July 14, 2014 • Sarah Schwartz
The growth of ban.do has been an adventure for Jen Gotch, its creative director and founder. It all started in the summer of 2008, when she and a friend began selling the high-end, one-of-a-kind, vintage floral halos and headbands they’d been making. On their third day in business, ban.do was discovered by Daily Candy. Despite average prices of $165 per item, they sold out their first two lines and began taking custom orders.
Then the celebrities materialized — first Taylor Swift, whom ban.do created custom tour pieces for as well as capsule line for her website. Swift was tailed by A-listers including Emmy Rossum, Katy Perry, even Justin Beiber.
Eventually ban.do’s offerings included five lines, including one for brides, a lower-priced line and an all-vintage collection. “We realized people were reacting to the brand as much as they were the products,” Gotch observed. “We based everything on fun, lightheartedness and laughter; (that) sounds corny, but it’s a pretty good business model.”
When Gotch’s partner had to move out of state, they decided to sell the company and found an enthusiastic buyer in Todd Ferrier of Lifeguard Press, who also creates the incredibly successful kate spade new york, Jonathan Adler and Lilly Pulitzer lines. Gotch stayed on as creative director.
“We all share a vision for the brand, which is to take it from one-of-a-kind hair accessories to a full lifestyle brand,” Gotch explained. “This first line is a major step in that direction, and it will only get cooler from here.”
Stationery Trends interviewed Gotch to learn more.
ST: What inspired you and your friend to first make vintage floral halos and headbands?
JG: We’d been styling several shoots and were asked to create a few different types of halos and I think the idea just stuck with both of us. It’s always interesting to me how the creative consciousness works.
ST: Who were some early celebrity fans of your line, and what pieces are their favorites?
JG: Taylor Swift was the first celebrity to wear ban.do, quickly followed by Zooey Deschanel. Taylor loved everything, especially the halos. Now she seems to gravitate towards the twist scarves. Zooey went for sparkle, wearing a one of our crystal appliqué headbands to the Grammys. So fun!
ST: What made you broaden the line and open the price range — and then bring it into its present incarnation?
JG: We realized very early on that $200 hair accessories were not for everyone, although we were consistently selling out our collections. It was clear that girls really wanted to get a piece of the brand and the economy was shifting, so we started offering some pieces at lower price points.
Our first really successful new endeavor was into tech. We created a very simple yet graphic white with red ban.do heart phone case and it took off like wildfire. That was definitely the predecessor to what we have now. Tech is huge for us, since it is such a big part of all of our lives.
ST: You plan to evolve ban.do into a full fashion lifestyle brand. What other product categories would you like to get into?
JG: We are branching out into jewelry, paper (like notebooks and agendas) and hopefully get into home wares soon. I think the possibilities are endless with this brand.
ST: What are your biggest inspirations?
JG: I am so lucky to live in such an inspiring city like Los Angeles. The beautiful weather and landscapes can inspire color, the local flea markets and vintage shops inspire patterns and shapes, and the girls in this city certainly aren’t afraid to make statements. All very inspiring — and for the days I don’t want to leave the house … Pinterest!!
ST: Do you personally collect anything?
JG: I am amassing a huge collection of flair. I just love the little messages on those small metal buttons that were so popular in the ’80s, and I am dying to bring them back in to fashion. Such great conversation starters, too.
ST: Can you describe a typical day?
JG: At ban.do there is no such thing as typical! My weeks are filled with conference calls, social media strategy meetings, lunch dates with the rest of the ban.do gals, compiling inspiration for upcoming lines and photo shoots, reviewing product samples and cocktails. Lots and lots of cocktails.
ST: What other designers do you admire and why?
JG: I have a friend named Ashkann Shahparnia who has the most amazing line of greeting cards that come with perfect neon pink envelopes. He’s kind of my hero.
ST: What advice would you give to new stationery or gift designers wanting to establish themselves as luxury brands, and accordingly wanting to charge higher prices?
JG: Be the very best at what you do. Offer something special, and don’t forget the details! That is what will set you apart from the rest.
ST: If you were a stationery shop, how would you integrate this line into your offerings?
JG: I have seen ban.do so seamlessly integrated into gift and stationery shops. Paper Source is one of our biggest customers, and they have a great strategy, creating themed displays — often letting color and pattern lead the way.
I also think the messaging on some of our bobbi pins and tech products work well with (what) you see on cards and stationery as a whole. For instance our HOORAY girl talk headbands, ‘I am very busy’ iPad sleeves and the ‘love’ It Girl Bobbi.
ST: What is your favorite aspect of being the creative director of ban.do?
JG: By far that I essentially get to have ideas for a living. There is definitely never a shortage of ideas on my end, and it has been so fun being able to see an idea go from notebook doodle to final product.
Jen at a Glance
Q. If you could travel through time and space and land anywhere you desire, where and when would it be?
A. I would go back to high school and rethink that perm I got in the 9th grade.
Q. How would you define your signature style? Is there a piece in your current line that epitomizes it?
A. No matter what fashion style I gravitate towards, I love fashion with a sense of humor. I think that’s why I love my flair so much. I like to be original, but not so outrageous it is laughable … I’ve got a rep to protect. I think the ‘I am very busy’ iPad sleeve is a great example. The message is funny and telling.
Q. What one design or product from your 2014 releases has turned into a bestseller?
A: It’s so interesting to see what people gravitate towards. The girl talk headbands and bobbi pins have been tremendous, and tech is out of this world. The power trips [power cords] have been doing really well, I think partially because they are so useful and it’s hard to find a cute charging set out there.
Q. Which piece in your current line do you feel reflects the overall direction of your line?
A. I really think this latest offering as a group really tells the story. There’s text, great patterns, fun graphics and bright colors — all elements that you will see in many future ban.do lines.
Q. Do you have a personal favorite from your current offerings?
A. The tumbler with straw and the giant gem speaker. I kind of fought moving forward with the (tumblers), because I didn’t understand them and had never used (one). Now I am obsessed and cannot imagine a day without it.
Q. What other designers, music and movies inspire you?
A. One word, BEYONCE!
Q. If you couldn’t do this, what would you do instead?
A. I really love cooking and photography, so I would probably try to write and photograph a cookbook.