March 7, 2019
After ten years as CEO and Creative Director at Bunny Williams Home, Jennifer Potter and Audrey Margarite decided to take on a new venture in the home décor industry and founded their own company: Fête Home.
Just a few months after their October 2018 launch, we sat down with Jennifer and Audrey to learn more about Fête Home, what makes the company special, and where they hope to see it going moving forward.
You have been in the design and decor industry for a long time now—both of you were at Bunny Williams for at least ten years. What brought you to found your own company, and how has your time at Bunny Williams influenced your work at Fête Home?
Jennifer: Yes, we were there for over a decade. Audrey was Creative Director and I was CEO. We wore two different hats, but we shared a desk all that time. It was a pretty small team, so we did a multitude of things and worked together.
Bunny Williams Home was at a different price point; it was more of a luxury home brand, and we saw some whitespace in the market for really good design at reasonable prices. We have, as have most consumers, been influenced by the direct-to-consumer model.
We have developed relationships with factories and sources for the last decade. We knew that between the business and creative experience we gained, we could build something in the direct-to-consumer arena.
Audrey: We’re both mothers with young children. It is important to us to have nice things in our house, but it can’t be anything too precious. One of the things we really wanted to do was to make items that are dishwasher safe or can go in the laundry. We knew it was possible based on the factories that we worked with. So that was something that we very much wanted to bring to the forefront.
“Fête” means “celebration” in French—could you shed some light on why you chose that name and how it reflects your brand philosophy?
Audrey: Very basically, we feel that your home should bring you joy and there should be a reason to celebrate every day. That’s why we named our company Fête Home: so that people will realize they can invite people over anytime. It doesn’t have to be stressful. You can make every day a little celebration.
What else would you say makes Fête Home special?
Jennifer: We design and produce about 70 percent of the line right now, so you can’t find most of our items anywhere else. That is very important to us. We just resigned from our past jobs in May of last year, so that’s the reason why our line is not 100-percent designed and produced by us. We were trying to catch the holiday season, so there were a few categories that we had to fill in with other vendors that we know and respect.
We sell a lot of fabric by the yard, all of our table linens and textiles for pillows and throws are exclusive patterns to us. We’ve designed and produced those patterns exclusively.
Audrey: We are starting to do more and more custom work, too. For instance, right now we have three tablecloth patterns and two more in the works. If you don’t see a tablecloth that you like or you need one in a different size, we can custom-make one for you from one of the 30 different fabrics we produce. We can also do custom pillows, window treatments and more. You can just reach out to us about your idea, because we love to work on custom projects.
Audrey:: Another thing that makes us special is the frequency with which we’re going to introduce new products. We found the whole industry to be pretty slow. Often, they only introduce products once a year, sometimes twice a year. We want to make Fête Home more akin to fashion, where a new collection comes out seasonally.
Jennifer: Everyone is looking for the newest thing. You might love a brand, but if you keep going back and seeing the same thing, you’re going to lose interest. We want to offer something new with each collection we put out.
Who are you designing for? What is your main demographic?
Jennifer: We launched in October, so we’re still learning. We’ve been in this industry for a long time and that means we have a nice built-in fan base which has been really supportive. We assumed that our primary customer was going to be a woman; that’s proven for the most part to be true. I think the age range can be anywhere from 25 and up and our price points go from $20 up to $300, so it runs the gamut.
I think it often gets intimidating, when people think about accessorizing and styling their home, especially if they don’t have an interior design background. What we’re encouraging is that it doesn’t have to be intimidating. That’s what we’re really aimed towards.
We relate to being mothers and being on the go; not having time for ironing or taking meticulous care of accessories and tabletops. I think that goes for everyone who’s really busy, loves to have people over, and doesn’t want to freak out every time they do it. We also think about making things multi-purpose—items off your bookshelf to put in the middle of the table, versus worrying about fresh-cut flowers, or candles, or that kind of thing. Our target is really the busy person who appreciates being in a happy, fun home.
We’re finding other niches that we didn’t think were going to be part of the model but certainly are easy to do.
For example, we didn’t start Fête thinking of it as a gifts company, but we’re finding more and more that it certainly fills that void.
Also, interior designers have a hard time finding the final layer of a home: accessorizing and styling. They need to find things very quickly that aren’t readily available or everywhere on the market. We can definitely help with that.
And there are the prop stylists. We had a sample sale recently, which Kew helped us promote, and we found that there seem to be a lot of prop stylists in these two buildings, and we can certainly help in that market, too.
What would you say is the most enjoyable or rewarding part of your work and what is most difficult so far?
Jennifer: As I said, we’ve been doing this for a really long time, in terms of designing and producing, so we know what’s involved. We were a small team before, but now we’re a much smaller team—it’s just Audrey and myself. We’re each doing a million different things at any given time. So that’s definitely challenging, but seeing a product come to life is really amazing.
Audrey: Yes, seeing it come to life and then getting feedback from a customer. When somebody sends you a picture of something in her own home and says how much they love it – it makes it all worthwhile.
Have you noticed any trends in the industry? What have you noticed has changed over time, especially in terms of direct-to-consumer and social media developments?
Jennifer: Social media has obviously played an increasingly important role across the board, but especially in such a visual industry. A lot of sources had not been as easily visible because of various trade levels, and now, everyone can see everything. It’s a great thing for both the consumer and designer, because there are just so many options out there. It affects us as well, because the need for photography is so great, and you have to be able to show something in a million different ways. The hunger of the consumer has become a lot more intense.
Audrey: Piggybacking on that thought, I think there is a need to show our customer authenticity. Our customer really wants to see that. You can see we’re two women; we are the company. This is what we live and breathe, and we try to convey that to our customer through Instagram and with behind-the-scenes Instagram Stories. We want people to know who they’re buying from. It’s not the big machine; it’s a small business.
Where do you hope to see Fête Home going in the future?
Jennifer: Well, as Audrey said, we’re putting out several collections a year, so our primary focus is to grow the catalog and offer more and more to our audience. Again, we’re still figuring out exactly who our audience is. But, catalogue expansion is a major focus, and I think our custom business has really great potential, so we really want to grow that.
You mentioned you chose the St. James Building in part because of the design community. Were there other things about the building and the neighborhood that drew you to make this your new office home?
Jennifer: We definitely wanted something central in New York City. We loved the community feel, plus the size of the space was right. Of course, timing and availability were also important.
Audrey: The location is great to get to; it’s really easy. There are tons of designers in these two buildings, and even outside them, there are so many more designers just in the next few blocks, so it’s a real hub.
Fête Home works with designers and offers a trade discount and trade program, but they are also open to the whole community. It’s important to Jennifer and Audrey that you know that they’ll be in the office to help and they will be maintaining inventory in their office, so you can just stop by and pick something up. Fête Home serves regular customers, as well as designers, prop stylists, event planners, and will lend items out for photoshoots. Jennifer and Audrey welcome you to come by!