If I were to ask you to list one of the most iconic accessories from The CW’s hit show Gossip Girl, what would be your first thought?
Blair Waldorf’s headband.
Before that fateful season of television, ornate headbands were something we outgrew in elementary school. Our moms stuck a big flower on our heads for picture day, and I’m sure most of us have some embarrassing picture from fourth grade with an atrocious band perched in our frizzy hair.
Not Blair. Polished hair and delicate bows became hallmarks of her power as the Queen of the Upper East Side.
Since those days, I developed my own obsession with headbands. Sliding one in my hair was the easiest way to fake a good hair day. Working at J Crew only bolstered my extensive collection, and even today, I have at least 25 in my repertoire.
Sadly, the headband phase of Blair’s life ended when she graduated high school, and Dan took it out of her hair in college (DAN! WHY WOULD YOU!?) Since then, there’s been nary a headband in sight on TV’s most stylish show… until a few weeks ago.
Blair celebrated her upcoming nuptials with Prince Louis by a party with some of her old high school friends…and what did I see?!
Headbands! They were back! And they were… so… cute! Look at the bows! And the faceted stones!
Some research turned up the creators of such beautiful pieces–the Malaysian-based Sereni & Shentel.
From simple ribbons to bunny ears to bands dripping in jewels, every single headband had me drooling. And, surprisingly enough, they don’t break the bank! Similar headbands in Henri Bendel’s were going for two to three times the price.
I was able to talk with the founders of Sereni & Shentel… the appropriately named Sereni and Shentel! The girls might just be the funniest interview I’ve ever been able to do!
I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
How long have you been friends? How did you meet?
We met about 6 years ago at a mutual friend’s dinner party and bonded over spicy curry. We were the only two fighting over the water jug and found we were the only two people in Malaysia who just don’t eat anything spicy. From there we met up for coffee after coffee and found that we had a lot in common.
We found that we both shared a love for the handmade and decided one weekend to make headbands for a Lady Gaga concert that we were to attend in Singapore in August 2009. The reaction that we received from the concert crowd was overwhelming. We were bombarded by photographers and taken by all the Singaporeans asking us where we got our headbands from. Shentel even made it into the newspapers the next day for the headband that we made.
It wasn’t until we had the opportunity to create hair accessories for a Tatler Shoot in the Philippines in September 2009 that we really started to get serious. Sereni got to meet the hair guru Kim Robinson at the shoot and after his praise for the range we decided that we would start a small online store to showcase our designs.
Things started to take off after we appeared on NTV7’s The Breakfast Show in 2010 and from there we were featured in local magazines and we decided to then turn our hobby into a full fledged business. Now we have over 12,000 fans on Facebook and more than 20 stockists all over South East Asia, New Zealand and Australia who are our regular wholesale buyers.
You girls seem super close–is it sometimes weird to work with your best friend? Does it put a strain on your relationship at times?
Oddly enough it isn’t weird for us because we’ve found that we are an extension of each other. We have a freaky mental and even biological connection going on between us that defies logical explanation. When one of us falls ill, the other one would as well even though we might be in entirely different geographical locations. We can also read each others thoughts which is not the best thing in serious social situations. Sereni has a terrible poker face and Shentel’s death stare is so severe that anyone can feel it even when she’s sat facing the wall.
We also have the same work ethics. Some might say we have A.D.D and are obsessed with taking over the world. But really, we are both ambitious and “no, can’t do it” does not exist in our vocabulary unless of course it involves nudity and breaking the law.
Does the business put a strain on us? Sometimes maybe for a second or two but we never take anything personally and have that understanding between us. After all, we make headbands. It is not rocket science.
Any practical advice for girls who have a great idea for a product, but aren’t so sure of the business end of things?
Make sure you do something you are passionate about, be the best you can be at it and success will follow. Passion is everything, life it too short to be doing things you don’t like.
You have to be creative, you have to be honest and you have to live and breathe the brand. If you don’t know your brand you will never be able to sell it. We are the brand so we know how to sell it to our customers. People buy into a brand. A brand has it’s own personality and the marketers responsibility is to stick to it. Consistency is key.
