As you may have already seen, we’ve added a new face to our growing Baudelaire family – Jane Inc. The beloved brand joined our product offering in the beginning of July and although they are making their debut in revamped packaging, the classic products remain unchanged where it counts. To roll out these fabulous additions, we wanted to introduce you all to the brains behind these much-loved formulas. We caught up with founder Jane and her daughter Brooke at their home in northern California.
Please meet Jane Diokas and her daughter Brooke Bortner.
What inspired you to start the company?
Jane: This was in the early 1990’s and I had just gotten divorced and moved to San Francisco. My former husband and I had a ceramics business together that sold to Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, etc. for many years so I knew the business. I looked around and saw that there were a lot of day spas opening up at the time, and perhaps this was the beginning of what we now call the wellness movement. I decided that I wanted to make unique products that would complement the soaps and lotions that other companies were selling.
Brooke: I had dropped out of college on the East coast after studying philosophy so I was at loose-ends. I came to San Francisco with my mother and we really helped each other be pioneers!
How does being a mother-daughter team give you an advantage when it comes to product ideas, understanding customers, or the business in general?
Brooke: I think we have different, complementary skills, luckily. She is very innovative and loves to look at trends and try new things. I actually enjoy the logistical, organizational aspect of running a business, so it works out great!
Jane: And we are both creative and love beautiful things and love to shop, but of course have different tastes since we are from different generations. We temper each other’s design eccentricities.
What challenges did you face as a female run start-up in the 1980s and 1990s? And do you think any of them were advantages in hindsight?
Jane: When I started the ceramics business with my former husband in the 1980s a woman could not get her own credit card or checking account without her husband’s permission. We have come a long way! I was lucky to have the background experience of running a small business before I started Jane Inc. And really I had to just go for it because I did not have a lot of money to start it with and it was that or…I don’t even know what! But even when I was a little girl in Oak Park, Illinois, I was a little entrepreneur: starting businesses selling candy or walking dogs. I guess it’s always been in my blood. And by the time I came to California in the early 1990’s I really did feel like a pioneer, like anything was possible!
Is there anything you wish you could do differently with the brand?
Brooke: Well there is always the issue of having the money to invest in new products – of course if we’d had a lot of capital starting out we probably would have done things differently.
Jane: Then again, we did run a successful business for almost 30 years. Sometimes having less capital means that you can’t make big mistakes!
Is there a story behind the iconic cross design of the Pharmacy collection?
Jane: I had designed a hot water bottle cover that was hand knitted by women in Nepal and it was a white cross on a red background. It did well, but unfortunately we got a cease and desist letter from The Red Cross! Apparently, you can’t use a cross and the color red together without infringing on their copyright, but other colors with the cross are fine. So that’s where the idea of the white cross on bright pastels came from!
What excites you about the merger with Baudelaire?
Brooke: It really is the perfect pairing! We have known Baudelaire for many years and see them at shows and love their aesthetic. Funny how Jane’s original idea of creating wellness products that could sell alongside soaps and lotions has come to pass after all this time! And we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful line of soaps and bath accessories to be part of!
Jane: I think too that it was time for some new eyes and ideas that can only come from such a merger!
What would you like your legacy, and in part your brand’s legacy, to be?
Jane: I think that the best thing I can hope for is that the products I designed have been an intimate part of people’s lives. People make love in the bath tub, if you want to be literal! But truly, just to know that the things I made brought comfort and joy into people’s lives, would be the best legacy I could imagine.
What’s next for you?
Jane: I’m going to enjoy my house, my doggies, and just everyday life.
Brooke: I’m actually writing and illustrating children’s picture books which is a dream I’ve had for a long time, so stay tuned!
Thank you so much Jane and Brooke for letting us pick up the baton and carry on the legacy of your amazing products! It’s really inspiring to see what can happen to one person’s vision and the effect it can have on so many people. We wish you the very best in this exciting new chapter of your lives!
If you’re not already familiar with the Pharmacy or Apothecary collections – or any of the great accessories as well – make sure to have a look here.