Women We Love: A Conversation with Stephanie Von Watzdorf and Pamela Keogh
Stephanie Von Watzdorf is a dream traveler. A woman of style, open-hearted confidence and generosity (and wow – we can only imagine how epic her closet must be!), she’s someone you want to hit the road with.
After graduating from Parsons, where she won the coveted Calvin Klein Golden Thimble award, Stephanie worked in the fashion industry for (among others) Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, and Ralph Lauren. In 2004, she joined Tory Burch, where she directed design development for ready-to-wear and accessories for over seven years. In 2012, she founded “Figue,” a women’s luxury lifestyle collection.
Named for the ancient fruit, Figue was born out of Stephanie’s passion for travel and a desire to share the talents of artisans around the world.
We think she’s succeeded.
When you were really young, did you dress for school? Did you have an idea of what you wanted to wear?
Absolutely – I was very very specific about the bows in my hair, and the dress I wanted to wear. I lived in Paris, and was influenced by my grandmother, and my grandfather, who was part of the Ballet Russes. There was a constant flow of people in and out – dinners and cocktails – and lots of creative people.
I know that your grandfather, Leonide Massine, was the renowned Ballets Russes choreographer… and his circle included Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Stravinsky. It must have been incredible to grow up in that environment.
It was – it was very special. I used to go upstairs to my grandfather’s closet and go and dress up in the costumes. Anytime I could dress up, I was dressing up! I knew what colors I liked. I was very specific. Unlike my mother, who just wasn’t into clothes that much. She ‘s classic and elegant, but it’s not an obsession.
What advice would you give a young person who wants to get into design?
I would say – it is very very important to go to school for it because it’s a stepping stone to that world. It’s very important to go to a good school. It is imperative to try and do internships wherever one can do them because that’s life-forming. And if it’s really in your heart and soul – you HAVE to get that internship.
Sometimes kids will say to me: “I can’t get the internship,” and I tell them – “there’s no can’t.” It’s there. You have to knock on doors, create something out of the box, think differently, get their attention.
It’s out there. You just have to go. You have to have an enormous amount of patience and perseverance. It’s not all that it seems on television and in the magazines. You just have to have faith and keep going after it. Schooling is a first stepping stone and learning from others – I learned so much from my internships.
You interned for Yves St. Laurent, in Paris.
Yes – it was unbelievable. They took two interns for the summer. I was 20. I was lucky because I spoke French, and they invited me to stay on, so I stayed a full year.
Working for YSL was life changing. That was a Doctorate in Fashion. I worked in the ateliers with Mr. St. Laurent when he was preparing the collection. I was literally – a helper, and a sponge.
I gave it my heart and soul. People were tough on me, but also very kind to me, and I remember that. As a marker – I knew I was supposed to be doing this. I felt very lucky – I knew I was lucky to be there. It was a life changing event.
You also worked for Victor Edelstein who designed Princess Diana’s wedding dress – what an amazing experience that must have been.
I was like a puppy with my tongue hanging out! Willing to do anything – pick up pins, get coffee, he let me lay out fabric and drape.
And to be in the room and see where all of it was made…
Yes. And all the clients… and all the beautiful people that were coming in. He was such a gentleman that way. A real soulful and gentle man.
I have to give him credit – I always think of Victor – how thoughtful he was. He taught me so much, just by listening to my questions. I always say to the kids: “Pass it on. Help others.”
I love that you were able to take what you loved as a child, and make a life out of it.
Figue is from the heart and from the soul. And I’m very thankful to all the incredible experiences I had along the way – good, bad or indifferent — because they brought me to where I am now. And what I’m doing now feels really good!