Boss Lady: Erika Dawkins

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we talk to Erika Dawson. Erika is the owner of Bon Ton Studio, a collection of thoughtfully curated designs, wovens, and cozy goods from artisans around the world.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your career.

A California native and fashion school graduate, I lived overseas in Australia for six years with my South African husband prior to opening our first brick & mortar. Whilst abroad I was introduced to a friend and together we created a women’s clothing label, ANIKA. Years later I acquired the business, rebranded as Bon Ton Studio and moved back to my hometown of Healdsburg in Northern California. My career has evolved as much as I have personally. It is fun (and sometimes comical) to think about everything I’ve done and worked on.

2. What prompted you to start Bon Ton Studio?

Bon Ton Studio was the result of hitting the reset button on ANIKA. After having a clothing label known for our simple designs for everyday basics, I was ready to make the pivot from the wardrobe to the home. The concept of Bon Ton Studio quickly evolved and we still sell ANIKA in-store.

3. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?

Naturally, I’m a really observant person. There is a quote by Grace Coddington in The September Issue, where she is sitting in a taxi and says: “Always keep your eyes open… keep watching, because whatever you see out the window, or wherever, can inspire you.” Simply put, there is so much that inspires me. Sometimes it’s being on a treasure hunt at my local antique store, and other times its scrolling Pinterest, makers markets, coffee table books, or traveling. There’s always something, just keep your eyes open!

4. How do you discover and choose the artisans you work with and feature?

Items curated for Bon Ton Studio come from our travels and living abroad. We’ve been fortunate enough to have met a few artisans along the way and some we were introduced to. Our relationship is more than a simple B2B transaction. We give back to each other in a way that creates a mutually beneficial connection.

5. Describe a challenge you faced in the workplace and how you overcame it.

When you are in business for yourself, it is inevitable that you will face challenges, or roadblocks I like to call them. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned not to stress over the small stuff and have become very solution-oriented. I’m good at “fixing” things and I see myself as a problem solver. Back in October, one week before we were set to open our first brick & mortar, our entire town was evacuated due to the Kincade Fire. I had to pack up my entire home and store not knowing whether or not we would have a home and business to return to. Once we were evacuated we knew there wasn’t a lot we could do except waiting. As a business owner, it’s important to have everything in order from your bookkeeping to insurance and everything in-between. During the evacuation, I found peace of mind knowing I had everything organized in case something did happen.

6. What are the marketing similarities/differences you’ve found between owning an online store and opening your brick and mortar shop (which looks incredibly cozy!)?

Our marketing efforts for our social channels have stayed fairly the same. It is easier since we can direct followers to both our brick & mortar and online store. Differences we have noticed is our customer retention, in-person, and word-of-mouth marketing. It’s had an invaluable impact on our brand and we are focusing a lot of marketing efforts in this category in 2020.

7. What do you see for Bon Ton Studio’s future? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Our first month of being open we hosted three pop-ups at the store and will continue to host smaller brands in 2020. We are flirting with the idea of taking Bon Ton Studio on the road, maybe destination pop-ups or something overseas. Watch this space!

8. Who is a Boss Lady who inspires you and why?

There are so many women I could list. I gravitate towards female-owned/led businesses that are doing something big, valuable and meaningful. Specifically, Erin Gore of Garden Society, Christy Baird of LOHO Bride and Helena Price Hambrecht of Haus.

Just for fun!
This is how I feel about Christmas music: Totally into it. We love the Elf soundtrack at our house during the holidays!
Favorite activity to do to relax: I enjoy working out, playing with my 14-month-old daughter, enjoying a home-cooked meal with my husband and of course traveling. Something you may not know about me is: I’m an “extroverted” introvert!
How I take my coffee/tea: At home, I do a stovetop percolator coffee for my husband and I. When I’m out and ordering in a coffee shop, it’s typically a latte with oat milk.
Currently binge-watching: I just finished season three of Marvelous Mrs Maisel. The costumer designer, Donna Zakowska, has done an amazing job throughout the series. I’m (obviously) a huge fan!

For more on Erika
Website | Instagram | Facebook

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Morning Reads: Sites and Newsletters to Start the Day

Morning Reads: Sites and Newsletters to Start the Day - Social Stylate

Where do you get your morning news? From political debates to humanitarian crises, to the newest technological advances, staying up-to-date on current events should count as a fulltime job. The news changes fast and it changes often, it’s important to our team that we foster a well-rounded outlook and stay current on as much as possible, using only reliable and honest sources, all while maintaining a sense of hope and humor.

These are our favorite morning reads that help keep us informed.


Tech Crunch
For stories about up and coming medical technology, Silicon Valley’s latest news, and all things app related. We love knowing what’s happening in the tech world since most of this stuff affects us on a daily basis and we’d like to be the first to know when our robot vacuum can start running errands outside the home.


The Good Stuff
Every day should begin with a smile. The Good Stuff, a CNN newsletter, features uplifting stories, inspiring events, and heartwarming tales. Because who doesn’t love videos of watching an adorable deaf baby’s reaction when her hearing aids are put on every day? Spoiler Alert: All stories are happy and you might cry a little.


The Newsette
Featuring wellness advice, lifestyle tips, and career inspiration all in a bright and bubbly format. We learn how to streamline our own morning routines while reading about the routines of powerful women in all sorts of industries. It’s confidence-boosting and makes us want to binge true crime podcasts on the way to work!


The Skimm
A condensed newspaper delivered straight to your email, The Skimm teaches us how to be adults in a fun, light, and informative way. The material is easy to read and feels like it was written by our best friend who somehow keeps up-to-date on everything…and then gives us the Cliff Notes with corresponding links.


