If there is a patron saint of California style, it is Jenni Kayne. Known for her easy, elemental take on fashion, few designers have captured the modern version of easy dressing as clearly and directly. Rooted in LA’s laid-back lifestyle, her eponymous collection delivers gauzy sweaters, caftan dresses, and versatile pieces designed for active women who run companies and households.
At the core of her collection is a natural simplicity that resonates with women. “Being in nature and enjoying the outdoors are a constant inspiration when I’m designing my collections and decorating my home,” says the mother of three who established her business in 2003. “I use a lot of natural fibers and textiles—I think it’s so important for a grounded sense of self, which feels very California to me.”
In some ways, her designs anticipated our current cultural desire for simplicity. At home, in our wellness, beauty, and food choices, the reach for products that do more and have a greater impact is at an all-time high. Late last year, she debuted a line of home decor that includes accessories, tabletop, soft goods, and small pieces all hewing to her straightforward, uncomplicated style. The textiles are made in Peru by a woman-owned factory with female artisans, and her just-launched line of furniture is made in Los Angeles by local craftspeople.
As we continue to wrestle with the veneer of social media and look for ways to dismantle artifice, tastemakers like Kayne have secured a comfortable place in the lifestyle realm. Whether it’s her up-close-and-personal blog, Rip & Tan (named after her sons), or her carefully designed boutiques, she continues to make authentic, unfussy living the core tenet of her brand. “It all comes down to the details. That’s really what makes me happy—making moments thoughtful and memorable by considering even the smallest thing. From the food you’re cooking to how you set the table, what you’re wearing to how you decorate your home, it’s important to be inspired by it all. That’s a modern lifestyle to me. That’s the way I want to live and that’s how I see my friends living.”
To that end, Muse asked the designer how she translates this style when entertaining at home.
What are your secrets for being an amazing party host?
Prepare as much as you can in advance so that you’re relaxed. Have a great playlist going, simple, delicious food, and good drinks.
How do you see modern entertaining?
Entertaining is all about coming together and spending quality time with family and friends. I love sharing a buffet or family-style meal that’s more casual and creates a more intimate and comfortable setting for everyone (including the host!) to enjoy.
What kind of experience do you want to create for your guests?
The energy you create and give off when you’re entertaining sets the tone for the evening. It’s all about being gracious, understated, and relaxed.
When hosting, do you plan the meals around the occasion?
I love planning events, and most of the time the occasion informs the design. Sometimes it starts with the menu, sometimes with the decor, but they always go hand in hand in the end.
Can you describe some of your favorite parties or gatherings?
A couple of years ago I hosted a dinner with my friend Lauren Bush Lauren to raise money for FEED, her organization that provides meals for children and families in need. Our mutual friend, Candace Nelson (founder of Sprinkles cupcakes), was opening her restaurant Pizzana at the time, so we put together a beautiful dinner in Candace’s backyard. We all sat at this gorgeous long farm table, and it was so beautiful and for a great cause.
What makes a party memorable?
A memorable party is one that is laid-back and casual but so well put together. Whether that’s the food or the music or the decor, those little touches are the things that facilitate friends coming together and having a nice time—that’s the special thing about gatherings, is when everyone can relax, be present, and enjoy themselves.
For those who are nervous about their cooking skills, what do you suggest?
If I want to really enjoy myself and be present, I won’t do the cooking that night, especially if it’s a large group. Or, I’ll have my friends cook with me or do a potluck. I think having help in the kitchen is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are cooking, then prepping in advance is key, and I’d never suggest making something new that you aren’t confident making when you have guests over. For me, timing is the hardest part about cooking, so I try to plan a menu that has some room-temperature dishes versus ones that all have to be served hot so that my timing doesn’t have to be perfect.
Thank you notes or thank you text/call?
I do a thank you text or email the next morning.
Paper invites or electronic invites?
It depends on the event, but these days, I normally send an electronic invite.
Favorite gift for the host?
A Jenni Kayne candle.
Favorite part of the night?
When friends are gathered around the fire with their shoes off, drinking and talking.
A good party game?
I’m not a big game girl, but some summers in Tahoe we play late-night Cards Against Humanity.