An interview with this local designer on work, fashion, and life in general.
Inside a spacious white showroom in a converted brick woolen mill in North Andover, you’ll find Darby Scott, the petite woman behind the big name of the luxury goods company she founded in 1994. The mill space functions as both her atelier and boutique, stylishly displaying racks of elegant dresses, blouses, toppers, and jumpsuits; glass cases winking with candy-colored jewelry; and glass shelves holding her flagship product—exotic animal skin purses embellished with jewels.
A 1984 Smith graduate with design in her DNA (her mother was a talented seamstress, who designed and made silk-screen clothing), Scott worked for high-end fashion brands such as Perry Ellis and Aquascutum before going off on her own. She began her business in Manhattan with a small collection of cocktail dresses and evening gowns, and now produces her jeweled handbags and totes, jewelry, women’s clothing and leather goods for men, such as backpacks, messenger bags, portfolios, flasks, wallets, and duffel bags.
Recently, she sat down to answer some questions about her work, lifestyle, and biggest indulgence.
What is the first piece you designed for the Darby Scott brand?
I did a cocktail gown inspired by the Manhattan skyline. It was in a magnificent red silk and wool blend and was fluid, but could hold an edge. It had an asymmetric neckline and was strapless. Bergdorf Goodman bought it.
What are your current sources of design inspiration?
I am inspired by color and a fabric’s texture and drape. I’m also inspired by travel, museums, art, and architecture, as well as the luster and inherent beauty of a natural product. I strive to make longevity a part of my work and not design anything that’s throw-away chic.
As a handbag designer, what’s always in your purse?
Doggie bags, ChapStick, and makeup. Oh, and I always keep a piece of poetry in my wallet. It’s inspirational (and private).
Most popular piece in Your men’s line?
Two things—the colorful credit card holders and the Aspen duffel.
Favorite travel destination?
Right now, it’s Martha’s Vineyard. My husband has a place there. He and his family have been there for years—in Chilmark. It’s very isolated, simple, and stunningly beautiful. It’s a great place to let go of everything.
Go-to travel outfit?
I have this suit in my collection that I made for myself, and it wears like iron. I hate to be a wrinkled mess when I travel. With a blouse, turtleneck or cashmere sweater on top, you can wear the topper and the skirt or wear khaki pants instead of the skirt and some loafers. It’s a three-season piece that is simple, elegant, and sophisticated.
On my first honeymoon (Scott’s first husband passed away), I went to Indonesia and bought these baskets to put on my dressing table for jewelry. Then I went back to Indonesia and created basket handbags with exotic trim. I am going to bring the line back, but with leather trim and a carved lizard or turtle on the lid. The handbag is lined with suede and has a little pocket inside and a gorgeous gold clasp. It’s kind of my nod to a Nantucket basket.
North Shore destination out-of-towners must visit?
The Addison Gallery at Phillips Academy and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. They both have such beautiful collections and are in our backyard.
Favorite restaurant night out?
I like to get dressed up to go out to dinner, so after a vodka martini at Samuel’s (at the Andover Inn), I would head to this new restaurant, La Fina in Andover. I’d wear something like this black wool crepe dress with a little fluted hem with great boots or a heel. The dress has such clean architecture, that I’d either wear big earrings or a big necklace. Probably a big necklace.
Future business concept you’re excited to launch?
Right now, we’re adding soft leather to our women’s bag collection, which is more serviceable for everyday use. So we’re putting jewelry on a day bag—a tote, one with a hobo structure and another that looks like a clutch but has a full wallet inside, a cross body strap option, and a chain option, since chains are coming back.
Favorite piece in your jewelry line?
The mosaic cocktail ring. It’s such a statement. It’s gold with Labradorite and diamonds and the Labradorite looks like tropical fish scales.
Night owl or early bird?
I’m a little bit of both. I dream about design a lot and keep a sketch pad by my night table and sometimes I’m wide awake around 2 or 3 a.m. But sometimes I need my early morning quiet time. I love being up with coffee and reading the newspaper.
Breakfast of champions?
I drink my coffee like a French child with tons of milk (skim) and a touch of coffee. Then I have some whole grain toast with a little bit of butter and sometimes marmalade and maybe some fruit.
What are you currently reading?
I tend to have more than one book going. I’m reading Ruth Gader Ginsburg’s biography and Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, who wrote The English Patient.
My career. It’s such a pleasure to do what I do. I am grateful every day that I’ve had the opportunity to build something that fulfills my creative passion.
None of us knows how long we’re going to be here, so leave something beautiful in your wake, whether it’s kindness or a beautiful product.
Darby Scott Inc, 47 High St., Suite 106, North Andover, 978-326-7236. darbyscott.com