retail in Philadelphia.”

Over the past few years, national brands have flocked to Walnut Street and Center City West, one of the city’s prime shopping districts. One retail pioneer, Joan Shepp, long held a coveted spot on Walnut Street but when retail demand increased and rents rose there, she seized the opportunity to move to bigger digs at 18th and Chestnut, where she now has a 9,200-square-foot store with rooms of apparel and accessories, from buzzy to contemporary to edgy — J.W. Anderson, The Row, Maison Margiela, Moschino, Public School, Sonia Rykiel, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Dries Van Noten and Nicholas Kirkwood among them.

“Rents in Center City District range from $30 a square foot on the residential corridors to $225 a square foot on Walnut Street, the city’s most highly sought-after shopping and dining high street,” said Douglas J. Green, principal of MSC Retail. “Over the past five years, rents have increased by 25 percent in some portions of CCD, to nearly 80 percent in others. This rent growth has been spurred by significant increased demand in residential growth and minimal new product added to the market.”

While Rittenhouse Square was the crown jewel of Center City retail, there is growth in so many neighborhoods now, according to Jacob Cooper, partner and managing director of MSC retail, a family-owned boutique real estate firm. “When you walk the blocks, there is an energy. There is so much construction going on. There are 60 colleges in the region, and [students] have never been interested in living in Center City. But now there is nightlife. It began with the election of (Mayor) Ed Rendell, who was interested in the renewal of the district. In the early Nineties, more businesses came here and in the late Nineties there was a resurgence on Walnut Street.”

Cooper added it’s never been easier to sell Philadelphia.

“Suddenly there was a whole gamut of retailers willing to plant a flag here — from luxury brands to fast fashion. There are store openings every week, it seems,” said Cooper. “Now there are Vince, Bloomingdale’s and Michael Kors.”

The retail footprint is expanding with the development of the area near The Gallery and the Market East area, which the late, renowned developer Tony Goldman started in the late Nineties.

Just last fall, Century 21 took over two floors of the former Strawbridge’s department store. C21 will become the anchor for the new Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia at Market East (formerly The Gallery). Eddie Gindi, executive vice president of Century 21 Department Stores, said his team spent a year visiting and researching Philadelphia while exploring several other cities for their first store outside of New York. “Philadelphia’s culture, wealth of like-minded consumers who align with our mission, combined with the city’s proximity to our operations hubs, ultimately drove our decision.”

The strength of the Millennial mind-set was also a contributing factor. In a year, C21 has seen strong sales in men’s and women’s European departments, women’s contemporary and European labels in the children’s and teen’s categories.

Right next door, construction is under way on the former Gallery. The City Council this summer approved a $325 million, two-year remake of the 1.4 million square-foot mall, built in 1973, which will be reimagined and called the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust bought the mall in 2003; it owns nine malls in the region, 32 in the country.

“We definitely don’t want to create just another downtown mall.  It’s important that the experience is curated,” stated Joe Coradino, chief executive officer of PREIT. “In addition to shopping, there will be dining, entertainment and events. I like to say we’re going to create a ‘gotta go’ experience, so people tell their friends, ‘When you go to Philadelphia, you gotta go see Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia.’ So we, and our partners, are focused on crafting the right mix of tenants to satisfy the diverse audiences we’ll have.”

Retail expansions are being seen in the suburbs as well. King of Prussia Mall is undergoing its ninth expansion in its 52-year history. This latest will feature 170,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, according to Kathy Smith, director of marketing and business development. Twenty luxury brands will be in the new section, 15 of which are new to the Philadelphia area and to date include CH Carolina Herrera, Robert Graham, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams home furnishings, Microsoft and a Burberry flagship. The mall currently does about $1 billion in sales a year and receives around 20 million visitors annually.

