Chicago Woman Magazine
Colette Jaffe on Launching Her Own Luxury Homewares Business
After a super successful career in luxury homewares, Colette Jaffe recently launched her own eponymous luxury linen brand, sharing her entrepreneurial story with Chicago Woman..
Colette Jaffe’s professional background is a study in international business that spans almost 30 years. The Minneapolis native has strong ties to the Windy City as that is where she launched her career in luxury linens over 20 years ago. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, Colette made her way to Chicago where she accepted a position at Neiman Marcus as a sales associate for Pratesi. The Italian brand, which has long been considered the gold standard of luxury linen, later tapped Colette to join their internal team. During her time with Pratesi, Colette learned all aspects of the business and what it takes to produce such a product line from factory to showroom. Colette opened the Pratesi store on Chicago’s iconic Oak St. in May 1991 and continued to successfully run the Midwest arm of the European brand until she left to launch her own eponymous company, Colette Jaffe.
What do you love about your business, industry and/or organization?
I’ve had an interest in design and a love for the finer things in life since a very young age so this industry has always been a perfect fit for me. At the core of the luxury home industry sits the notion that it’s best to invest in beautiful, high quality things that stand the test of time. That’s a concept I strong believe in and live in my own everyday life.
We often learn the most from the challenges we encounter. Please share one of yours.
I have found that being a woman doing business in Italy can be challenging. Italy is still very much a man’s world.
What's something that our readers may be surprised to learn about you?
If I wasn’t doing this, I would be journalist or a reporter.
What's the most common question you get asked?
Where are your sheets made? When people are paying for a luxury product they want to know where that product is produced - I’m always very proud to say that our sheets are entirely manufactured in Italy using 100% Egyptian cotton.
What does balance mean to you?
As an entrepreneur, I’m still trying to figure that out!
What drives you to success?
Pure determination and fear of failure.
What's your favorite thing about Chicago?
The Windy City has an incredible energy that’s unlike anything else in the Midwest. The Gold Coast and River North are my two favorite neighborhoods - there’s nothing better than a day of shopping along Michigan Ave. or Oak St.! And then, of course, there’s the food. Chicago’s food scene is simply the best - Gibson’s and RPM Italian are two of my all time favorites.
Name three women you are inspired by and why.
Barbara Walters. For me as a young woman, she was the pioneer in journalism. She broke down so many barriers for women. I admire the way she has persevered and lived her life, her way.
My grandmother. She was very much ahead of her time and she really showed me from a young age what it meant to be a strong, independent woman. She was born in 1903 yet she was the one who went to work in their General Store while my grandfather got the kids off to school every morning.
My nieces. One is just barely a teenager and the other one a pre-teen. I have a very close relationship with both of them. They like to work for me on weekends and knowing I am an important role model in their lives, inspires me to continue to do better and to be better.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Trust my gut. It’s a piece of advice that has proven to be true over and over again since launching my company.
Copyright 2018. Chicago Woman Magazine - Reprinted with permission.