Martha Stewart on American Made

Meeting Martha

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Photos by Samantha Simmons

The most famous Jersey girl to hit a Chicago Home Depot earlier this month would have to be Martha Stewart, fashionably clad in her Vince leather pants and Hermes sweater. With Stewart making an appearance in Chicago for a Customer Appreciation Workshop focusing on Interior Decor tips, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet the woman herself and ask her a few questions about her personal design inspiration. It's not easy narrowing down your questions for one of the most successful design entrepreneurs/lifestyle gurus in the world.

First off, we wanted to know where she got those fabulous pants and if they were comfortable on the plane. With the ice broken, our photographer suggested a rival (Chicago's own Sono Woodfired) to Martha's favorite NY pizza place Co. Pane, and Martha shared her must-have from Chicago (pierogis from Kasia's Deli), we got into design talk.

How do you define design?
Design is the distillation of the physical attributes of an object.

What personally inspires you?
Each and every day I try to learn something new, and I make a point of it. I don't drive on the same road all the time, I refuse to drive on the same street. I might find a new shop or a new flower vendor or something, and I do. I discover a lot of stuff that way. Don't go on the same route if you can possibly help it. Go to a new place every day, try new restaurants, all that stuff.

Who is your favorite designer for the home?
Kevin Sharkey who works for me. He's a fabulous designer.  

Favorite fashion designer?
Lots of them. I love vince.  She's a woman named Ria,  and she works in california and she makes really wearable every day clothes.   

One thing you've always wanted to do that you haven't done yet that you're looking forward to?
Lots of things I haven't done yet, so many.  I haven't done a fashion line and I would love to do that.  And I haven't done my fragrance yet.

Favorite Era of design?
Now.

What's one bit of advice you can give a young design professional, whether on your career or life,  anything you would give 20-30 year olds starting out in the design profession?

I have a lot of 20-30 year olds working for me, and what I try to explain to them is that they should show people what they really do and what their inner passion is for design. A lot of people go to work and they have no idea they're making fabulous gold jewelry at night at home.  I try to get all that out of them right away and encourage them. 

Can you tell us about American Made?

Next week, we have a big event in New York called American Made in Grand Central Terminal, celebrating the American entrepreneur. We're honoring ten really fabulous American makers from a guy who created Art.sy to Flora Grubb who is a landscape designer. We have two young guys who have built a cheese cave in Vermont and they age everyone's cheeses for them, and a fabulous sculptor who's designed a map of the U.S. out of pans. I want that to go to the Smithsonian—it belongs in the Smithsonian because it's so beautifully done.

Wednesday and Thursday all day long we're selling things, having interviews and workshops.

I really feel strongly that there are so many talented people in this country, and we've always made a point of introducing them to our audience. Great artisans, great party givers, whatever they do we like to tell people about them. And the event is really bringing to the floor the importance and the need for Americans to start promoting American Made again. It makes me very sad to go to North Carolina and not see a cotton mill anywhere or sheet factory, they're all gone. And they shouldn't have been gone. We should still be making sheets and bedding in America and growing the cotton, and now we're outsourcing it. I just did a big piece on Toyota. And you'd think Toyota is a Japanese car, but they have one of the largest car factories in America, making half a million cars in Kentucky. I went and visitied them on the line. And start to finish we showed the whole process in videos on our site. We have the ability to do it, to show people a lot of the processes that go into the various products—and it changes their business to be able to show that to your audience. 

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