Many fashion designers work for decades before having a collection carried in a major department store like Henri Bendel. But for Carina Donoso and Kristen Lambert of The Third Piece, all it took was one serendipitous meeting for their accessories line to catch the eye of the fashion Mecca. Here, we talk to the ladies about how they started their line, how they’re running a successful Kickstarter campaign, and how they plan to make your winter more stylish in spades, all without quitting their day jobs.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR THE THIRD PIECE COME FROM?
Carina has been knitting scarves, hats, and snoods since she was thirteen, as an outlet to help with anxiety… pure fun. She has always felt the idea of creating something from nothing is very liberating. As she got older her love for fashion grew and she would seek out the expertise of local knitters and pattern makers to teach her to knit pieces she wanted to wear. Her friends would always urge her to sell her knits as she created pieces in the chunkiest wool she could find and there was nothing out there like it.
Carina works as a personal stylist/wardrobe consultant where she organizes and revamps closets to help women develop their personal style and wardrobe. “The Third Piece “ stemmed from her telling clients to ‘never leave the house without three pieces on’. When coming up for a name for the brand it clicked, as no one should leave home without The Third Piece.
HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT INITIALLY LAUNCHING THE LINE? FOR EXAMPLE, HOW DID YOU GET FUNDING, WHERE DID YOU FIND A MANUFACTURER, AND DECIDE HOW TO NAME IT IT, ETC?
Kristen got us a business registrations and the next thing we new we were in business. To date we have been self-funded and run in a very boot-strapped capacity…and it hasn’t been easy.
Previously we worked with a yarn distributor, which turned out to be a nightmare as we were left to their timetables and had no oversight and quality control. Since launching the line, it has been our dream to create our own branded line of knitting yarn that is nothing like anything out there! Our first line of The Third Piece Yarn Collection is “Funky Chunky” a super soft, chunky, lush merino yarn. We wanted the name to be catchy and the words “fat” or “bulky” brought us back to our teenage years, so we felt this was the perfect fun description.
Funky Chunky is the same yarn that are used to create our ready-made pieces that are hand-knit by our team of amazingly talented knitters, or Knitty Bitties as we call them!
YOU LAUNCHED THE LINE IN 2012, BUT YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING NEW GOING ON WITH KICKSTARTER. TELL US ABOUT IT.
As we mentioned we have been self-funded to date, so we saw Kickstarter as a great platform to offer the presale our third collection “Tale of Two Cities” while gaining the funds needed to get our new ecommerce site and production season off the ground.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR DESIGNS?
Carina is a commuter and takes the T everyday to the gym in the morning, to work over by Newbury Street and then home, which allows her to see a lot of people. People watching is a great source of inspiration. In the dead of winter the only thing people see is your jacket, your shoes and your cold weather accessories.
Functionality and statement were two key things that are missing when people dress to stay warm in these brutally cold winters. Carina wanted to change that by adding playful additions to our pieces such as a hat with giant stars at the bottom or the addition of a snood with a hood, such as The Newbury our newest piece! What a statement!
Our knits can make women’s life feel and look more fabulous in the dead of winter!
ARE YOU TRAINED AS DESIGNERS? IF NOT, HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT ACCESSORIES DESIGN?
Carina has a vivid creative imagination and likes to create and designs that have style; because how you wear anything is most important then what you’re actually wearing. The Third Piece accessories are definitely for women that have a little swagger. As for as actually bringing the designs to life, we are not formally trained pattern makers, but we do work with some of the most talented women who help bring our ideas to paper to create the pattern to knit them.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS STORY SO FAR?
Last year we found out that Henri Bendel’s in New York City was having an “Open See” for emerging designers; it was like American Idol casting call for accessories! So we hit the road to NYC to stand a line for the chance that the buyers may be interested and consider us for a trunk show.
As we showcased our collection in a few quick minutes, they had really positive feedback and the seemed interested. A senior director even came over and acknowledged our products and left us with the advice to “keep it contemporary; you’re on to something.”
Two weeks later they called us back for a collection presentation and then informed us they wanted to pick up the line and carry it in their New York store last fall. One of our favorite moments was standing in Henri Bendel selling “The Third Piece” and having the opportunity to put our knits on them!
WHERE IS THE LINE CARRIED?
This year we made a business decision to focus on direct to consumer retail and offer our products through our new e-commerce website and through our TasteMakers Program, which is a brand ambassador sales program we launched this year.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART ABOUT OWNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
The best part to date would be the team we have built and the jobs we have created for people that get to either make or sell products that they love and are passionate about. We have such a diverse team of strong and interesting women that make up our team of knitters and sales ambassadors.
ON THE OTHER HAND, HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE STRESS THAT COMES ALONG WITH ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
Exercise, yoga, therapy.
HOW DO YOU COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER AS BUSINESS PARTNERS?
We could not be more opposites and truly define what a CEO and a creative director are. Kristen is much more analytical and runs this business, while Carina is the creative side focusing on the brand and collections. As business partners we have a strong underlying respect and admiration for each other. Despite our differences our core values and vision are very much identical making us great partners and great friends.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EACH TAKEN IN YOUR CAREERS? DID IT PAY OFF?
The biggest risk would be starting the business in the first place as both of us had very successful careers that we spent years working to achieve, but in the end we both knew we wanted to work for ourselves. We still juggle our day jobs in addition to growing the business and balancing everything is the hardest challenge everyday. Moving into our third year, we definitely feel that it has paid as we have created a strong team and foundation to support the growth of The Third Piece.
WHAT’S THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Consistency is the key to success. Work hard dream big and you are in control of your own destiny.