SIGRID OLSEN COULD HAVE BECOME BITTER LONG AGO—after nearly 30 years of running an internationally acclaimed eponymous fashion line and subsequent buy-out by Liz Claiborne, corporate downsizing in 2008 led to an abrupt close of all her namesake stores. Instead, Olsen reinvented not only her brand, but her personal philosophy, designing and co-leading Creative Wellbeing women’s retreats around the world, reconnecting to her roots as an artist and launching a new fashion collection in an exclusive partnership with Dillard’s. SRQ caught up with Olsen in her shaded pool-side Siesta Key backyard to talk mindful living, printmaking and her commitment to stopping to smell the roses. 

PHOTO OF SIGRID OLSEN BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

SRQ: Part of your brand is focused on what you call “creative wellbeing.” Can you explain what that means to you?  

Olsen:When my business closed down I thought it was the end of the world. Instead, it was the beginning of everything. It gave me some time—which I never really had while working so much for so long—to revisit what I had started doing in my 20s: yoga and meditation. I forgot all about it when I really needed it. Now, I’m a proponent of that work/life balance and creating the life that you love. I find that the more yoga and meditation I do, the more creative I feel. Toward the end of my career where I was managing huge teams of people, I was technically creative director, but I wasn’t really very creative anymore. I needed to get back to that. It’s kind of my mantra: even if you’re working for someone else, you can find small ways to make sure you don’t waste any moments. 

How do yoga and meditation influence your clothing designs? Color and prints are things I’ve always been known for, but before my clothes were much more serious and aimed at Baby Boomers, even though (compared to the rest of the industry) I was known as the more colorful, fun designer. Now, because of the yoga and meditation, I’ve bridged a generation gap. I’ve got women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s that all love that lifestyle and also love my clothes. The clothes are much more about lifestyle now—a lot of tunics and kurtas and beach cover-ups. They are pieces that are cool to wear regardless of if you are 30 or 70. 

What are your favorite fabrics to use? I love cotton and linen and silk. I gravitate toward natural fibers as much as possible. A lot of the pieces are hand-beaded and embroidered in India along with prints that I’ve created. I love the color indigo, and I’m inspired by all kinds of indigenous textiles. I love African art and primitive art—everyone loves that imagery, and I hope it stays cool forever. 

What goes into creating an original print? I make all my own stamps and put them on paper with all these amazing inks. I scan the prints in and send them to my people in New York to make the repeats, and then I see the fabric. There aren’t that many apparel companies that create their own prints; most people go to a market and buy the prints from other people. I just have so much fun making my own.