Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Presenting Ronda Rice Carman: Author, Blogger, and Entrepreneur

Many of you have watched the trajectory of our friend Ronda Rice Carman's fascinating career. Join me on this adventure along with Ronda and hear how her life has unfolded in the most magical way.

Ronda, You have been on a whirlwind the past few years. There have been so many changes and new ventures, both personally and professionally. Would you tell our readers about your very interesting background, blog, the places you have lived and what is new in your life?

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas.   Prior to moving to  Scotland in 2005, I lived in Pittsburgh for five years. Yes, it’s been a whirlwind tour over the past 8 years and very exaggerated the past year or so.   It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since penning my first blog post. In all honestly, I could never have envisioned the path that my life would take as I typed that first post in January 2007.  It seems at every turn, there is another door that opens with opportunity behind it.
This past year was professionally exciting and personally demanding. Commuting from Scotland  to the States for my  book tour, combined with my consulting practice and starting a new business has played a nontrivial role in whirl-winded schedule.
As many now know, I have entered a new chapter in my personal life…I’m divorced, I moved back to Texas  and I started Ronda Carman Fine Fabrics with my new love and business partner, Matt Whitaker. As this new chapter unfolds, I am both excited and inspired.

A new Luxe Line of Lambswool and Cashmere Scottish Throws

What was your vision when you started your widely acclaimed blog, All the Best?
I wish I could say that I had a vision.  What I had was a vague notion of what I wanted and strong desire to succeed. I began my blog (on a whim) in 2007 while working in corporate fundraising for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. After discovering the blogs Peak of Chic, Style Court and Absolutely Beautiful Things, I decided, on impulse, that I wanted a blog too.  All the Best, (named after the January issue of Town & Country sitting on my desk) was little more than an anthology of my thoughts on champagne, wine, dog beds and candles, among other design and luxury topics. My thought was, ‘I’ll just blog about whatever I deem to be the best that day.’ The blog became my connection to like-minded individuals and a way of adjusting to my new life in Scotland.
After 6 months I lost focus and became disenchanted with my new ‘hobby’. But after a shout out from Domino Magazine, my readership skyrocketed from a couple of views each day to more than 2,000 visitors. I emailed Rita Konig to thank her for the mention and she agreed to an interview on All the Best. I was so excited by the idea of ‘interviewing’ designers and tastemakers. Before long I was profiling people that I had admired for years, such as Ivanka Trump and Tory Burch. I had that aha moment…I found my niche and that is when All the Best really began.
When I decided to resign my real job and blog fulltime, my ex-husband thought I had lost my mind. I remember saying to him, ‘If you do what you love, the money will follow.’ I’m so glad I followed both my heart and head as opportunities are abound.

Ronda, when I received your recent book, Designers at Home, Personal Reflections on Stylish Living, it was like a jewel box of a book. Page after page of the best of the best in the Interior Design world. How did this feat come about?

Thank you. It was a life long dream. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write a book. I have been collecting magazine clippings and tucking away “book ideas” since I was 12 years old. Much like the aha moment I had with the blog, the book idea was the same.   
In many ways I wrote it for myself. I am curious by nature. I wanted to know what life was like at home for designers…what they serve for dinner, the kind of sheets they use on their beds. Like Diana Vreeland once said, “Few things are more fascinating than how people live during their private hours.”

When I gave my mom and dad a copy of my book, my father commented, “It’s as if you have been preparing for this your whole life."

I am most appreciative to Rizzoli for publishing Designers at Home, my editor Sandy Gilbert and Martha Stewart for writing the forward. 

There have been a lot of changes in your life these last few years, and you are now launching Ronda Carman Fine Fabrics (to the trade) with your partner Matt. It was fun to see you both attired clothes made from your interiors fabrics. What's the genesis of this collection? 

Having lived in Scotland for 8 years I was privileged to build close relationships with several of the country's finest textile mills.  I soon learned that many of the most celebrated international luxury-fashion houses rely on Scottish mills for their fabrics. Many of the relationships go back decades.  And while the apparel industry knows full well the exceptional quality of Scottish fabrics, the interiors market has yet to utilize wholly Scotland’s finest offerings. We were given a very unique opportunity to curate and represent some of the finest mills under the brand RONDA CARMAN FINE FABRICS.

