Founder Spotlight: Plan de Ville’s Catherine Smith
We’re incredibly excited to be apart of the recent launch of the beauty edit on luxury online retailer Plan de Ville. Following a brief launch event in NYC, we sat down with Plan de Ville Founder and CEO Catherine Smith.
Catherine’s fashion resume has been remarkably impressive: shortly after completing an undergraduate degree in political science, she was tapped to intern for W Magazine’s editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi, has worked as an editor at Bride’s Magazine, as a freelance stylist, and finally, founder of Plan de Ville. She then went on to complete a Masters in Fashion Studies at Parsons, and is soon to complete her MBA at Columbia Business School, where she enrolled in their Executive MBA program while running Plan de Ville.
Dedicated to supporting emerging designers and brands, Plan de Ville’s edit is one that is simultaneously informative and covetable. Here, she reveals the decisions that lie behind her edit – and, of course, the skincare regimen that keeps her glowing amidst the ever-accelerating pace of fashion.
Can you tell us about the concept behind Plan de Ville? How did you transform that concept into a business?
Photo: Lydia Hudgens
As an editor, and then as a stylist, my heart was always with emerging designers. I have always found it so exciting to work directly with the people who are doing everything; handling everything from sample traffic to accounting to production. There is so much at stake for them – and the emotion comes through in every interaction. I also observed the fervent desire that was developing through social media for certain products – specifically, Mansur Gavriel’s bucket bag back in 2013. Through platforms like Instagram, designers were able to share their own voice and brand, but often access to product was the missing link. If stores don’t take a chance on a designer’s collection (or if the brand can only produce in very limited capacities) then the modern digital consumer is left frustrated. I started Plan de Ville to be the destination for emerging designer fashion sold through storytelling.
I think the most important element of starting a business is having a very clear idea, and a vision that you will fight for every single day. In the beginning, everything is a challenge. Then one day you’ll wake up and it all starts to click. It’s so important to have the right team – from your attorney to your accountant and everyone in between.
How do you come to choose the designers in your collection? Do you have any favorites you’d like to share?
It’s a magic mix of several factors. Big contributors are their current distribution – if a designer is already on multiple major e-commerce platforms, they’re probably too big for us. I aim to carry designers within the first five seasons. This allows us to focus on bringing product to market that is unique, exclusive, and exquisitely made. I look for designers who are committed to their label’s future, who are adding a unique perspective to the conversation.
What is exciting you about fashion at the moment?
I am all for the shift to slow fashion. While fast fashion is definitely still thriving, there is a palpable shift toward less-is-more, quality-driven consumer behavior. I also love the sense of risk I see in the women that shop with us. They fall in love with the idea of a designer or a silhouette – and they take the leap. I also have to admit I love the Creative Director shuffle at all the big houses. My undergrad is in Political Science, so I see it as the fashion industry’s own House of Cards.
Your style integrates timelessness with a touch of modernity; how do you maintain and stay true to that aesthetic in the era of fast fashion and instant trends?
“I am all for the shift to slow fashion.” – Catherine Smith
Thank you – that is such a compliment. I think this has come with a bit of age, and learning what works best on my body. In my late twenties, I’ve learned what I love to wear, and what works well for my lifestyle. In my early twenties I loved a trend (chiefly a statement shoe), but now I feel most myself in a thin knit, a smoking jacket, dark skinny jeans, and a modern shoe like a metallic brogue for day or a Bionda Castana pump for night. I also love a slip dress for evening. I think it’s key to identify a few silhouettes that really work for your life and your body, and stick to them while adding investment pieces that you truly love to your closet over time.
You recently won the Rising Star Award in retail from the Fashion Group International, how has this impacted your business and vision for PDV –if at all?
The FGI Rising Star Award immediately impacted my business. I was very lucky to have had strong support from designers and press before the award, but after that, more people suddenly returned my emails and answered the phone! For a young business like Plan de Ville being positioned next to Aerin Lauder and Brandon Maxwell is a game-changing moment. I’m not sure if it was the press (two stories in WWD – two!) or the confidence that accepting the award in front of Linda Fargo, Tommy Hilfiger, and Roopal Patel gave me, but since then the site’s traffic has been up and I have continued to make brave decisions about our designer partnerships and the future of the business.
Photo: Lydia Hudgens
As an entrepreneur, how do you take care some of your skin amidst the hustle and bustle?
The winter is always harsh on my very dry skin, and I suffer from hormonal acne, which is triggered by stress. I am religious about seeing my dermatologist, and I use a regimen of Immunocologie, Retin-A Micro, and a few French cold cream brands. I really fell in love with Immunocologie years ago when I had a little dent from an over-zealous dermatologist who gave me a bit too much cortisone. My dermatologist encouraged me to give it time, and I used a regenerative Immunocologie serum on the spot, and a few months later – voila!
I love the Fine Botanical Oil by Troos Skincare & Apothecary that is also included in our beauty edit.
What other beauty products do you use in your regimen?
For makeup, I love Kjaer Weiss products, as well as Lily Lolo mascara and Ilia lip products. I recently switched to clean beauty products for my daily routine, so now I only pull out Dior’s Air Skin foundation when I’m going to an event or going to be on camera.
You’re quite the traveler. Where are your favorite places to visit? Is here a destination that’s next on the bucket list?
I feel so lucky to work in an industry that involves travel – my favorite of course is Paris, which I visit twice per year for the collections. I studied abroad in Paris, so it feels like a second home. I shop at the local super markets and always stay in an apartment. When I am stateside, I love northern California for the incredible scenery, and amazing food and wine scene. I grew up going to Weekapaug and Newport, Rhode Island in the summers, so a New England beach day is always high on my list. My fiancé also travels frequently for work, and I often tag along. We went to St. Barth’s early in our relationship, and that is still one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to. My suitcase is always packed and ready to go – and so is my SPF.