Interview

Serena Dugan & Lily Kanter

05.27.13

Serena Dugan and Lily Kanter are the co-founders of Serena & Lily, an upscale home decor company that focuses on a wide range of products from bedding, furniture and décor, to gifts and custom upholstery. The duo met in 2003 when Dugan, a freelance decorative painter and textile designer, stepped into Mill Valley, a children’s boutique owned by Kanter, a former Microsoft manager turned entrepreneur. Soon after their meeting, the two combined forces to debut a collection of bedding for nursery and children’s rooms, which quickly sprouted a celebrity-mom fan base. Today, Serena & Lily has expanded to every room of the home and this Spring is making its foray into women’s accessories.

Interview

How did the two of you meet? When did you launch the online site?

Lily: In 2003, Serena, who was a freelance decorative painter and textile designer at the time, stopped by my store in Mill Valley to show me her portfolio of designs. I happened to be having a baby, but I called her the very next day. We met for lunch and a few short hours later we decided to form a company together. Five years later in 2008, we launched serenaandlily.com.

What made you decide to launch a line of accessories?

Serena: Serena & Lily has always been a lifestyle brand because we have a point of view on style across many categories, which naturally led us into creating an accessories line.

Can you describe the inspiration for the collection?

Serena: For the launch of our accessories line, I wanted to design the perfect collection of summer goods – everything you need for life in summer – and I think we’ve done that.

Can we expect your brand to expand into ready-to-wear?

Lily: We plan to keep expanding our vision as a lifestyle brand, including women’s accessories and fashion.

How has the re-branding of Serena & Lily evolved since launching a nursery collection in 2004, becoming a lifestyle/home décor brand and now introducing accessories?

Lily: After two years in business, we were faced with the decision: Do we stay a baby brand or do we expand into a lifestyle brand? It was a fairly easy question for us to answer and we decided to expand beyond baby. In our third and fourth years we expanded into kids rooms, and then in 2008 we decided to begin our expansion into the whole home and now into women’s accessories. Serena: We started with nursery, but didn’t feel that it was strictly a baby line. We felt like it was home décor, and the products at the time were for the nursery. But we’ve always felt like a design company, not just a baby company or a home décor company, so expanding into new categories has felt like a natural extension of our vision.

Where do you produce your furniture?

Our upholstered furniture is produced in the United States while the rest of our collection is sourced all around the world.

Are you traveling all the time? What’s been the most interesting destination your business has taken you to?

Serena: We travel often and always find ourselves in new and interesting destinations. Last year we traveled to Scandinavia. I spent a couple of days in Copenhagen and was blown away. I would love to return there and spend more time.

With companies like Restoration Hardware creeping into every market, do you find it hard to compete?

Lily: Our brand is growing tremendously and we’re adding new categories each season. We’re also opening our first store in the Hamptons this summer because there’s a huge demand from our customers to see, feel and experience our product. We know our product is even better in person, so we look forward to bringing that experience to life.

What made you decide to open a store in the Hamptons? Do you both spend summers there?

Serena: Lily and I both have roots on the East Coast and love the feeling of summer there. The Hamptons especially have a creative spirit and romance that we’re drawn to. We also want to celebrate the natural beauty and mystique of the area. Our store will speak to all of that in a casually, elegantly elevated way.