Jen Sertl

January 13, 2012
Jen Sertl

Jen Sertl is a role model for a new generation of “beautiful business.” We just love that she is a mom and a kick butt entrepreneur who gives back. As an independent designer she creates beauty not only through her inspired cashmere pieces but also by giving back to women in need and by being kind to the planet. Now that’s REAL beauty!

Jen deconstructs and restyles vintage cashmere into halters, wraps, sweaters, shrugs and scarves. Each piece is handcrafted by the designer and is deeply rooted in tradition.

She has received global attention for her ecofriendly designs, including features on treehugger.com and ecoluxe.com.

Jen donates a portion of sales each year to Amani ya Juu, a ministry teaching sewing skills to refugee women in Nairobi, Kenya so they can provide for themselves and their families.

Check Out My Exclusive Interview With Jen

How do you define real beauty?

“To me, real beauty is defined by my grandmother. She is the most beautiful woman in the world and at nearly ninety years old, she glows. I spent a lot of time around her when I was younger and observing her provided me with everything I needed for life. Whether it was the food she cooked, the flowers she tended in her garden, she did it all with great love. Real beauty is love, pure and simple. The love you put into the things you do for others is the glue that bonds you to them, it’s the secret ingredient. Taking time to do things with love…cooking a meal for my family or friends becomes an act of love. . .focusing on sights, sounds, scents, along the way, being present through it all. Seeing people enjoy a labor of love is the gift that comes right back to me, especially in my work.
When a woman tries on a cashmere wrap, sweater or scarf I’ve made, seeing them smile as they look at themselves lights me up inside!”

What are some things you do to feel good about yourself?

“The best way for me to feel good about myself is to follow my heart at all times. When I do the path ahead of me lights up and all goes well! When I don’t, nothing goes right and a struggle ensues. I strive to use my business as a way to give back to other women, I donate a percentage of sales to Nest and Amani ya Juu, both assist women in developing countries so they can provide for themselves and their families. Serving others is something I find great delight in…there are many times when I’d much rather be the “server”/helper at a dinner party than a guest. . .I sometimes miss my college job of waiting tables. I think everyone should be required to wait tables during college or high school, it makes you a better customer for life!”

Why do you think it’s such a challenge for women to feel good about themselves?

“I think the biggest challenge for women feeling good about themselves is the media that depict women as nothing more than one-dimensional sexual objects…anything that makes a woman feel as though she needs something “outside” of herself to be beautiful. As a designer, I feel as though I walk a tightrope striving to find balance between “looking beautiful” and “being beautiful”…one is just a facade, a mask, something to hide behind, the other is powerful, a moving force within that drives me from deep within. It is this force that gives meaning to my life…it is connecting with who I am.”

What advice would you give to a woman struggling with her self-worth?

“First, I would tell her the story of my ten year old daughter who won the “most stylish” award from her friend Olivia. As we drove home, I asked her how that felt, and she told me that “everyone knows the best accessory is a smile!” Wow, she really does listen to me…and funny thing, I don’t think I’ve ever said those precise words. Secondly, I would tell her to rid her surroundings of anything that makes her question her “worth” in this world or causes her to focus relentlessly on outside beauty…magazines, etc…and put her focus on giving to someone else. Self-worth comes from within ourselves, knowing you have a mighty purpose.”

How did you figure out your place in this world? How did you know when you were doing exactly what you were meant to do?

“I struggled for many years to find my place in this world. From the time I was a young girl, I was constantly searching for the “meaning of life” and asking all the most difficult questions of my parents like “why am I here?” and crying out of sheer frustration that there were no answers I could wrap my head around. I felt as though that phase lasted a long time…and then at 28, I gave birth to my daughter, Giulina. Life blossomed and so did I, I felt comfortable in my own skin. Pouring love into this new little life…smiling, laughing, crying, not sleeping, deliriously happy staring at those cheeks and big blue eyes. The world and all of life’s possibilities opened up. The big questions disappeared, no more soul-searching, I was on my path.

I had always been interested in fashion, but fashion that meant more than just a passing trend…fashion that helped a woman feel like a woman, feminine and comfortable, but eye-catching and different and with a bit of romance. . .but also one-of-a-kind, because we are all unique. Slowly my business grew and along the way came “omens” that winked at me and told me I was on the right path. It really still feels magical the way that things come about…that’s how I found the “Real Beauty is” website…and when I saw the words “Real Beauty is bold, courageous and ‘perfectly imperfect’ ” I knew I was still on the right path, because my Grandma said these words to me in a dream a month or so ago, “Life is perfectly imperfect!” I have been pondering how profound those words are since then. It had all come full circle when I saw those words, especially since my grandma is my source of real beauty.”

How important do you think it is for women to support each other?

“I think it is paramount that women support one another. My women friends are my biggest design inspiration. The “models”on my website are all my friends. I think society makes us and our daughters feel like they are all competing against one another, which is such a farce. We are each other’s best support system and best friends. And, what are we competing for? Men? Attention? To be the “prettiest”, the “fairest of them all”? Is that what truly matters in the end? Rather than viewing other women as “competition” or a source for comparison, why not a source of “inspiration.”

When are you at your best?

“I am at my best when I am present in the moment that is happening right n o w. Being aware that this moment in time is the only thing we “have” helps me to bring a positive attitude and my full spirit. There are many things that factor into being at my best–all the obvious things like a good night’s sleep, healthy food, exercise, great friends and support system–all these things make me feel like I am doing my best to “be” and “bring” my best.”

When you are confronted with fear or self-doubt what helps you move through these feelings?

“I remind myself that I can operate out of fear, or LOVE, and that from love amazing things happen.”

What’s one of the MOST important things a woman can do to empower herself to feel good.

“Find ways to make other women feel good about themselves, whether it be a compliment to a passing stranger, a young girl or just share a smile, there’s power in little things. Put the focus on their happiness, and happiness is yours.”

What do you think needs to happen in order for a woman to truly break open and blossom into who she was meant to be?

“It takes time to break free from expectations of others, and do some soul-searching to find who you are truly meant to be. I remind myself often that what I am “doing” has nothing to do with who I am “being”, though I can intertwine the two to create my life. I heard once that if you are doing what you loved to do when you were ten years old, then you are doing exactly what you were meant to do. I can honestly say at age 10, I was making clothes for my Barbie dolls with the small scraps of fabric my grandma would give to me when she finished making a blouse or something. I was so thrilled to get those odd shaped little pieces. Looking back I can see how all the dots connect and here I am today, utilizing reclaimed vintage cashmere to create women’s scarves, wraps, sweaters, etc. I am using what I have in order to give new life to something discarded or unwanted and in doing so, I am hopefully creating something more beautiful and honoring my heritage.”

Is there a moment in your life you are most proud of?

“I am most proud to be a mother. When my daughter was three years old, we were looking at her baby photos from the hospital, and she said “Look at that mama lookin’ all proud of herself holding that baby!” I was blown away that at age three she could read the emotion I was feeling from a photo…so full of love for that little girl. Excited each day, to pass along what I know about real beauty to her. She already knows it starts with a smile…”

Learn More About Jen HERE

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