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Kristen Lee Cole of Tenoversix, The Interview

Life, StyleRebecca O'ByrneComment
Kristen Lee Cole, Tenoversix

Shopping on Melrose Avenue you can’t help but feel that little bit.. exceptional. It’s never not a sunshiny day, you’ve just picked up a coffee from Alfred’s and in need of something fresh and offbeat your next stop is undoubtedly Tenoversix. At ease amid the stunning surroundings of LA’s hottest neighbourhood is this gallery-style store that plays home to the must-know names in fashion, art, homeware, photography and beauty. 

Curated encounters is the main focus of the experience and while some more established brands are on show like Band of Outsiders, Acne, Alexander Wang, Rachel Comy and Loeffler Randall, it is in the eclectic mix of unknown, up-and-coming labels that gives shoppers that exclusive sense of discovering something new to cherish.

At the core of Tenoversix though is a lady with a delightful taste in such matters, Kristen Lee Cole, Tenoxersix’s co-founder, creative director and buyer. Something of a genius, her ability to silently but strong bring to the store a powerful edit warrants a wonder at what it’s like to delve into the life of such a successful business woman and come to understand her way of life. 

With a second location having opened in Dallas it’s clear that Tenoversix is a brand on a mission to shy away from the path well travelled and introduce new and previously undiscovered paths of it’s own. Here we talk to Kristen about how she keeps inspired, juggles her personal and professional lives and what she considers when curating the perfect working wardrobe..

Kristen you have a long-standing relationship with the fashion industry, having studied at Parsons and NYU you took on many internships, worked as a stylist and shoe designer, moved into designing and consulting for hotels and retail stores and now you’re very much your own boss. Did you always have the dream to do your own thing and how do you feel everything along the way has brought a better understanding and deeper value to what you do today?

Yes, I did always want to do my own thing, I’m very independent and have too many ideas. There’s nothing better than experience, and through experience I slowly found my niche within the industry. I love continuing to perfect what I do. There’s always more to learn, more to be inspired by, and ways to improve your game. Every little job, every early internship, my education, my risks, successes and failures… they all inform what I do every day.

Tenoversix is one of the hottest concept gallery-style stores in America right now and you’ve created a really unique shopping experience for consumers; can you take us through the idea behind it and how you came to decide to open your own store..

Thank you. I care a lot about the experience. In the age of dying brick-and-mortars, it’s very important to me that our customer has a good time shopping with us and discovers something new. Shopping should be fun, should be an experience in and of itself, not just a means to the end product. I’ve always loved displaying fashion and design pieces as art. There’s nothing better for me than to walk an art gallery. The white spaces are always very peaceful for my mind, and allow you to focus in on the art. I applied this basic same principle to our store design- all white everything, merchandising on platforms and plinths, displaying singular pieces of art on the walls.

I decided to open TenOverSix nine years ago while I was designing my own shoe line, designing shoes for other designers, and working as a fashion stylist. I was in love with fashion, but wanted so bad to create something with more permanence and a more cohesive point of view. It was in a moment of daydreaming on next steps that I realized what I really wanted was a space: a space to curate with fashion and design.

Los Angeles is a key fashion city for sure and setting up your first store there was a perfect choice. Clearly Dallas has been an equally ideal next step is the expansion of Tenoversix but what was the thinking behind Dallas and opening there?

The Dallas store happened as a result of a Dallas-based hotel, The Joule, reaching out to us to offer us a space in their hotel. They were very into what we do, and wanted to bring something new and cool from LA to the downtown Dallas shopping scene. It was an out-of-the-blue opportunity that has worked out very well. I love that store and our community there. It’s a miracle we received that voicemail.

If there were to be, which we hope there will be, a third location, where would you like to take Tenoversix next and why?

Miami, Austin or New York! I’m always looking and I’d be really excited if the opportunity presents to open in another city.

As well as fashion, beauty and homeware, affordable art is also a huge part of the Tenoversix experience, what LA and Dallas based artists are you passionate about right now?

Oh gosh, so many. My husband and I collect and are pretty big contemporary art nerds. We spend all of our money on art. We often get pieces for TenOverSix from artists we collect, and we often find artists through friends and other artists. I’m in the process of a collaboration with the artist Pia Camil. She has a show on at the Dallas Contemporary and is amazing. Our collaboration will be little pieces of wearable art that are very much an extension of her show, and very timely, politically speaking. A few others I’m into right now, in no particular order: Alika Cooper, Margaux Ogden, Samantha McCurdy, Claire Oswalt, Zachary Leener, Lucas Simoas, John Rieppenhoff and Ryan Nord Kitchen.

