Trish Carroll is an acclaimed designer who has designed accessories for iconic brands such as Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, and Ralph Lauren, among others. Her best-selling footwear collection, Miss Trish of Capri, can be found in retailers all over the world.
Karen Floyd. What is your connection to Cheyenne, Wyoming?
Trish Carroll. Our family has legacy in cattle ranching. My grandfather’s ranch was called the Remount Ranch to honor his service in the cavalry in World War I. He was a doctor and a veterinarian (covered a big part of Laramie County) and rode on horseback when he went on calls. He worked in Hollywood as well and doubled for Tom Mix in the silent movies. In addition, he competed in rodeos and rode with Buffalo Bill Cody. My father also had an interesting background. He had five sisters who spoiled him rotten. He loved women, and they loved him. He was a district attorney for twenty-five years and founded a bank. My father was also an avid outdoorsman. Both men had an incredible legacy. My family had a deep loyalty to animals, and their love for nature transcended generations. They made me feel confident that anyone could really do anything. I asked my parents, years later, “How did you let me go to New York? Why did you?” I went when I was 20. My father said, “Let you go? You were so determined.”
Q. When did you first know that you had a gift for fashion?
A. Maybe as young as 6 or 7 years old. There is a lot of time in Wyoming to just dream. The wind in Wyoming makes the clouds shift so quickly, and they create all these formations. I would lie on my back and look up at the sky and dream, not necessarily about being in New York or Europe or this life that I have. I dreamed about things I have always loved: color and fashion. My mother had a big influence on me. She as was an incredibly talented seamstress and very crafty. She put me into 4-H, and I won Makeup with Wool. The designers I have worked for, like Michael Kors, think it is funny when I tell them I won Makeup with Wool. Michael goes, “Well, of course, you did.” I made this luggage, wool, colored jumper with buttons, and I had a tiara. I said, “I know I am going places.” In high school, I would see pictures of clothes in a magazine and tell my mother, “I want this. Can you make that?” “Absolutely. We can make that.” My clothes were always different than my classmates; she would redo all the patterns. Our pool table became a big pin cushion. She could sew everything. I would say, “Okay let’s make an outfit in a day.” I have always had an incredible love of color, fashion, fabrics, and seeing things work in combination. When I arrived in New York, I was fortunate to become involved with some incredible people who sponsored me from the beginning.
Q. What was your first New York City job?
A. My first job was working at a buying office where I learned the mechanics of the business. I learned about model stock plans and open to buys. The truth is I was more interested in creating. I did that for a bit and ended up working in fabrics. I had previewed fabrics with my mother, who sold German fabrics and European fabrics from our home. I had a complete education from my mother, so there wasn’t a steep learning curve for me. I think that was one of the reasons that I quickly gravitated to fashion. Strangely enough, it just made sense to me. I thought, in another life, I must have had some big illustrious career in some international country because it just came easily. At one point, I pinched myself because I was talking to Oscar de la Renta, and he asked my advice. I told him I was from Wyoming. I’m very transparent. I think that’s so important to honor where you are from. And André Leon Talley was there. I said, “Oh, my mother just sent me a box from Wyoming.” “Well open it up,” he said. My mother had made me pajamas. I looked into the box and said, “I’ve got a spatula in here too…she just always wants me to cook. Here are the recipes.” We were all laughing. Even with that, Oscar still said, “I want you to go to London to research vintage and bring back ideas.” I went to Morocco too. I shopped in the souk and found the most amazing caftans and hand-cobbled footwear.
