Elaine Turner

Designer

Houston

She may be a Texas woman at heart, but Elaine Turner’s classically cosmopolitan style is quickly spreading beyond her home state. Turner got her start in the fashion industry designing for an apparel brand in New York. After gathering some experience, she and her husband launched her eponymous lifestyle brand in April 2000. Beginning with eye-catching handbags that epitomize the classic woman, Turner then introduced shoes — both have been extremely popular. As her accessories business booms, Turner looks to dig deeper in the design world with jewelry, sunglasses, swimwear and even tabletop items. Opening new boutiques is next on the horizon for this Houston designer — New York opened in 2013 with Atlanta and Dallas soon to follow.

  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What are Elaine Turner’s favorite places for live music in Houston?

    Probably [McGonigel’s] Mucky Duck for fun authentic honky-tonk. Then Anderson Fair is great for country and folk. I’ve done both of those.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What are Elaine Turner’s favorite Houston neighborhoods?

    Southampton, which is right near the Museum District and Rice University area, and I love Memorial as a great family neighborhood place because it’s beautiful, wooded, green and spacious. It’s a great place to raise a family.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What are Elaine Turner’s favorite Houston museums?

    I’m a mom, so the Natural Museum of History — all the kid ones. But for me, I’d probably go to The Menil. It’s just so chic with some unbelievable collections. And it’s ever changing and dynamic.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What are Elaine Turner’s favorite Houston restaurants?

    My favorite restaurants in Houston are Brennan’s, Phillipe, Coppa, Benjy’s, and I guess I would say El Tiempo for Mexican — they’re all so good. It’s hard to name one.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What are Elaine Turner’s favorite Houston bars?

    I love to go to Hotel ZaZa and sit out on their patio. I think that’s so fun. The bar has really fun staff and lots of energy, so that always makes me feel young. Then I love to go to Benjy’s Bar — it’s so fun, the upstairs bar. Then there’s this really cool über-modern bar called Anvil. It’s just a fun experience if you want to come to Houston and try, and it’s in the Montrose area, which is really eclectic and young.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What are Elaine Turner’s favorite brunch spots in Houston?

    The most emotional, wonderful place for brunch if you’re going a little more luxurious is Brennan’s, which is downtown. I would say for a more casual vibe Benjy’s, and then there’s a restaurant called Shade, in the Heights, which is really good for brunch.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What’s Elaine Turner’s favorite time of year in Houston?

    I would say fall because every other time is hot — fall and winter. When everybody’s freezing, we get a little bit happier, but then it gets hot and we get really depressed.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What are Elaine Turner’s favorite things to do in Houston?

    Houston is sort of under the radar, but it’s got so much to offer. It’s a huge city and it’s an international city. It’s kind of gritty and has lots of freeways; but there’s so much to do, and the best part about Houston is the people. I would say, from a pure traveler’s standpoint, I would tell them to hit the Museum District — so The Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts.

    I would definitely tell them to participate in Mexican food, so I would give them three or four options of where I felt like they could get great Mexican food — El Tiempo and El Meson. I would mention Discovery Green downtown is super fun. Going downtown — the downtown [area] has taken a much better vibe than it used to [have]. Having a glass of wine on Discovery Green. Tranquility Park is something kind of neat if you’re downtown.

    I think also Bayou Bend, which is a museum right outside of River Oaks that was an old mansion that Ima Hogg and her family owned. It has turned into these beautiful French- European gardens. I think that’s a beautiful thing to see.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What design trends does Elaine Turner think are becoming more important?

    I think women are wanting to go back to classic design that is long lasting and quality. When I say that, I don’t mean it has to cost $4,000 for a cashmere sweater. I think that she’s looking for those pieces that are going to take her from season to season that she just knows is her security, go-to feeling when she’s in her closet and she’s like, “I’m going to invest in that cardigan from whatever because I love the material; I love the way it makes me feel.” I get that the disposable fashion segment is so successful, and it serves its purpose with the high-to-low fashion. Leggings from Target and Loro Piana cashmere, I get it. I feel like a lot of people are looking for that long-lasting quality and wanting things that they’re just never going to give away, that are just in their closet year after year and they just love.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What’s the most stylish city Elaine Turner has visited?

