Already a hyphenate—mother-fashion designer-art consultant-business owner, Lydia Kutko, at age 40, is building her art and fashion empire from her home base in Glencoe.
This Madison, Wisconsin native, turned New Yorker, went to the Big Apple with an art history undergraduate degree. She jumped into an Art Market Studies master’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, with her eye on gaining exposure to every aspect of the art world.
Her journey continued during her internship for the global “domestic doyenne”—author, entertainer, and businesswoman—Martha Stewart.
While working for America’s first self-made female billionaire was not for the faint of heart, Kutko reveled in the role, as she built sets, staged product demonstrations, and created holiday table settings.
“As I learned the basics of prop styling and beauty shots, what I appreciated first-hand is that Martha’s eye for display is impeccable, as is her ability to merchandise and sell her brand extensions,” says Kutko.
During that time, Kutko also learned to trust her instincts. When she saw a gap in the art consulting world, she fused her art education and sense of style with a set of edgy artist friends along with her jet fuel—passion—to launch an art consultancy.
“I knew how to read an artist’s CV and gauge if this was the right artist to invest in and/or love. As a natural negotiator, I prided myself on representing clients’ best interests, while being respectful to the galleries and artists we partnered with,” says Kutko.
“Part of my goal was to remove the real and/or perceived snobbery from the process. I wanted to make the acquisition of and the appreciation for art more about access and valued relationships rather than a club that only a select few could be a part of.”
Fifteen years in, her firm, LK Art Consultants, “brings exceptional artwork and installations into homes, offices, galleries, commercial, residential, and public spaces.”
“It didn’t matter if the art was $5,000 or $500,000, I wanted to make the buying and living with art relatable and fun,” she continues. “I think that this energy and purpose led to the great team I have at LK Art Consultants. We’ve grown to a firm that serves the major U.S. art hubs of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles with clients everywhere in between.” Kutko opened an LK Art Consultants’ viewing room in Glencoe earlier this year and hopes it will bring exciting and relevant art and services to the community.
The formula for a residential consultation involves surveying a client’s space, developing a collection strategy, conducting viewings, and visiting art fairs across the globe. The acquisition process is a seamless collaboration with private clients and/or interior designers, with the work involving overall coordination, framing, case design, pedestal fabrication, and refinement on an ongoing basis.
According to Kutko, her well-honed eye for design helps art look its best when installed. “That’s a skill that we use to incorporate art into a client’s home, seriously and with joy,” she notes.
In 2021, Kutko and husband, Stefan, moved with their young family to a home in East Glencoe. The move was inspired, as many are, to be closer to family. “We were ready to put down roots and felt this was the right place for us. Stefan grew up in Glencoe and having grandparents for our young children has been a welcome change for us all,” she explains.
Bringing children into your life changes everything, and with that, Kutko realized another opportunity—this time in fashion.
As Kutko explains, “The breast milk, jelly, and cooking inspired me to search for an apron or a smock. After weeks of searching, I realized I hated the idea of a smock. Why would I wear one? I needed clothes that worked for me and that looked good going to work.”
“I also needed them to feel good, look luxe, not pinch my changing waist and allow me to go in and out of my home with ease. My life was many things: I went from art fairs to dinners to the grocery and home, just as all people have many dimensions of their lives in one day.”
“I didn’t want to look like I was about to work out. I wasn’t working out. I was working hard in my career and hoping to work on myself, and so many of the young mothers I knew were doing many of those same things. And we all wanted to live our lives with a sense of the style we had always had.”
That’s when Mother Oxford came to life. “I always had a great button-up shirt, but truth be told they felt too menswear-like or too body-conscious. I needed something with great tailoring, that stood up to messes, and most importantly offered an easy, generous fit.”
“So, I grabbed my best shirt and started picking it apart. I wrote my “wish list” of attributes. I went as far as studying fashion sketching by learning how to make a croquis. It was exhilarating and I knew I was on the right path because I was facing my fear of drawing and it felt good to challenge myself.”
Six months later, friends started to hear she had this idea. They said: “make it and we will buy it.” “It felt like a revolution. We all wanted to have practical but gorgeous performance apparel that spoke to our roles in and out of the family, as women. Mother Oxford was going to do just that.”
Kutko designed and created the “Mother” of all oxfords. Today, her company, Mother Oxford, offers a highly curated selection of spill-friendly fashion pieces: button-up shirts and dresses which speak to moms and beyond, including a diverse array of sizes.
“We’re a “fit” company—performance quality is icing on the cake. What our team is doing with Mother Oxford is to dial distractions down for our customers. We’re trying to solve the ‘what to wear’ challenge and to clear the clutter. It’s all about our customer, who I think about and I care about… because I am her,” she continues.
“My biggest job as CEO is to make the brand,” Kutko says. And her brand continues to grow with fulfillment in a commercial facility in Northbrook. “It feels exciting to invest in the North Shore, to have offices and bring career paths to mothers here.”
“For now, Mother Oxford is focusing on retail and wholesale strategies, but its real win is direct to consumer. We are crushing online sales and are excited to bring women new Mother Oxford styles—such as the short sleeve with detachable collars so Mother Oxford wearers can switch up the color or pattern of their collar in a snap.”
A versatile product just like the woman who designed it. Stay tuned, there’s more to come from the art and fashion-savvy Kutko.