Laurette Kittle is always in bloom. Before creating her company, Walker & Wade, she worked in the fabric industry and created patterns for firms like Waverly and Schumacher. She later created designs for paper goods that were filled with bouquets of flowers.
“I always loved color and painting flowers,” says Kittle, who is often inspired by gardens around her as well as the sea.
Facing a changing work environment, Kittle was looking for reinvention. With two boys who loved to surf and her husband Kit, a world-renowned photographer, Kittle routinely traveled the globe to exotic locales.
“Finding pretty beach wear that could go from day to night was always a challenge,” she lamented.
On a trip to Bali, she purchased easy-fitting caftans, flowing tunics and embroidered shirts that triggered interest from her friends back home in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Sharing this story with her son Cody, he encouraged her to start her own company. They decided to call it Walker & Wade which are the middle names of her sons.
“I started sketching and returned to Bali to get my creations made,” she says.
Of course, she was nervous.
“I was 60 and starting a new business,” she recalls. “There’s fear and it can paralyze you. But my son Cody just kept telling me I could do it.”
Experience had also taught her important lessons she summoned during times of doubt. “I told myself that I would do it in little steps, and if it doesn’t work, it still will be okay,” she says. “That’s maturity. I don’t have to do this for someone else or show off. You are too old to worry about that stuff.”
That allowed her to be patient as she developed her designs and starting selling to beach stores and pop-up places around the country.
Now five years later, Walker & Wade have fans all over the globe, including Katie Couric and Kathie Lee Gifford and is sold at 40 stores across the country from Michigan to Florida.
Her love of Bali has only increased over time.
“In the Bali market, there are so many inspirations. Marigolds and purple flowers. Orchids. Flowers are everywhere,” she says. “I love going every year.”