“Why expand now? There is a demand by tenants to be in the best malls in America,” said David Contis, president of Simon Property Group. “Good malls have a demand for space. “It is not just the luxury customer who shops here. It is young and old, wealthy and middle class.” Millennials are also a target audience Simon wants to appeal to. “They want to shop, walk to the movies and eat out.  People want to gather and socialize, so will have five new restaurants. We want to create an environment where they want to stay longer and shop.“

A Bucks County Farmhouse Showcases Rustic Design

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on September 29, 2014.

One interior designer’s passion for fashion and love of antiques has inspired the bold design within a historic bucks county farmhouse.

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The 100-acre Bucks County property on which this historic and daringly decorated farmhouse sits includes a Chinese pavilion and a 17th century English-style hedge maze.

When designer Andrew Hartnagle traded his Rittenhouse Square townhouse for a place in the country, he considered his new Bucks County farmhouse as another antique to collect, just on a larger scale. What he did with the home over the next 25 years was everything that no one expected. “I wanted it to be dramatic, so I put an explosion of different finishes, colors, and fabrics throughout, so people looked alive in it,” he explains of incorporating his bold fashion sense and many English antiques into the house.

In fact, it was serendipitous that Twin Silo farm, as it is known, was just down the road from a home he created for the then-head of design for Vera Wang. The two would talk about fabrics and colors for everything from walls to clothing during the process. Some of these conversations influenced Hartnagle’s décor decisions, such as the foyer, done in bright yellow grasscloth with ebonized floors and featuring a curved staircase. In other rooms, he lacquered pine floors and used luxe materials like mahogany for doors and ceiling beams or onyx for floors. Bright, glossy elements were the perfect contrast to the “boringly grand” furniture he had bought over the years at auctions with his partner, Wayne Stark, a retired investment banker. Hartnagle credits his foundations as a designer to working for Philadelphia’s Carl Steele, whose eclectic interiors have been featured in The New York Times and House Beautiful.

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Hartnagle mixed English antiques with unexpected colors and patterns to arrive at his distinctive designs.

Perhaps Hartnagle’s favorite room at the farm was one that was ever changing—the great room—one he envisioned as a French salon. With vermilion and pink striped walls, he likens this treatment to the inside of a jewel box. “We used to have grand parties here, so I changed that room a lot. Varying the space from time to time was like changing the set design. When you fill the room with people, it’s spectacular,” he says. The walls dramatize the serious Chippendale mirrors, William Kent tables, and eight bronze d’or griffon sconces that make the room sparkle. To encourage guests to sit and talk, the designer put two sleek silk velvet sofas back to back and scattered four chairs from the 1840s in sapphire blue and gray stripes around the space. He added doors and trim made of mahogany. “The mix provides harmony in the space.”

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The dining room features Chinese-patterned fabric on the walls and sleek mahogany ceiling beams.

In the gallery, which connects the main house to one of the two additions, his painter applied six coats of brilliant red paint, and then he worked with him on buffing the walls with wax. For an added dose of glamour, he chose metallic silver paint for the ceiling. The dining room was given a luxe makeover with Chinese-patterned fabric on the walls, replacing the rough-hewn beams with sleek mahogany ones, and covering the 10 chairs he bought at an auction with embroidered silk green velvet. In each room, sculptures and large oil canvasses of New Hope Impressionists give guests more eye candy. Of the unusual choices he made throughout the house, Hartnagle admits, “Some don’t understand it, but they’ve always loved it. They thought it was fresh and forward-thinking.”

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The hedge maze has been a talking point of many a garden tour.

The designer also made sure certain rooms would offer a bird’s-eye view of the 100-acre property. In the study, there is a set of three doors, two of which open to a New Orleans–style balcony, which overlooks the patio, pavilions, barn, and garden. Years ago, when there was little there, he studied books on the famous English gardeners of the late 19th century to develop his plan for a garden that has since been the scene for many a tour. “I wanted to create gardens that would further embellish and give continuity to the iconic 18th century structures on the property,” Hartnagle says. The gardens include alleys, a 17th-century English-style hedge maze, and a three-acre pond replete with a peninsula and a Chinese pavilion. Each morning, he gets his hands dirty working there and planning new areas.