BBC News
Our go-to international news outlet, BBC features a well-rounded collection of articles in a wide range of global topics including work-life, culture, and business stories. We can learn where in the world the best dumplings are made, the latest in climate change science, and what’s happening with technological advances in space.


Broadsheet
Articles curated for powerful women and about powerful women, Fortune’s daily newsletter solely focuses on influential women in the world, their stories, and their achievements. If that’s not empowering for this female-founded company, we don’t know what is.


Billy Penn
Knowing what’s happening in our own backyards is equally as important as staying informed on international issues, and that’s where Billy Penn comes in. Philadelphia’s local news source, we look to them for reliable and relevant stories close to home.


Cheddar Need2Know
We love Cheddar. The cheese, the news, we love it all, especially when we’re on the go. We turn on Need2Know videos when we’ve got our hands full or would rather watch our news than read it, and we listen along as we’re checking in on clients, both driving around and on the train to the city. From topics like the latest opinions on the upcoming last Star Wars film to predictions of corporate mergers and acquisitions in 2020, we know we’re gathering important intel.


5 Things
Life gets busy, so we’re loving this streamlined version of the news. The efficient and trustworthy information from CNN’s 5 Things is the perfect way to start our day. With 5 stories in 5 minutes, we get the important news while still sticking to our morning agenda.


The Hollywood Reporter
Seen any good movies lately? This is a common question around the Social Stylate team. We love shows and movies across many genres, so it’s natural for us to regularly check in with the happenings of the entertainment world. And yes, we attend Oscar viewing parties, as if you needed to ask.


The New York Times Morning Briefing
An informative summary of the day’s news, this snapshot (with links to more in-depth info) of important topics is sent directly to our inboxes each morning. We learn about what’s happening now in politics, new recipes, and what the top comedians are saying about it all.

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David Ferron: Custom Cat Suit

Last Christmas I was given an incredible gift. After visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art ‘Fabulous Fashion’  Exhibit – I was inspired by the Christian Lacroix catsuit on display.

Christmas Gift: design a custom catsuit to wear to Monte Carlo for the tennis tournament.

We started to look for for a designer that would inspire. David Ferron is from Unionville, PA  and a graduate of Parson’s School of Design. He has worked for Calvin Klien, Behnaz Saraphour, Bibhu Mohapatra, Tomas Maier, and Nicole Miller. Excited to start the process – we looked for a fabric source. Ellen Catanzaro’s fabric spoke to me from the moment I saw her work!

We sat down to discuss my design ideas. Catsuits first made an appearance around the 1940s. Lacroix is known for eye-popping ’60s Pucci pattern-on-pattern design extravaganzas. Lacroix designed for Pucci for three years, Pucci is considered the inventor of the Capri pants, which were extremely popular  during the 1950s. The designer is well known for psychedelic patterns in a kaleidoscope of colors.

“Throughout my career as a designer, I have always thought that the difference between art and design is that the former did not have a function. Art could simply be, whereas design has to serve a purpose, it has to fit a body. There is a point where fashion design can become art, that is when a garment affects someone on an emotional level. Then it is art. Some of the best designers can fit the body beautifully while evoking an emotional response.

Recently, fashion design has become the focus of extremely successful exhibits in art museums around the world. From the monumental “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011 to “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” at the MoMA in 2017 or “Fabulous Fashion,” at Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2018, it is clear that fashion and art are deeply connected. Fashion and art both have the power to help a viewer understand the depths of their own conciseness, pulling references from the past while showing glimmers of the future.” – David Ferron

The inspiration is the process. Thank you David Ferron and Ellen Catanzaro for making this gift an incredible experience!

Look for David Ferron’s fashion show in March at the Brandywine River Museum!

p.s. Thank you Doug Ingerson – best gift ever. xoxxo

 

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Stand With Presence

This past weekend I took a walk along the Brandywine River to see the fall foliage. I was inspired by the new garden sculpture installation at Somerville Manning Gallery – especially Stand With Presence by Vicki Vinton.

The reaction to the sculpture was immediate and powerful.  Vinton’s inspiration for Stand With Presence was simple: a friend of hers was experiencing writer’s block and, in her true artist form, Vicki drew a red figure and sent it to her friend with a note – dig deep.

Stand With Presence by Vicki Vinton - Social Stylate

“Current events are just old events dressed up in today’s fashion. The process of creating whether it be painting or sculpting must hold in it some sort of history. Simply the passing of time or a nod to events that have gone before.” says Vinton.

This is a pivotal time for women.  Women of all ages are rising up, speaking out, and making themselves heard as never before. Stand With Presence is a symbol of courage, and beauty –a reminder to keep your beliefs in yourself strong. A reminder that we have the answers if we take time to be present.

Over the past few years, we have seen the power of storytelling play out in one of the largest stages for women. Storytelling is rooted in our culture and has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to share who you are with the world while also providing the power to find our inner strength.

Stand With Presence invites women of all ages to share their stories and bring their strongest selves to their biggest challenges. Raising two boys on my own for the past ten years and starting a business has been my greatest gift, and has given me strength and courage. Your story can transform your life, change the lives of others, your story can change the world.

SStand With Presence by Vicki Vinton - Cindy Pettinaro and Carroll Ivy - Social Stylate

Carroll Ivy and her friend, Cindy Pettinaro Wilkinson, pose with the Stand With Presence statue.

Follow along: #StandWithPresence @standwithpresence @smg_gallery

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For over thirty-five years the Somerville Manning Gallery has introduced current art trends into an area already steeped in a rich art tradition, mounting exhibitions that relate to this cultural heritage both past and present. Recognized as experts on N.C. Wyeth and his family, Somerville Manning Gallery has created multiple exhibitions on N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth. Also represented are the Wyeth women, daughters of N.C. Wyeth, Henriette Wyeth Hurd, Carolyn Wyeth, and Ann Wyeth McCoy.

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