I am so excited to feature Catherine Smith in this installation of “A Quick Chat With…“! Catherine is the founder of Plan de Ville, an online e-commerce destination featuring luxury fashion by emerging designers and brands. I can’t even remember when I first discovered her on Instagram but I quickly fell in love with her business acumen (she shares so much on her profile + in Stories), her timeless yet accessible style, and of course, PDV. While many items on PDV are higher-end investment pieces, there is a great mix of indulgent and affordable–something I really value since it makes the brand more accessible. (I have this tote–that sometimes get restocked, the PDV candle, and these earrings that are sadly sold out!) Catherine also gave a wonderful TED Talk earlier this year and discussed female entrepreneurship and empowering girls to be leaders, is currently planning her wedding, and is enrolled in the Executive MBA program at Columbia. I cannot wait to see what else she has up her sleeve! I hope you enjoy learning more about her personal + professional backgrounds and that she inspires you, too…oh, and follow her on Instagram because her ability to find diamonds in the rough from major retailers–she can pick out a top from Uniqlo that retails for $20 but looks like it’s $250–is a true talent!
A QUICK CHAT WITH…CATHERINE SMITH, PLAN DE VILLE
Hometown: Lawrenceville, NJ
Current profession: Founder & CEO of Plan de Ville and PDV Advisory, our strategy consulting arm for emerging and established luxury brands.
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I studied political science and writing and Loyola University Maryland where I was very active in Student Government. After college, I decided not to go into politics (a decision I never regret!) but to go into fashion (which was easy for me because I started modeling when I was 17 and therefore had experience and connections in the industry) and I got my first post-college opportunity at W magazine. After that, I worked for a designer where I was exposed to many elements of retail and the process of running a fashion label which became critical inspiration for my business, Plan de Ville. I spent a few years a Brides magazine before leaving to pursue a Masters in Fashion Studies at Parsons, where I focused my research on the psychology of the luxury consumer and the links between the way we dress, and the mind.
What prompted you to start PDV?
I started PDV when I was getting my first Masters, studying at Parsons. I saw how Instagram was quickly giving emerging designers a way to go to market, but that retail hadn’t caught up in a dedicated way that only focused on the very earliest stages of emerging designers – so I set out to build it!
What’s been the biggest “pinch me” moment so far?
I am blessed to say that is a very tough one to answer. It’s probably a tie between getting in to Columbia (that night I got the best sleep of my life because I knew my future was forever changed), or winning the Rising Star Award in Retail from the Fashion Group International. We were up against steep competition, and when I heard my name called…I couldn’t believe it. It was so validating. I’ll never forget walking on to the stage and receiving the award from Roopal Patel, and then looking out into the audience and immediately seeing Tommy Hilfiger looking up and listening. Just unbelievable.
I love the selection and range of price points on PDV, and that there is always something new! What are some of your top picks right now?
Thank you so much! I’m so glad that the mix of price points shows through – that is something that means a lot to me. I believe that luxury needs to be communicated in a thoughtful way that is inviting and welcoming – so part of our strategy is to have beautiful things at a variety of price-points. My top picks right now are Valerie Garmino’s amazing alpaca outerwear, L’Afshar clutches, and everything from PDV Beauté: our clean beauty edit!
Anyone who follows you on Instagram and watches your Stories knows you have a knack for mixing high and low when it comes to fashion. What are some of your go-to brands and places to shop?
Thank you so much, that is so kind! My go-to brands are J.Crew, Uniqlo, and I do love Zara (as long as they’re not knocking off a designer I know!) because they provide fashion fun to everyone. For footwear I recently fell in love with all things Sam Edelman because the affordable brand holds up relatively well against the intense New York City streets! In terms of more high-end pieces, I love The Real Real for designer finds. I also love Rent the Runway Unlimited. So much fun for when I have warm getaway to dress for!
What three items should every woman have in her wardrobe?
A very well-tailored double-breasted blazer, a great adjustable belt, and a power shoe (defined as a shoe that makes you feel prepared for every encounter, polished, but never uncomfortable).
What are some of your aspirations as you continue to grow PDV?
I’d love to continue to reach customers that value what we bring to the market. I am also looking forward to deeper partnerships with other retailers, as that is how we truly help our designers scale.
You’re engaged–congratulations! How is wedding planning going? Any tips for brides to be?
Thank you! Wedding planning has been rather easy, both because I have a bridal background (I was an editor at Brides magazine from 2012 – 2014, and I covered bridal fashion as a contributor to Brides.com through 2016 (if you’re curious here are my stories!) and because I have a very specific vision. I don’t really debate whether I like something visually…I can immediately tell if it’s going to work or not. I am also blessed to know many female entrepreneurs in the bridal space, from the designer of my dress to the floral designer we’re working with on our flowers. The wedding will be at a church we recently joined and at my fiancé’s club here in New York. It’s a great chance for me to put my aesthetic spin on a place that’s very much his style, too.
What does your typical morning look like?
I am so not a morning person. My typical morning looks like checking my phone in bed before I get up, having coffee and breakfast with my fiancé, throwing on an outfit (that I totally thought about in advance – but that usually falls into one of my go-to combinations), and then I’m off! I try to only have meetings and calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays are my days for execution and follow-up.
Organizational tools you can’t live without?
Three words you’d use to describe yourself:
Ambitious. Dedicated. Loyal.
Top three favorite travel destinations?
London, Tuscany, northern California.
Favorite restaurant in NYC?
The Odeon in Tribeca. Order the moules frites. Tell Roya I sent you.
Go-to weekday lunch:
A salad from my favorite Italian restaurant on the Upper East side.
Margarita in a rocks glass.
One piece of advice (about work, life, being a female business owner, anything!):
Ask people for help – they’ll be glad you did.