Apart from that, be professional in your approach. Set up a business email account and domain name, register your business, set up a commercial bank account, take advantage of social networking, keep your products fresh and your marketing interactive.
I heard you guys love doing DIYs–what’s been some of your favorite projects to date? Any DIY blogs that keep you inspired?
We are both self confessed Martha Stewart addicts and try to create almost every paper craft she has on her website and subscribe to Martha Stewart Weddings because we would like to be brides for life.
Sereni has littered the mall she works for with Martha Stewart DIY paper pom poms for almost every point of visual merchandising and festive decorating opportunity.
Few months ago she annoyed the whole office by making everyone help her fold a thousand paper origami cranes made from old magazine pages. Shentel is obsessed with making giant pinwheels and has just bought a pair of scissors with 8 blades so she can make giant metallic tassles to relieve her stress from her day job as a graphics designer.
We also both love browsing through Etsy and Oh Joy! for inspiration.
Speaking of blogs, what are some of your go-to reads for fashion motivation?
Apart from that we love Style Rookie, The Sartorialist, Fashion Toast, Olivia Palermo (we both secretly want to be her……ok not so secret now), Style.com. We download all our magazines on Zinio to get the latest fashion news. We love magazines so much that Sereni owns a magazine shop that brings in hard to find fashion publications.
What are your current fashion obsessions? Anything for spring that you HAVE to own?
We love the whole 50s influence for Spring/Summer as we love dressing up like Betty Draper. The entire Louis Vuitton Spring Collection with all the macaron hues, full skirts, drop waists and dainty heels would be fantastic to own. Kate Spade’s whole nautical collection is also amazing. So much so that Sereni has planned her whole wedding reception around a nautical theme and has been dressing like a drag queen sailor on crack for the past 3 months.
In your opinion, what are the three things that every girl should have in her fashion/beauty repertoire?
Headbands, eyeliner and a GHD curling iron.
What’s your never-fail, go-to outfit?
A head turning dress, sky high heels, a Sereni & Shentel headband and jewelry from Shentel and her sister Elizabeth’s jewelry line, Bowerhaus.
If you had to wear one headband from your website for the rest of your life, which one would you pick?
Sereni’s would be the Bunny Ears and Shentel’s would be Zamunda. We have a fashion philosophy of Be Seen Or Go Home. We have problems with being subtle.
I love that your best-selling headband is named after my favorite Gossip Girl character–Blair! Are you guys big Gossip Girl fans? Team Chuck or Team Dan? How do you hope the series ends?
We absolutely love Gossip Girl and adore Blair’s wardrobe. We are both 100% team Chuck.
Who doesn’t love a bad boy in a bow tie and clashing prints! We hope the series never ends.
Which celebrity would you love to see wearing one of your headbands?
Leighton Meister, Lady Gaga, Elton John and the entire cast of Glee.
You’ve done designer collaborations before–the Anna Coroneo line was adorable! Who’s your dream designer collaboration? Do you have any lined up for the future?
We would love to collaborate with Mary Katrantzou for her unbelievable prints and of course our ultimate designer crush Kaiser Karl Lagerfeld.
In March, we will be launching the second installation of the Artist Series in collaboration with Malaysian artist Dura Hana. Dura Hana or D.U.R.A is a designer, artist and fashion illustrator based in Kuala Lumpur.
She is very much inspired by nature, fashion, colours and patterns. D.U.R.A has worked as a fashion graphic designer for four years before moving on making her art fulltime. She takes her passion for art to the next level by making abstract paintings.
D.U.R.A has created 5 different illustrations for us which are digitally printed on silk and made into our popular Block Party design with only 20 limited pieces of headbands will be available for each design.
Any other projects we should be looking out for?
We travel a lot and are always in a dilemma of what to pack, so we’ve designed and produced a limited collection of clothes for the girl on the go. The collection is made up of 10 wearable pieces that can be easily packed and worn for any occasion while away on a city holiday. The travel collection will be available to purchase from March 2012 onwards online only on www.sereniandshentel.com.
I have to admit, I laughed out loud like six times while reading their answers. I love those girls!
Stay tuned for more about their amazing headbands–I was lucky enough to get my hands on a few gorgeous pieces and can’t wait to share them with you!