Lizzie and Kathryn Fotunato are the definition of yin and yang. They are twins with distinct perspective, skill sets, and hair cuts (Lizzie has a pixie cut, Kathryn rocks a longer style) that came together to create a powerhouse duo when they founded the accessories line, Lizzie Fortunato, in 2008 with the intent of slow production and thoughtful designs inspired by various cultures around the world. Adorned with exquisite hand-loomed embroidery and beading, the clutches, shoulder bags, and small leather goods are a natural extension of the line’s mixed-medium statement jewelry. This thoughtfulness in design and production is only heightened when you meet the sisters in person, as they couldn’t be kinder. Meet Lizzie and Kathryn!
What is your ideal outfit or uniform to wear every day?
Lizzie: Straight jeans, boots and a blazer.
Kathryn: For work: a tapered denim jean (preferably Apiece Apart), an easy sweater (Demylee and Ulla Johnson are favorites) and a blazer (Rachel Comey or Dries) or vest (I have a gray reversible Rag & Bone that I literally live in) for layering.
Who are your style icons?
Lizzie: Our maternal grandmother who was always the most elegant, chic woman in the room even if she was not wearing the most expensive outfit.
Kathryn: My mom and sister are incredibly chic, I always aspire to put outfits together as well as Lizzie does. I think they both get it from our maternal grandmother who was such a huge style inspiration to us all. She made any outfit – no matter how high or low – look classy. She could be the chicest woman gardening in her back yard or dressed up for a night out.
For being twins, it’s actually easy to tell you apart because your styles are quite different. How did each of you develop your own personal style, while looking almost exactly like one another? What have you learned from one another’s style?
Lizzie: Kathryn spent 5 years on Wall Street where she mastered corporate dressing. She rocked some excellent sharp-shouldered blazers and enviable pantsuits, but it was definitely more ‘business’ then my style which leans a little more casual. When we dress up I tend to be a little more artsy, layered, and experimental whereas Kathryn plays it safer with long-lasting, elegant investment pieces. Kathryn always looks put together even if it’s just a day in the office so she’ll inspire me to elevate my winter jeans and sweater look with a great blazer or a heeled boot… Oh yeah, she’s also way better in heels than I am!
Kathryn: I started my career on Wall Street so for a few years actually had to dress in pretty polished / formal outfits. That meant a lot of black tapered pants, jackets and heels. I think I still have a little bit of that instinct – Lizzie jokes I feel most comfortable in a business suit (haha). In all seriousness, I still love a heel or a pointed shoe (Paul Andrew and Nicolas Kirkwood are current go-to’s) and when I am selling the collection in market, I joke that I definitely sell better in high heels. Maybe that’s the Wall Street in me. I look to Lizzie for how to do casual better – she knows how to rock a Golden Goose sneaker way better than I do.
So many of your pieces are inspired by travel. What are your favorite parts of traveling and which place has influenced your personal styles, as well as your designs and business the most?
Lizzie: When traveling, there’s nothing I love more than going to local markets. It’s an amazing way to experience the culture — try different foods, see their handicrafts, and interact with people. I truly love collecting artisanal creations from the places I visit, in particular, authentic textiles. Textiles really inform my jewelry and leather goods — sometimes in a straightforward way and sometimes more abstractly. I also love learning about the importance of textiles in different cultures. I spent a lot of time at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca (The Textile Museum of Oaxaca, MX) and was so moved to hear about the way woven textiles were historically used as a means of oral communication, and how like language, different techniques were indigenous to different communities. It’s pretty incredible to think that preserving certain artistic techniques in small indigenous communities is as important as preserving dying languages. This really translates into our own focus on artisanal, slow production. The majority of our collection is handmade in NYC and a lot of the assembly work is done right in our Lower East Side studio by an incredible team of women who meticulously put everything together by hand.
Kathryn: We’ve had many collections that are heavily inspired by the places we visited during the design process. One that I absolutely loved was our trip to Japan a few years ago – the resulting collection drew both literal inspiration (a clutch hand-embroidered with sushi!) and more subtle inspiration (blue and white painted beads inspired by the palette of Kyoto) but in total the collection really communicated the narrative of our trip to Japan. We are able to constantly innovate and evolve our product by drawing inspiration from more than just our immediate backyard and daily life, we get a healthy dose of new perspectives by traveling to new places which helps our collection grow.
Shirt, Giada Forte; Silk Blazer, Dries Van Noten; Jeans, Apiece Apart; Black suede boots, Robert Clergerie; White Pants, Apiece Apart; Fitted t-shirt, Tibi; Black Leather Jacket, Vince; Gray Vest, Rag & Bone; Black flats, Nicholas Kirkwood; Gray Knit Skirt, Sacai; Cream Sweater, Sacai; Black boots, Marion Parke.
Blue Jeans, Apiece Apart; Black Boots, Ann Mashburn; Dark green sweater, Rachel Comey; Plaid Jacket, Christian Wijnants; Liesure Bag with Lips, Lizzie Fortunato; Black and white floral skirt, Proenza Schouler; Dark green Sweater, Apiece Apart; Plexi cuff, Lizzie Fortunato; Goldsworthy earrings, Lizzie Fortunato; Plaid skirt, Sacai; Black Ribbed Sweater, Theory; Burgundy Boots, Freda Salvador.