Now that the property is complete, the couple will move to a new place nearby, where Hartnagle will develop a residence that has a more modern feel. “I look forward to working on a new home and garden, but I will miss this one,” he says. “There is a mystique about this property. Everyone who knows this farm loves it as we have.” Linda Danese, Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty, 6038 Lower York Road, New Hope, 215-794-1300

Home Tour: Dan and Sarah Keating’s Dream Abode

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on August 28, 2014.

As Dan And Sarah eating embark on their next chapter in life, the couple reflects on their rustic main line dream home.

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A new wing was designed to respect the rustic, vernacular nature of the existing house.

Twenty years ago, Daniel Keating bought an enviable seven-acre property that overlooked the 100-acre Morris Arboretum in Gladwyne, tearing down the existing house and building a Colonial for his wife, Sarah, and their six children. But even then, he dreamed of an addition that reminded him of his trips out West. “I wanted a product that showed the talents of the craftsmen working on it,” says Keating, a third-generation builder and the owner of The Keating Companies, Philadelphia-based real estate developers best known for buildings like The Union League and The Phoenix.

He wanted this new wing to echo the work of architect Peter Bohlin, whose designs include The Barn at Fallingwater outside Pittsburgh and the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York. “He creates extraordinary buildings,” says Keating. “He has a passion for the vernacular that is rustic, highly artisanal in outlook.”

3 - Home Tour: Dan and Sarah Keating's Dream Abode
The swimming pool, designed by BLTA architects, predates the renovated house and became the redesign impetus for the whole structure.

Bob Henderson, master architect on staff at Keating, began to sketch plans. It would sit on a hill and feature a 20-by-40-foot pool, a guest suite, and a fireplace. After completing a 3-D sketch, he suggested it be fashioned in timber and steel.

The onus then fell to architect Alfred Dragani of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to articulate a plan. Keating provided recycled wood he’d purchased from an old barn in Connecticut, and Dragani pieced it together, with sweeping glass expanses helping unite indoors and out. The end product looks as though it belongs in a luxe ski resort. “The world unfolds when you step onto the property,” Keating says. “It’s as if you are at a resort in Montana or Wyoming.”

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The main entrance sets the tone for the western-themed interior.

Once the addition was complete, the Keatings had Dragani reconstitute the house exterior to match the style of the addition. Keating wanted a more open floor plan, so Dragani took down existing partitions to create space. “A palette of natural and recycled materials was utilized throughout for a rustic, yet modern character,” says Dragani. Rooflines and windows were altered. The exterior would now seem much better connected to the outdoors. “The home now feels like a Frank Lloyd Wright house,” Henderson says. “It’s part of the land.”

Another unlikely meeting paired Keating with interior designer Floss Barber, who joined the expanding team. Barber and her firm did the interior finishes, walls, furnishings, and some art.

Keating emphasized that the home had to feel accessible. “We wanted to be able to enjoy all the rooms,” he jokes.

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The dining room is an intimate space that recalls the old West.

Barber began with the dramatic entrance, which includes a monumental staircase. An oversize bronze bunny purchased at a gallery out West greets incoming visitors; in a humorous twist, both Dan and Sarah wanted to get it as a surprise gift for the other. Barber was forced to play the secret middleman—fielding surreptitious calls from both Dan and Sarah before convincing Dan not to buy it so Sarah could surprise him with it. “Their tastes are really that in sync,” Barber laughs.

The rugs are works of art as well—Barber had them custom made through the New Moon Mesa collection—and she found Spanish colonial antiques at Colonial Frontiers in Tucson.

The couple will downsize this fall when they move to The Phoenix to begin a new chapter in life, but they are leaving with happy memories. “The house has been fantastic,” says Keating. “We have raised our children here and used every room.” Eva McKendrick, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Fox & Roach Realtors, 1149 W. Lancaster Ave., Rosemont 610-527-6400

The Woman Behind Nicole Miller’s Success

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on August 18, 2014.

