" Be bold and be fearless, above all never ever be boring "
Gretchen has been fortunate enough to serve as an educator and speaker. Teaching design at three different educational facilities she was known for her animated enrolling style that pulled her students in. She is privileged to engage students and audiences at colleges, women's groups, and curated events with the ability to leave them moved, touched and inspired with the BSWANKY story.
From Quito to Tokyo, Gretchen has had the privilege of exploring some of the most inspiring landscapes, cityscapes, museums and gardens. Her inspiration can come from something as simple as the perfectly appointed lush floral filled window boxes of downtown London or the breathtaking 400 meter limestone cliffs of Cassis jutting out of the crystal blue water. She has found that the trick is to be open to the idea that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places so don’t close your eyes!
Warmth and connection are at the heart of everything in Gretchen’s world. She is a self proclaimed hugger, always preferring an embrace over a handshake. She comes from the mindset of optimism and that every person enters your life for a reason. This same passionate view transcends into her innate ability to create the handbag of a woman’s dreams, uniquely establishing her as an artist in the intimate bespoke world of design.
Tag, your it! If it can be fun then Gretchen is on board. Here at the world renowned Faena Hotel in Miami she found the perfect opportunity to be silly and why not? Her philosophy at play or at work is the same. Where there is stress there cannot be creativity. Unfettered optimism is what makes her approach to design so uniquely original.
A few years back on a solo paddle boarding excursion, Gretchen’s meditation in motion, she came upon two small sharks and two stingrays circling beneath her board. She froze at first and then watched them play. She insisted on returning to the very same spot the following day. Fear is not an option. Her belief is where there is fear there is no creative freedom.
“Why blend in when you were born to stand out” in the words of Dr. Suess, Gretchen embraces bold color and pattern in her wardrobe choices, fashion design and surroundings. She believes wearing the perfect colors for you can be uplifting. Color evokes moods and emotion and she takes into great deliberation how she feels when selecting shades and tones for her designs. Moving to the west coast of Florida was a deliberate decision to be surrounded by the tropical scenery as inspiration.
Philanthropy is woven into every aspect of her being and the philosophy of giving leads to everything rings true in both Gretchen’s personal and professional life. Volunteering in 4 different non profit thrift stores for decades beautifully paired her love of vintage fashion and giving back. With the opportunity to have raised in excess of a half million dollars in live auctions since its inception, BSWANKY has been able to make a huge contribution to causes near and dear to her heart.
Having grown up in a family who coveted art, museums and beauty there was little chance that this would not become a part of her very being. The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation are where she spent countless hours as a source of great inspiration. She believes her path might have been different if she had not had the opportunity to be surrounded by these collections.
Whether heading to the grocery store or hiking through Yosemite every single one of life's events is an opportunity to dress. She has always expressed that it takes the same amount of time to put on something that is fashionable, so in her opinion, why not?
Art and inspiration are incorporated into every aspect of her design process, whether it is an Elsa Schiaparelli unconventional fashion exhibit she attended or a piece of metal work she acquired at a French flea market. Pictured here Gretchen is found collaborating with colleagues Sally Altrochi and Ilene Wood to design a 1950’s vintage inspired handbag she was commissioned to create for a feature film.
After decades of pushing the boundaries and creating memorable interiors for the most discerning clients her transition to fashion design was a natural and seamless transition. Gretchen has always created with the ultimate goal of achieving unique beauty and composition with an emphasis on excellence in execution. In interiors she fashioned spaces that were inspired by art, nature, and the very homeowners. She pulled it all together and developed interiors that were a reflection of also what had inspired them. After hundreds of homes, where no two were even remotely similar, nearly five years ago Gretchen stepped up to challenge the status quo in the accessories industry where handbags, in her opinion, can become the window to a woman’s soul and an expression of her inner spirit and true style. Inspired by nature, art and architecture and having a love for the great impressionists, bold colors and patterns are at the forefront of her designs. Her favorite work of art, Spring Sale at Bendel’s provides a colorful, vivid and energetic window into the world of high fashion.
Fearless and bold describe her approach. Gretchen believes that inspiration can come from anywhere including the very exotics she incorporates and has often claimed they speak to her and she chooses to listen. Each element meticulously crafted into one of her handbags has a story that is often nearly as important as the visual aesthetic of the material. In Pushing the boundaries by fearlessly pairing the most unconventional patterns, textures, and colors no two will ever be exactly alike. Never boring, and always bold she believes that standing out is much more adventurous than blending in!