Jessie Randall, founder of Loeffler Randall, is one of our all-time inspirations here at quarterlane, and so we are thrilled to share this feature with you on The QL Edit. Samantha Hahn had the chance to chat with Jessie, and the conversation below is intimate, full of wise words and the best sort of inspiration, so grab a cup of tea, a blanket and dive in with us as we get to know the woman behind one of the coolest and smartest brands out there today -- what she's learned, what she reads and how she stays balanced, inspired and ready to take on the day. Oh, and did we mention she loves Nora Ephron? Kindred spirits with the QL gang, indeed! Photos by Christine Han.
QL: How do you carve out time for reading? When do you read? Where do you read?
JR: I read whenever I can squeeze it in, on the subway, a lot of times while walking down the street. Mostly, though, I read in bed at night on my Kindle. And when I wake up in the night I read too.
QL: What role does reading play in your life?
JR: Reading functions much the same way as things like knitting or making cross-stitches do for me. Reading helps to calm and quiet my mind. I love how reading can open me up to feelings I have that I didn’t even know. I went to a lecture recently on happiness and reading was one of the few things that is scientifically proven to actually make you happy (things like money, do not). I find that this is true. I’m happier if I have a good book I’m reading.
QL: We heard through the grapevine that you are friends with a publisher. Do you have some great chats with her about books?
JR: I am good friends with Molly Stern who is at Random House. I love talking about books with Molly because it is her passion and she is totally brilliant. I always like to read the acknowledgments at the back of books. And nearly every time I do, there is a dedication to her. It’s amazing! She is such a rock star.
QL: Can you recall the first book you loved?
JR: The first book I ever loved is called 'The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward. It’s the story of a mother bunny who has 21 little bunnies. She dreams of being one of the Easter Bunnies and everyone underestimates her because she is a woman and a mother with lots of children. Then, because she is so kind, the head of the Easter bunnies makes her one of the Easter Bunnies. She teaches each pair of her children to do a different task around the house so that she can be away doing her job, including the job of pulling out her dining chair to the littlest bunny. One pair of bunnies is assigned the task of painting beautiful pictures for the walls. This book showed me how important art is for other people and how it too is a noble profession. Other people who do other jobs need see art (and fashion) to inspire them and bring them joy. There is a sick little boy on the top of a mountain who needs his Easter basket and the country bunny falls, injuring her foot. The head Easter bunny appears and gives her a special pair of gold shoes that allow her to fly to bring a special Easter egg to the little boy. This book about the importance of art, the power of women, love for children and of course, shoes, had a huge impact on me.
QL: Favorite literary character?
JR: Anastasia Krupnik
QL: Did you always want to be a designer? As a child did you have any picture books that inspired you visually?
JR: I was very lucky in that my mom was a children’s book reviewer when I was growing up. So while we didn’t have many toys, we did have lots of high quality books. A few favorite, visually inspiring children’s books I loved: Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni, A Very Special House, all of the Beatrix Potter books, The Duchess Bakes A Cake, Ferdinand (I had a signed copy as a little kid), Ox-Cart Man, The Egg Tree and of course, One Morning In Maine, Blueberries for Sal and Make Way For Ducklings. I also found The Lonely Doll both completely terrifying and so visually inspiring.
QL: As a mom/designer are there books you love showing to your kids?
JR: I love beautiful books and books with amazing stories. Some visual favorites include: The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was In It, Mrs. Ballard’s Parrots (Roz Chast turned me onto this book. It’s photos of parrots dressed up in all different costumes), anything illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina, The Little Fireman, Kiki and Coco In Paris, May I Bring A Friend? Anything by Leo Lionni, The Tiny King, Pancakes For Breakfast, Arrow To The Sun, Moon Man, This Is Not My Hat
Other books I love for the stories themselves: Tikki Tikki Tembo, Amelia Bedelia, What Should A Hippo Wear?, The Giving Tree, the Fudge books, the Anastasia Krupnik books, anything by Roald Dahl, my kids are super into Calvin and Hobbes cartoons right now, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I also read them David Sedaris stories which are slightly inappropriate but I think so wonderful. For other inspiring kids books 'pancakes' by Lotta Nieminen. I also loved the ladies drawing night book and read that with my kids.
QL: What are your favorite visual (art/design/photography) books?
JR: I love graphic novels for visual inspiration. I have read so many. Fun Home is a favorite. And Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast is my favorite book of all time. I get inspired by craft books a lot, I’m always looking to learn a new craft skill. Vintage magazines are great resources - we go to the FIT and Conde Nast libraries often. For magazines I like to look at Kinfolk, The Gentlewoman, Gather, Cherry Bombe
QL: Favorite fiction and non-fiction book?
JR: Non-fiction/memoir is my love always, but recently a friend begged me to read the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante and I am obsessed. Other favorite books: The Liar’s Club, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Bell Jar, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama…and I feel lame saying this but The Catcher In The Rye is one of my all time favorite books. For fiction I love: Cutting For Stone, Interpreter of Maladies, My Name Is Lucy Barton, Where’d You Go Bernadette
Oh and, I am secretly crazily obsessed with true crime and may or may not be a web sleuth – ha! Fatal Vision is hands down one of the best books ever.
QL: When you were launching your business did you find any business books useful?
JR: When we were launching our company, I was so scared and superstitious. I was reading a book about Buddhism called The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life. It helped me immensely.
QL: If you had to name a favorite book for each of these categories what would they be?: Edification, Pleasure, Inspiration
JR: Edification: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar
Pleasure: Bossypants, especially her essay on breast feeding
Inspiration: Finding Mr. Rightstein, written by my writing teacher, Nancy Davidoff Kelton (p.s. it’s heartbreaking and hilarious).
QL: Favorite local book shops?
JR: My favorite place for craft books is Purl in Soho. I like Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene and Powerhouse is right near me in Park Slope.
QL: What’s your favorite quarterlane box?
JR: The Classics Revisited. I forgot to mention my undying love for Nora Ephron.