Q. How did you end up in the creative world?
A. My entry to the creative came through Perry Ellis and Laughlin Barker, his husband. I was at Glamour Magazine, as a fashion editor, for about three years. I was excited because they brought me in as an editor. After Glamour, I was hired by Vince Camuto and Jerome Fisher, who was the owner of Nine West. They had started sourcing out of Brazil. I was offered an opportunity to work at Harper’s Bazaar. I considered continuing with magazines because I loved that work. But Vince Camuto said, “No, no, no, no, no. You need to travel the world. I will teach you the business.” He said, “You will go to the collection shows X amount of times a year, and you’ll be going every month. Do you like to travel?” I said, “I love to travel.” He said, “Okay. So, we’re going to Italy. We’ll be going to Germany. You’ll go to France. You’ll go to Spain. You’ll go to England.” I could do that. I ended up at Vince Camuto, who really did teach me the business. He was profoundly talented. In fact, his family heritage was in the shoe business in Sicily. Until he went back to his family home and visited, he had no idea of his ancestry. It all was connected, and so he had just a natural feel for creating. He can still tell you what the best-selling product is. He has a photographic memory for product. He taught me the business, and I ended up working with him very closely. From there, I migrated to fashion directing and product development. I was traveling to the manufacturer in Brazil. It was a grassroots project. I would go to a factory and sit with the workers as we created together. It was not about having a pair of shoes at Saks or a very important store; the experience was about accomplishing something together and giving everybody a great sense of pride. Ultimately, it provided money for people. There is a responsibility attached to that, and I liked the connection. I loved the connectivity of manufacturing; starting from an idea or concept, researching it, and then all the steps in between until it appears in stores. I love giving people an opportunity to put their special touch on the project. It takes all the hands involved to get it done. Vince Camuto taught me the shoe business. From there, I worked with Sam Edelman when it was under Sam & Libby. I returned to Nine West again to run a division and to head up a junior collection. I was hired by Ralph Lauren.
“It was not about having a pair of shoes
at Saks or a very important store; the
experience was about accomplishing
something together and giving
everybody a great sense of pride.”
Q. Of the colleagues you mention, who impacted your life the most?
A. Michael Kors. He is so humble and very talented. He grew up in Long Island. His mother was an incredible athlete, but he knew immediately he wanted to be in fashion. He went through twists and turns with his business. We have a similar passion for fashion, even though I grew up in the West. We just naturally were drawn to fashion. I send him best wishes for success because he deserves every bit of it. He truly is a designer. Oscar de la Renta, Angela Missoni, and the phenomenal people I have worked with, all have incredible talent. No one is more talented than the next; they just found their niche. They stayed true to the path or specialization that they founded. They represent a brand DNA. The reason I love Michael so much is because he has an incredible personality and is very funny. He is like an actor, which he did when he was a child. He is also a perfectionist. I love that. I love his discipline. He works incredibly hard. He loves to tell the story behind the product. The story behind the product is something that connects us. For example, with Miss Trish by Capri, you know that she is a woman vacationing in Capri. She might be someone in Santorini like Jackie O. You “imagine” the person who will wear the shoes.
Q. So, the profile undergirds the product?
A. Yes. Yes. I love that about Michael; he digs into the profile. He will go to a trunk show and into the dressing room and put clothes on women while he is talking to them. He loves what he does. He loves having women look great, and he wants them to be beautiful. It is not intellectual fashion but seeking to make women look beautiful. It’s understanding nuances. He knows all these tricks, and I always listen to him. For him, it is intuitive.
Q. Why and when did you pause your career?
A. I focused so much on my career for many years. I was fast moving, traveling all around. Everyone would kid me, “Your middle name is airplane because you’re on a plane. You are going here and there.” But sometimes in the journey of life, you just start trying to figure it out. I had five clients and my own business. I looked at my life and said, “You know, all this moving around, but I am just a girl who grew up in Wyoming.” About that time, my parents started to get ill. They were older and had a beautiful life together. It was not a sad journey. It was just necessary for me, in my own trajectory, to go home and spend time with them. So, I took a pause. I said, “You know what? I’ve been in New York all this time.” In 2013, I went home and did simple things. I went with my father who loved to feed birds. I cooked. Though I am not as good a cook as my mother, who was an incredible gourmet cook. When I tried to make them things, my mother would say, “No, do it this way.” We had so much fun together. In that journey, there were a team of people that were helping to take care of them. That was a beautiful thing to see because they were selfless, loving, and tender people. It was like the UN of caregiving. We had somebody from England, South Dakota, Guyana. My father loved all these personalities, and all these women. He liked to entertain them on center stage. That time was a life changing experience, when you are releasing and letting go.
