Sometimes it is astounding just how small the world really is. Which perhaps only partially explains how a Barrington woman who ran a yacht company out of Shanghai connected with a Scandinavian-born former PR executive-turned fashion designer, to represent her up and coming fashion label, Charlotta Gandolfo, in the United States.
Jennifer Delach lived in Shanghai and ran a successful boating company called Palm Bay, which exported yachts to China. But because she had two young children and wanted a successful career that also allowed her some flexibility, she founded her company with an unusual business model—establishing a profit-sharing plan that actually paid her employees first, thus allowing her more work-life balance.
But in 2013, Delach stopped working and in 2016, her husband was transferred back to the U.S. and their family moved from China to Barrington. Due to an array of complicating factors, including the challenges of running a company while living abroad, high international tariffs and raising a young family, Delach made the decision to sell her shares of the company. That was right before the pandemic hit. Yet, after being so busy in the corporate world for so long, Delach says, “I began to become restless. I didn’t like the lack of structure.”
“I became involved in WeChat, a social media platform popular in China.” That is where Delach and Gandolfo connected. While they were not friends in China, they both lived there at the same time and ran in similar social circles. Delach become intrigued with Gandolfo’s journey.
As Delach describes Gandolfo’s story, “Charlotta was born in Sweden to a Jewish family. She was a PR executive and she moved to China about ten or eleven years ago. She was running into the same conflict I was: she had a daughter about six years ago and she found the demands of a corporate schedule impossible while trying to raise a child.”
Gandolfo ended up quitting her corporate job and similar to Delach she found herself a bit restless.
At the same time, she was traveling the world, attending weddings and events—and never was able to find the right thing to wear. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.
Gandolfo’s husband is French and American. “Once you have a multinational family, you end up having relatives all around the world,” Delach says. Gandolfo was constantly attending weddings and events and she couldn’t find the type of clothes she wanted. With that goal in mind Gandolfo went to Hangzhou, the silk capital of the world in China, near Shanghai.
There she found artists to work with her and together they designed various materials. “And because of her persistency and her language skills and the fact that she lives there, they were able to create some really beautiful fabric in small quantities,” Delach says. Gandolfo had dresses made up and began wearing them to various functions. Immediately, friends, relatives, and even strangers constantly went up to her, asking about her clothes and where they could buy them. “After she sold about 50 to 100, she said to herself, ‘I should put my name on these and become a brand,’” Delach says.
Indeed, as their website describes, “Charlotta Gandolfo creates resort and loungewear for social women who travel. The versatile day-to-night concept in luxurious materials allows internationally minded women to pack light and still know that they have just the right outfit at the beach, party, or that spontaneous dinner with family and friends. The collection blends sophistication with laissez-faire for an exclusive yet unpretentious style.”
In addition to being beautiful, the collection is versatile, with all items created to mix and match and move easily from day-to-night. This allows fashionable women to know that they will always have an outfit that easily can be dressed up or down, whether they are home or traveling the globe. The style is feminine and effortlessly elegant, yet casual and comfortable.
Through their connection on WeChat, Gandolfo began to approach Delach with a variety of business questions. As Delach began advising her, eventually, Gandolfo asked her if she wanted to work together. Although Delach does not have fashion business experience, per se, she has a great deal of business experience and this expertise obviously translates into one of her passions, fashion. She has already placed the brand into the Lake Forest Shop, locally, and a boutique in Miami, as well as dressing influencers, including Mariel Hemingway, in Charlotta Gandolfo designs.
Delach, who will turn 50 this year, jokes that whenever she wears the clothes, she receives more compliments than she has in over a decade.
For more information, visit charlottagandolfo.com.