Christie Shepard and Chris Hutcheson are bringing the carefree relaxation of resort living 365 days a year with their global lifestyle brand, Dear Keaton. The online marketplace, based right here in Atlanta, is a carefully curated selection of products from around the world. So what makes these partners click, and how do they find the coolest items for Dear Keaton? Learn more about Christie, Chris and who the heck Keaton is by reading about our newest FACES of Atlanta now!
Chris, you’ve been traveling the world ever since you were a child, growing up in a military family. Where is the best place you’ve ever visited and why?
I will always call Florence my favorite because it is where my love for the story behind the artisan began. There’s a lovely section of the city called Oltrarno, which is lined with artisan studios each practicing centuries of traditions and skills they learned as apprentices from their maestri. My most perfect afternoon was spent in a gilder studio listening to his stories and watching his every brush stroke.
Christie, you’ve been passionate about fashion and home décor since you were a young girl. What was the item or designer from your teen years that sparked that creative flame?
I was a teen in the late ’80s, when the fashion world was ruled by supermodels and bigger-than-life designers. The biggest creative influence during my teen years was a Saturday morning program on CNN called “Style with Elsa Klensch,” which gave a behind the scenes look at the designer collections, runway shows and inner workings of the fashion industry. I watched Elsa every Saturday morning religiously — it’s what made me want to move to New York after college.
What’s the toughest part about running a business with a partner? What’s the best part?
CS: Honestly, I can’t name the toughest part. Chris and I work really well together. There is such a learning curve to owning a business, especially an online business. Learning new technology and keeping up with the fast pace of an online business keeps us on our toes every day. We manage to laugh through the stresses and minor mistakes. At the end of the day, we know we are in this together with the same goals in mind. I couldn’t imagine doing this without a partner!
CH: Partnering with someone you respect and genuinely like has been an extremely positive thing. Each day I am thankful for the laughter, which gets us through the daily challenges and our shared vision for Dear Keaton. I truly believe the strength in our partnership continues to make Dear Keaton successful each day.
Where did the name “Dear Keaton” come from?
CS: The name “Dear Keaton” is reminiscent of the time-honored practice of penning postcards to loved ones while traveling … a nostalgic nod to the past, when travelers shared the sights, sounds and senses of distant locations with those back home with a quick hand-written note. Dear Keaton is our personal postcard to our customers, sharing the latest trends in global home decor and resort wear.
The name “Keaton” was chosen in part because we wanted a brand name that included the hard K sound. Years ago, I read an article on Atlanta entrepreneur Sara Blakely, who chose the name SPANX for her business because a study had shown that hard K sounds were more memorable in branding, for example Nike, Coke (Coca-Cola), Nikon, Kodak, etc. We thought if it worked for her …
Chris, after one of your self-described “frequent getaways to far-off lands,” where’s the first place you head when you get back to Atlanta?
Since my pups aren’t always able to travel with me, I immediately head to Best Little Dog House to pick them up — there’s nothing better than coming home to happy puppies! My second stop is Hankook Taqueria. No matter how fabulous the food is around the world, I can’t wait to eat one of their Korean tacos upon my return.
Your brand “promotes resort living every day.” What are the cornerstones of pulling that style off on a daily basis?
CH: We believe in surrounding yourself with special items that serve as reminders of a place or time of contentment. Couldn’t we all use a little reminder of that every day? Your surroundings should be a personal scrapbook of your life experiences, which allow you tell your story. Maybe a rattan chair similar to those you sipped cocktails in during your trip to Bali, or a handwoven clutch with traditional Mayan designs seen during a recent Guatemalan excursion.
Speaking of resorts and a potential staycation I’m planning, tell us about your favorite Atlanta resorts that make you happy to live in this city.
CS: Atlanta has so many amazing spas and resorts, both within the city and a quick driving distance away. The Mandarin Oriental is my favorite in-town retreat when I want to pamper myself. I spend the entire day there, enjoying a quick workout, spa treatments, sweat out stress in the sauna and finish up the day reading a book and drinking wine in my robe on the spa balcony. It is heaven!
I also love The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds at Lake Oconee — it’s a favorite for a quick getaway. Such a beautiful setting, and the spa can’t be beat. If you stay on the Club Level you have a dedicated concierge who keeps the wine flowing — a major plus in my book!
CH: Remede Spa at The St. Regis Atlanta is a favorite local treat — walking into their beautiful spa immediately transports me to a “no stress zone.” Within a short drive is another personal favorite: The Omni Grove Park Inn Spa. I love beginning the day with a hot stone massage followed by a facial. The day would not be complete without enjoying a glass of champagne by the outdoor fireplace while admiring the mountain views.
Christie, Atlanta has a growing a pool of talented designers making names for themselves beyond the South. Who are your favorite local trendsetters?
There is so much talent in Atlanta! I hesitate to call these designers “trendsetters” because there is such a classic appeal to their work, but some of my current favorites are Shayelyn Woodberry, Clary Bosbyshell, Anna Braund, Carter Kay Interiors and Sherry Hart.
What is a current style that the curatorial team (AKA you two) aren’t feeling and probably won’t be featured in Dear Keaton?
CS: A mix of rainbow colors — loud rooms are jarring to my senses. While I appreciate pops of color in a space (or in an outfit), a wild mix of allover color doesn’t speak to me.
CH: A very preppy aesthetic is a style I can’t seem to personally pull off, so I tend to steer away from it. I find myself more comfortable using an abundance of texture rather than color.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
CS: Trust your intuition.
CH: You become an average of the five people with whom you spend your time: Choose wisely.
What three things can you not live without excluding friends, family and faith?
CS: Trips to the beach (saltwater and ocean views soothe my soul), snuggles from my dog Milly and Wi-Fi.
CH: Weekend getaways, my iPhone camera and eye cream.
Thank you to Chris Hutcheson and Christie Shepard for sharing details about their business Dear Keaton and how travel can be something good for your mind, body and spirit.
As always, a huge thank you to CatMax Photography for today’s wonderful photos!
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