    Paris or Madrid. The women don’t have to do anything and they look so perfect, so feminine, so ladylike, so classic and effortless. I just get back on the plane — I’m from Texas, we put so much effort into it — I’m like, “Oh my god, how do they do that?”
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    Does traveling inspire Elaine Turner’s designs?

    Oh yeah. I think the thing with travel — whether you’re in New York or L.A. or Paris or on a tropical island — is you are being exposed to a different way of thinking, a different sensibility, a different culture of how people interact with one another. Needless to say, visually what you’re around inspires you — nature and color and all of that. I’d have to say the people are what is so inspiring.

    A couple years ago, I went to L.A. for a week and came back and we did this whole spring collection based off of the West Coast vibe. I got really into neutrals and soft hobo bags and kind of wispy textiles, and things that I thought were really a reflection of that spirit. I never would have thought that before I went, but I got back and was like, “I really want to communicate that here into our stores” — kind of this very understated luxurious spirit they have out there.

    It’s those little things you don’t even know at the time that you’re picking up on the vibe; but then you get back and think, “Let’s do a whole thing on the vibrant colors of Mexico,” or “Let’s do a whole thing on understated luxury.” Definitely travel is one of my biggest [inspirations]. They always know that if I go on a trip, we’re going to have to do something. They keep hoping I go to Las Vegas and want to come back and do a Vegas collection.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What does Elaine Turner love most about her job?

    My most motivating factor of waking up every day is people. I’m a huge believer in recruiting and hiring the best people and motivating a team. I think that that’s ultimately what takes a business from good to great — having the best people and everybody of one mind. I would also say product because I’m very visual and I’m a creator. I think the product and people are what bring me to work every day.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    Has social media affected Elaine Turner’s business strategy?

    We actually just hired a social media director here in Houston that works with me all the time on our blog and Twitter and all those things. Everything that we’re doing constantly, like talking and participating with our customer, gives her a bird’s-eye view of everything that we do. It’s been a huge way to engage with our customer, especially the younger customer who is constantly plugged into all that and feels like she can be a part of this journey with us — what we’re inspired by, what seasons we’re working on, what events that we’re throwing in our stores. I think social media has definitely become that quick, every second; they want to feel like they’re a part of it.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    How did Elaine Turner get into the fashion world?

    I started the company 12 years ago and I went to the University of Texas in Austin. I graduated, went to Dallas and worked for a small, ready-to-wear company. Then I went to New York and basically had a background in clothing and product development and design. In the late ’90s, all the big fashion houses were launching their own accessories collections. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I was just newly married and told my husband, “I think I really want to start my own business, and I want to do it in the accessories venue,” because I felt really strongly that the market was going toward how the outfits are accessorized. It was how [the woman] was updating herself. I saw a huge opportunity to provide that customer with accessories where she could walk in and say, “I’m not going to buy a new black dress, but I’m definitely going to buy a statement clutch and heels.”

    Ever since, I started making bags in Brooklyn with the manufacturer that used to make Kate Spade bags, and he would send me samples because I had already moved back to Houston. It was sort of just organically grown year by year. We sold specialty stores only at first. Then we got into Neiman’s, and then we started opening up our own namesake stores. The company’s just been stepping stones of growth. Now we make handbags, shoes and small leather goods. We have five stores, and then we’re going to open in New York, which will be six by the end of March. We’re sort of going to the direct-to-consumer model of opening our own stores and then also serving our customer online.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Elaine Turner answered the question: Elaine Turner

    What does Elaine Turner wear when she travels?

    Since traveling, as you know, has become such a laborious event, I dress for comfort but go classic — maybe some awesome leggings from Zara and a beautiful cashmere boyfriend cardigan from The Row, a pashmina, and ballet flats. I usually will bring a change of socks with me if it gets cold, but usually a cashmere cardigan with leggings because it is such a process that you don’t want to be all stuffed in a suit. I still think that looks classic and beautiful but you’re sort of in comfort clothes.