You are also creative director of ByGeorge in Austin where you now live, a beautiful Mum to Jackson, you’re expecting your second bundle of joy and you also have all the responsibilities of being a co-owner and buyer for Tenoversix. How do you balance your personal and professional lives?

It’s a day-to-day juggling act. I split my days between the productivity and action lists of everything I need to make happen for all the stores. My creative re-charging and inspiration gathering filters into both brands. I don't travel more than once per month because my babies are my priority. A lot of lists, schedules and juggling and I somehow make it all happen. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. I try to maximize and value my working time, my creative and social time, and my time with my family.

How do you switch off and what disciplines have you in place to make sure you get some time to yourself?

I have a real commitment to not working on the weekend. I really unwind and chill with my family on the weekend. It’s my oasis in the midst of crazy weeks. I also try to be very present with my family in the morning and evening (before and after the work day) and put my phone down. I love the days I have the time to cook a proper meal, listen to some music, drink some wine.… 

What advice do you have for someone wanting to go out on their own and take a chance in starting their own business?

It’s not easy. Hope the best, prepare for the worst, and work your ass off. I’d also suggest keeping a separate income stream, if you can be creative on how to do that. I continued working as a fashion stylist/ wardrobe stylist for the first five years of TenOverSix. This allowed me to skip paychecks, re-invest in the biz, and stay flexible.

As a buyer you hold a lot of influential power regarding people’s wardrobes and what brands they come to know and love. What does it take for you to invest in a designer that is previously undiscovered though and take the chance to stock it in store?

I love to take chances in fashion, that’s the fun for me! I’ve always had a commitment to emerging and it’s cool to support an early raw vision. I’ve learned to trust my gut, and buy what I actually want to wear. If it’s honest, and coming from a designer with a pure vision that fits within my aesthetics, I’ll likely buy a bit into it. It’s too boring for me to just stock what everyone else has, the risks hold the most fun. I’m a little bit proud to be a lot of designer’s first stockist.

Who are your favourite emerging designers and indie brands right now?

There are many, but not enough rack space for me to carry them all. I really like the following very independent or emerging lines: Catherine Quin, Nomia, Eckhaus Latta, Vetements, Jaquesmu, Jasmin Shokrian, 

Where do you find yourself most inspired?

When traveling, looking at art and reading.

What are the key pieces in your own wardrobe that you find yourself wearing on repeat?

Converse high-tops. Celine handbags. Andy Wolf and Tierry Lasary sunglasses. High-waisted Creatures of Comfort or Jesse Kamm pants. Vintage 501s. Acne, Veda, Balenciaga, Jaquesmus, Rachel Comey… little jackets. A bright lipstick.

Kristen you could do this in your sleep and clearly style is just in your blood, do you have any tips when it comes to establishing a solid, sustainable and long-standing wardrobe?

You bet. And though I’m in the business of selling fashion, I am not about fast-fashion or over-doing it. I believe in what I sell, and think they’re good investments. It’s really, really important to take a good look at yourself and ask, “What is my style?”. If you are not extremely artsy or work in fashion, you should take the time to reflect on this. Once you hit on it, your shopping should always support this. You will build yourself a solid, cohesive wardrobe if you are an editor. Find a boutique that speaks to your aesthetic. Find a sales person who understands your style, and stick with it. So many women are victim to trends and their wardrobes are schizophrenic. Know how you live and what you like, and be true to that. Perfect one thing.

Magazines and books are also a key element of a customers shopping experience at both Tenoversix locations, what are you reading right now and what books have stood out to you of late? 

Right now I’m reading Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles. I’d read about her for years and never read her, so decided to buckle down. She’s a great writer. I love a lot of art books. And vintage. We have a nice curated, vintage art book selection from my friend who does The Librarian. I recently brought home a vintage luminous and lovely Moods Robert Farber photography book from TenOverSix. We are always brining in new magazines. Current favorites: Romance Journal and Bad Day.

If you weren’t doing what you do, where might we find you?

Selling or buying art or books.


Kristen Lee Cole
Kristen Lee Cole, Tenoversix
Kristen Lee Cole
Kristen Lee Cole