Q. What and how did the Miss Trish Capri sandal come about?
A. I was in the Hamptons in 2002 and traveling in Europe. It was March. I thought you know what? I love Capri sandals. I didn’t create the Capri sandal. If somebody does enough research, Capri sandals date back to Jesus and leather sandals. I always use the Jesus sandal for inspiration. It’s true, the gladiators wore a form of Capri sandals. I decided to do this line with a very good friend of mine who used to work for Halston. It was his idea to call the sandal Miss Trish Capri. I said “Miss Trish Capri? That sounds like juniors. I don’t know if that’s sophisticated.” He responded “No, because it’s like the ’60s when the Capri sandal got started.” He said, “You have to be from somewhere. Like Frederick’s of Hollywood. Sacha of London. You know, Manolo Blahnik of London.” He said, “It’s cute. Miss Trish Capri. And it’s very funny because it’s not Miss Trish of Capri. It’s Miss Trish. It’s a real American name. People will read between the lines. They will love it.” I was the queen of pop-ups in the early 2000s long before the term was used. I put a beach concept together, which had its own little privy hedge. Even the guy who made the awnings, a fourth-generation sailmaker and awning maker said, “You can’t build a house out of canvas. Someone will come here and slash the side and steal everything.” I said, “What can they take? A half pair of shoes? I don’t care. It’s fine.” It was incredible. Celebrities like Calvin Klein and Star Jones were buying. It was so much fun. I loved it. I always want to keep a sense of adventure, organic feeling about this company.
“Sometimes it’s very good to be still
and think about your journey.
Otherwise, it just keeps going
like a whirling dervish.”
Q. How did your brand end up in Target?
A. Target was an interesting thing because Target came to me. They were interested in doing a designer collaboration. My first thought was Target? I was making the shoes in Italy. I shop at Target. I love Target. It was a brand like Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s. I could see the sandal being in every home in America. I already knew I had a built-in audience across America because women love sparkle. There was a sparkly shoe that was so cute, and people loved them. I knew it would be a huge success at Target. I knew from Nine West how to make the commercial end work. I decided to embrace this opportunity and make it amazing. They put together a whole book for me, showed me a movie, downloaded all the images of my product. They dazzled me in New York, and then, I said, “Okay.” They said, “We’ll get back to you.” There was a moment or two of doubt. I don’t know to this day why there was a delay. Maybe because it was a big company of 10,000 people? Their decisions were based on a lot of factors. So, I did the boxes. I worked in precision. The boxes had water inside like a shot of a swimming pool with water inside. The shoes floated on the shelf. So, I knew it would work because it was just walk-by shopping. No sales help because the product had to speak to the consumer from the packaging. Eventually, they looked at these shoes. They did a very beautiful national advertising campaign with all the magazines. I was in Bergdorf. I was international. I was in Paris. I was in Harvey Nichols. Target validated me.
Q. Where are you now?
A. In 2013, I had a lifestyle change. I said, “I’m not flying all around the world anymore.” Sometimes it’s very good to be still and think about your journey. Otherwise, it just keeps going like a whirling dervish. You are just moving so fast and not even digesting how you are doing it. I had a lot of good luck and a lot of good fortune. I thought to myself, “I want to pull back. I want to do something that still gives me a lot of happiness.” That might not be just in the accessory footwear sector. That could be in apparel or whatever. I started working a little bit more with some apparel companies and moving in the smaller venues. Instead of working with big corporations, I began working with smaller, entrepreneurial designers. That is where I am today, working with them because I love the interaction. I love getting inside their head and their world. I am re-launching my brand with a direct connection, a personal connection to the women that helped me build my brand. It is a mother-and-daughter experience; it is ageless.
In 2016, I decided it was time to make a move. I love Wyoming and the outdoors, and I love New York, but I needed a lifestyle change and a refocus. I had a store for six years in Palm Beach. I have a home and my boyfriend here. There were many reasons to move to Florida. I wanted to wake up in the morning and walk on a beach with my dog. I wanted to get back to some of the simple things in life. I never understood that. For the first time, I truly enjoy more dialogue and being able to see my family a little bit more. I think about the importance of relationships and am more aware of people and my surroundings. I have gone through a metamorphosis and now am on the other side. I am ready, and I feel strong, and I healed from my parents. I released. I was with them until the end. I saw the beauty of taking a breath in, and the last thing you do is exhale a breath. The world became this incredibly meaningful place to me. I value what I am doing and the relationships I have had. I want to go back to the beginning, which came about organically. It was simple and honest. I am ready to take all these world experiences and refine Miss Trish to a personal experience that simply makes you feel good. E