Entrepreneur Mary K. Dougherty has made fashion designer Nicole Miller a household name in Philadelphia.

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Mary K. Dougherty dresses Philadelphia women for a lifetime—from prom night to wedding continued on page 56 day—in Nicole Miller.

A few years after Mary Dougherty was recruited to be a road rep for a young New York designer named Nicole Miller, then company president and current CEO Bud Konheim approached her about opening a store in Philadelphia. It was 1993. Dougherty took Konheim and the brand’s team to the little-known town of Manayunk, where just a few restaurants and two retailers made up Main Street. “It was getting dark, and we were at the edge of town,” recalls Konheim with a laugh. “It was like being in a western—Mary showed us the building, which seemed like it was right next to the O.K. Corral. Mary said, ‘I think this is the next big thing.’ I said, ‘You know best.’ ”

With Konheim’s blessing, Dougherty took the leap of faith and opened the boutique the following March. Void of a marketing budget, Dougherty called in favors, recruiting then Philadelphia mayor (and later Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell, sports figures, local celebrities, and Miller herself to attend the opening party. The epic affair was the first of many bashes. “I was told I was nuts to open a store there,” remembers Dougherty, but this spring, she celebrated 20 years in retail in Philadelphia.

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Nicole Miller produces stylish bags and heels.

Dougherty now owns and operates the Center City and Manayunk Nicole Miller stores and is the wholesale representative for the brand in six states.

Looking ahead, she feels the fashion future is bright for the brand, the city, and the industry. “In the beginning, we worked from 11 am to 11 pm on weekends,” she says. “We added a second store at the Bellevue in 1997, back when the only things in that neighborhood were Le Bec-Fin and Susanna Foo.”

On Mondays, she’d hit the road, heading out in a 22-foot recreational vehicle built to house the entire collection for retailers. “If I had more Marys, I could quadruple my business,” says Konheim. “When people talk about entrepreneurs, she is the poster child for the American entrepreneur.”

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Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell with Miller and Dougherty.

The youngest of eight children, Dougherty was already working in the fashion business at 15, first in retail, then for a clothing rep in Philadelphia, and even doing some modeling at fashion trade shows. When she was recruited to work for Miller, the designer was the enthroned queen of the little black dress, a new icon of contemporary women’s fashion. But it would be the printed men’s tie—made of leftover fabric from a seasonal collection—that sold thousands and made the designer a household name. “Nicole Miller is an incredibly talented designer who makes my job easy,” Dougherty says.

For Dougherty, the brand’s impact cannot be understated. “Whether you’re going to dinner or the Academy Ball, Nicole Miller has played an important part in the fabric and style of fashion in Philadelphia,” says Dougherty. “One of my hobbies is counting how many of our dresses are worn at a single event. The record is 50-plus sightings at a local gala.” But at the same time, she has dressed many a Philadelphia woman for myriad milestones. “Girls come for a bat mitzvah or party dress, then they return for prom, graduation, and wedding dresses.”

Keeping Philadelphia fashionable for two decades has lent Dougherty a sense of permanence. “There is a feeling of vindication,” she says. “At our store, you can get a $500 dress and $5,000 dollars worth of service—that’s what distinguishes us.”

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The Manayunk and Bellevue locations stock dresses for every occasion.

Success has also created numerous opportunities to give back, and Dougherty and her family—husband, Erik Neumann, and teenage sons Nyle, Alex, and Ryan—are longtime supporters of Homefront, Juvenile Diabetes, and Philadelphia Academies Inc., where friend and famous customer, Philadelphia’s “first lady” Lisa Nutter, is president and chairman. “The charity work is hers alone,” gushes Konheim. “She does honor to our brand name.” Philly-themed printed ties and scarves were a recent merging of the two spheres—a hit for the retail stores with proceeds going to area charities.