We are headquartered in Houston and have representation at EC Dicken in Dallas and Ainsworth-Noah in Atlanta. We will be looking at showrooms in NYC and LA later this year. It’s very exciting and surreal. The support and enthusiasm of the design community has been great due the exceptional quality of our suiting, wools, sateens, sheers, cashmeres and leathers.  With almost 400 different fabrics, we have something for every designer and every project.

Who are a few mentors or people you admire greatly; those have inspired you to make your dreams come to life?

Creative couples have always inspired me, and since launching a business with Matt, I have been looking at other couples as examples.  A few include:


Kate and Andy Spade

Kate and Andy Spade have been my style icons for years. Now I look to them as a creative couple that made it work…very successfully. I can relate to them from a business (and personal) point of view. From the beginning, nothing was planned at Kate Spade. Neither of them grew up wanting to be a fashion designer. The idea formed with a question from Andy: "Why don't you do handbags? You love handbags." And that was that. "We never thought about starting a company. We just said, ‘Let’s make some bags and see what happens,'" said Andy. Not bad for a $59 million payday.
RONDA CARMAN FINE FABRICS started much the same way.  Matt said to me one day, “with your love of textiles, relationships with the mills, and friendships within the design community, why don’t you start a fabric business.”

Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames were a creative powerhouse. Best known for their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, industrial design and the photographic arts, each brought unique genius to their union (he was an architect by training and she was a painter and sculptor). The house they built together inspires  me on many levels. Charles and Ray moved into the House on Christmas Eve, 1949, and lived there for the rest of their lives.  I love that the Eames House truly reflects the personality of both Eames’.

Tim and Nina Zagat
Founders of the iconic Zagat guide, Tim and Nina started the guide as a fun project during the early years of their marriage (both working as corporate lawyers). In a recent interview they were asked, “How do you work together as husband and wife?” Tim answered, “We each work in our strengths and accept that we won’t always agree on the means, but we always agree on the end.”

Tell us about your latest collaborations in the creation of the Scottish Throws of angora and lambswool, they look so luxurious.  What's special about the mill producing your cashmere?

We actually have four different blends that make up our line of throws.  Our high-end is 100% cashmere (not the stuff you would normally find).  Our’s has always been used in the fashion arena for scarfs and wraps (some of the biggest names you could imagine). Fashion houses have been using this wonderful fabric for years, we happen to be very fortunate in bringing this same quality of luxury to home interiors. 

Traditional, time-tested techniques are always applied. Such two include, pummeling the cloth in a century-old wooden milling machine to release short fibers for a soft handle, and brushing the cashmere with hand-harvested Italian teasel plant heads sprinkled with Scottish water to create the characteristic ripple effect.

Not only does the mill use the finest raw fibers, they carry out regular tests to ensure the purity of the yarn. Once spun into yarn, the fibers are then woven, washed, brushed, hand-cut and meticulously finished, before a final inch-by-inch inspection by two craftsmen. The mill, and their reputation, rely on fantastic hand-skills going over every inch of the fabric.

Once I experienced the time-honored tradition of the Scottish mills firsthand it deepened my appreciation of a skilled craft. I wanted the opportunity to share these amazing fabrics with the interiors world. The Scots have an extraordinary commodity to offer—textiles of the highest tradition and quality.

Ronda this is truly fascinating and educating regarding the intricate process of weaving cashmere. I had no idea what is involved in the production of these lines! 

Finally what words of wisdom do you have for the beginning author, designer, artist, or person of any age wanting to make a change in their life or career?

Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally. Two favorite quotes come to mind.

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”
Mark Twain

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  Winston Churchill

Ronda, thank you so much for sharing your story with our readers. You are truly an inspiration! We wish you and Matt all the best as you move forward with making all of your dreams come true.

Visit Ronda's website to learn even more and see her  fine fabrics and leather goods at  www.rondacarman.com   

Be sure to visit Ronda's blog All the Best, Passport to Stylish Living!

Order her book, (you will be thrilled that you did )  Designers at Home, Personal Reflections on Stylish Living 

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