This past month of September was DIANI's 21st anniversary, and whilst I’m in the thick of buying season, I didn’t want to let it go by without a mention and reflection on all the years that have brought us to this point. I know many of you have been supporters on this journey since day one (I see you, and thank you from the bottom of my heart), and there are quite a few newbies to DIANI. So, I thought I'd use this anniversary to introduce myself to those of you who have only recently discovered us…
I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and spent much of my early childhood exploring the outdoors, going on safari trips and being immersed in the country’s rich culture. This experience had a great impact on my life and shaped my love for animals and curiosity and admiration for other cultures. I was given the middle name, DIANI after a beach in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast that my family loved and would frequent often (see photo below). That name has carried through to my career in retail.
After 5 years in Nairobi, we moved back to Newcastle in Northumberland, England, a city filled with great history. My father worked at Greggs Bakery for most of his career which has continued to grown into a chain across Great Britain selling baked goods, savory pastries and vegan sausage rolls. This is where I first experienced working in retail, and starting at age 15, took a Saturday job at one of the bakery shops. I loved the ritual of opening up shop, turning on the lights, sweeping the floor, stocking the cases and helping customers. This experience has always been a big inspiration for me.
I graduated high school in Newcastle and moved to Kingston, Surrey for Fashion School. It was during my final year at university when I took a two month internship at Patagonia in Ventura, California, and how I first discovered Santa Barbara. It was the magic of this coastal city with both mountains and beaches that left a lasting impression. My parents tragically passed away in 1996 and 1998, a very dark time in my life which led me to taking a chance on moving to Santa Barbara permanently in 1999.
I opened DIANI in September 2002 in Arlington Plaza on the main drag of downtown Santa Barbara, and over the years opened two sister stores, DIANI Shoes and DIANI Living, plus an online shopping site. After opening DIANI and putting in the hard work building a customer base over the course of several years, I found myself feeling limited when it came to styling clients from head-to-toe. They would often leave the store with an outfit, but still in need of shoes or a handbag to complete their look. So this inspired me to wait for another space to become available in the Plaza where I could open a shoes and accessories boutique in 2007. After marrying my husband, Jeffrey in 2013, we opened the home store, DIANI Living together in another space in the Plaza. We designed and built out the interior, and eventually took over the space next door to add an assortment of bedding, rugs and more furniture.
A big part of my role at DIANI is buying for the stores, and it's one of my favorite parts too. Not only do I get see new collections in person, try on, touch, and experience, but I also get to travel to NYC frequently, Paris and London. This opportunity to travel to some major fashion centers is a big inspiration in creating the DIANI experience and staying on the cutting edge of style. I also explore off the beaten path towns and villages across the US and England to find vintage artifacts and furniture for our home store.
With all the work travel back and forth to New York and Europe, Jeffrey and I were feeling like it made sense to find a place to call home there. When I first discovered the Hudson Valley, the old stone farmhouses and seasonal changes reminded me of my childhood in Northern England. In 2016, serendipity led us to a place we have now dubbed the Hudson Valley Farmhouse aka The Stone Jug. It had everything we were looking for – stone and brick architecture, historical charm, and within commuting distance to NYC. It was built in the 1700's and needs lots of work, so Jeffrey and I have been slowly renovating it, and learning a lot along the way.
This beautiful property is a place to dream, restore, create and connect with nature – it's like living in a Beatrix Potter book which is where I have early memories of daydreaming about Peter Rabbit and his friends. When I'm not working, I spend my time growing our own fruits and vegetables in the garden, taking walks with my pup, Nala and entertaining with friends. I've always loved creating memories around a table, picking dinnerware and linens for the occasion. So it was a natural progression to launch The Stone Jug Collection, an ever evolving assortment of elegantly crafted and stonewashed 100% linen napkins in a variety of colors inspired by the seasonal flora and fauna at the farm that offer such beautiful hues. See my newest pumpkin hue here!
Thank you for choosing DIANI, whether you've visited once, have yet to visit or have been a customer for years, your support means the world to me and the team. The DIANI stores are curated with you in mind, and I bring in inspiration from my travels and the experiences that have shaped me throughout my life. Cheers to more years of building a community together with our mutual love of style, great design and enjoying the simple pleasures of life.