But through it all, Dougherty remains humble about her contributions and her awards. “We have a lot more to do and give,” she says, citing a desire to become a job creator for Philly’s next fashion generation. “My hope is that Philadelphia continues to evolve and provide jobs and opportunities. I see showrooms, manufacturing, trade shows, an entire fashion district here. Now, the sky is the limit.” 4249 Main St., 215-930-0307; 200 S. Broad St., 215-546-5007

Home Tour: A Laid-Back Beach Home on the Jersey Shore

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on May 18, 2014.

A suburban couple’s beachside home reflects their new, laid-back lifestyle at the Jersey Shore.

4 - Home Tour: A Laid-Back Beach Home on the J…
The living room at Karen and Hubert Jasinski’s Bella Condos penthouse showcases their style.

It is rare someone winds up thankful that a deal for a potential dream home falls through. But for Karen Jasinski and her husband, Hubert, being narrowly outbid for a Millionaires’ Row home on the Inlet in Atlantic City turned out to be an unexpected boon. With their disappointment still fresh, a call from Karen’s business partner led to the purchase of a unit at Bella Condos in Atlantic City. She was always against living in an “elevator building” as she was accustomed to the wide-open spaces of her five-acre Montgomery County farm, where she drives to her mailbox daily. But with a little coaxing, Karen was convinced to give high-rise living a trial run.

She soon found that she really loved the many conveniences of a staffed 24-hour concierge building and became a quick convert to this more pampered lifestyle. Before long, a penthouse became available, and she and Hubert—owners of a medical manufacturing lab in Lansdale—traded their unit for the two-floor, three-bedroom standout, commissioning the condo’s main designer, Janet Espenshade of Espenshade Interiors in Bryn Mawr, to have the place move-in ready in 30 days. Espenshade’s contemporary “upscale seashore style” interiors had already earned rave reviews from many of the building’s other residents, and she was up for the challenge.

3 - Home Tour: A Laid-Back Beach Home on the J…
The kitchen features stainless steel countertops.

Espenshade, who also crafted the interiors for 1706 Rittenhouse, used glistening travertine floors throughout the Jasinskis’ home. The contemporary kitchen now boasts Italian cabinetry, glass hood and tile, and a built-in cappuccino machine. A stainless steel counter peninsula overlooks a dining area with rich wood and upholstered dining chairs.

Espenshade kept all the windows uncovered so the focal point of the home would be the view. “I was able to make it so much more than what you see at the Shore,” she says, admitting that while the home is not your typical Shore house interior, its modern elegance sets it apart: “I think it is the most glamorous building in Atlantic City.”

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The designer, Janet Espenshade, decorated the house with a contemporary “upscale seashore style”.

In the penthouse’s living room she constructed a custom glass and marble fireplace, and in the master bedroom, Espenshade used a creamy yellow for the sumptuous linens. The guest bedroom is done in shades of slate gray and pink. Off the master bedroom there is a curved balcony with impressive views of the city. “I think most people who have second homes want cleaner and lighter,” says the designer. “They may have the big, traditional home in the suburbs and now they want something that is easier to care for but has plenty of room.” The Jasinskis’ country home is just that—an Italian-style design with generous rooms that flow into one another and that are filled with art and collections. But for Karen, the Shore condo is her modern version of a European-style pied-à-terre, complete with a collection of vintage pin-up art curated by her husband.

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The guest bedroom in creamy yellow.

Now Jasinski and her husband hop in the car and enjoy the dining, gaming, and entertainment that have become part of their weekend routine. “During the day, we take our bikes and go to Gardner’s Basin near Borgata in the afternoon. It is like a mini Key West with its bars and restaurants.”

But the couple treasures quieter time in their beachside home when they need to press pause on their busy lives. “The unit is an oasis—an elegant functional home away from home,” says Karen. For Hubert, the vibrancy and accessibility of the city is the most exciting aspect of their luxe retreat. “When I go to turn in at night and look at the city lights, I often wonder how I can sleep when the city is so alive.” Bella Condos, 526 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-344-6200