Designer Jenni Kayne Shares the Most Important Lessons She's Learned from Martha
"Martha paved the way for people like me to be able to do what I'm doing," Kayne says.
Martha Stewart has been a household name since the 1980s, so it's no surprise that her work and teachings have influenced people across the world. As part of our latest series, professional chefs, lifestyle experts, and even a few celebrities take part in What Martha Taught Me to reveal what they've learned from our founder, plus what they did to take their careers to the next level.
Since launching her first collection at the impressive age of 19, designer Jenni Kayne has been steadily growing her lifestyle empire, expanding from fashion into home, wellness, and entertaining. "I always saw the bigger picture," said Kayne. "I admired designers like Ralph Lauren that embodied a lifestyle… In the last couple of years, I've been able to make that a part of my business." When the time came for Kayne to publish her first book, 2018's Pacific Natural: Simple Seasonal Entertaining, she knew just who to tap for a foreword: our own Martha Stewart, whose lifestyle empire helped influence Kayne to become the force that she is today.
Here, Kayne opens some of the most important lessons she learned from Martha: the freedom in dreaming big, the importance of nailing the details, and the power of remembering someone's name.
She credits Martha as the source of her cooking, homekeeping, and entertaining skills.
"Before Pinterest, I would go to Martha Stewart," said Kayne. "Back then, I couldn't boil water… My son and I would watch her videos and cook together. I learned so much beyond just recipes: the right jars to store your food, how to clean out your pantry. When holidays came around, I'd look for ideas on how I was going to set my table, what I would cook, and what it would look like." Martha continued to inspire Kayne as she came into her own in the kitchen, which included a major lifestyle shift several years ago. "I started being more conscious of what I was putting in and on my body," said Kayne. "I cleaned up my lifestyle, getting organized and getting rid of toxic cleaning products. I became a totally different person in terms of becoming a homemaker: getting comfy in the kitchen, growing my own food, living seasonally, eating locally, cooking for my family. I really looked to Martha while all of that was going on."
And Kayne said that Martha taught her how to have a good time, too. "Right before Martha was celebrating her 25th anniversary, the magazine shot a story at my home in Lake Tahoe about how to decorate and entertain for the holidays," said Kayne. "We kept the dialogue going, and when the 25th anniversary was happening, I was able to host a party for Martha at my store in Los Angeles." The party, Kayne said, was a major success. "I don't think I've ever had an event where everyone RSVPs yes with such enthusiasm. I mean, Martha is so iconic. We made sage bundles and gift toppers… it was such a great night."
Martha helped her refine her taste for laid-back elegance.
"Our aesthetics are very similar," said Kayne. "I always describe my style as more West Coast—more relaxed—but we both work in clean, simple, neutral lines and colors. I really look up to her taste…I think it was imprinted on me from an early age." Don't get it twisted: Simple doesn't mean boring. "Martha's attention to detail is legendary," the designer explained. "In decorating and design, it's all about the details. That's what excites me. Martha paved the way for people like me to be able to do what I'm doing." And it seems that the admiration goes both ways. "I've sent Martha some beautiful clothes, and I love when I see her wearing them for events," said Kayne. "It makes me really happy."
Martha taught her the power of a first impression.
"I was so nervous [meeting Martha for the first time]—it was like meeting an idol," said Kayne. "You don't want it to change the way you view this person who you hold on a pedestal." Her fears, it turned out, were for nothing. Kayne said she was surprised to find that her hero felt more like a friend. "Once we broke the ice, I so admired her sense of humor—how funny and sweet and easygoing she was. She's been nothing but supportive and gracious to me."
As it turns out, a good first impression really does make all the difference in terms of starting a successful friendship—and remembering someone's name has the power to brighten a person's day. "I later ran into Martha in Los Angeles when she was shooting her show with Snoop Dogg," Kayne explained. "She called my name across a restaurant. I looked up and I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' Sometimes you meet someone, but the next time you see them, they don't remember you. She actually recognized me and called me over. That meant so much to me."
For Kayne, Martha is proof that women can have it all.
"For so long, women were in the house as homemakers," said Kayne. "Then they started working, and you weren't seeing a lot of balance of women working while also being mothers and homemakers. But as women, we can do it all…Martha built this empire, but she also has a family, and these beautiful homes and gardens. She practices what she preaches."
Kayne's own philosophy centers around this idea of living well. "You don't need to sacrifice style, and at the same time, you should enjoy your life," Kayne explained. "I have friends who work in fashion and have no balance—they don't get to tuck their kids in and kiss their families goodnight. I'm in the same business, but I want to be able to come home at a reasonable time, travel to beautiful places, and have the people working for me be able to do the same. What's the point of working hard if you can't enjoy it? Or if you're not happy while doing it? Martha really inspires me to find that balance."