Meredith German visited Chalk Boutique in Evanston this spring to showcase the new fall line from Meredith Wendell—the company she and her husband, Wendell Ross German, co-founded two years ago out of New York, and whose name is derived from a combination of both their first names. The aesthetic of her collection of leather goods and jewelry, which spotlights her affinity for bright, mismatching colors, is influenced by her upbringing near the Dorothy Draper-designed Greenbrier Hotel, as well as her time spent working at Marc Jacobs.
Meredith Wendell is the first accessories company in the country to use real glass as an important focal point of their designs, turning accessories into art pieces. Meredith’s products are handcrafted in Florence, Italy, with Italian leathers and hardware (although the glass is sourced much closer to home—just down the road in Indiana). Sheridan Road chatted with the leather and glass maven during her visit to the Midwest about her process—and her connections to the area.
How did Chalk find you?
Through one of the agents they work with in New York. We were super-excited to be picked up in Chicago. Plus, my best friend lives here, so that was coincidental. When [Chalk] first looked at the collection, we were only doing small leather goods and belts. Now, they’re helping us launch the jewelry collection as well as a handbag collection for fall.
From a designer’s point of view, how does Chicago compare to New York?
I love Chicago. I think the architecture is incredible. The only thing wrong with Chicago is the winter. I love how industrial it is; it’s like the heart of America here. It’s such an American, strong, no-bullshit town.
Our tagline is uptown awkward. It’s taking that refined lady from uptown, downtown. It’s a funny take on a classic accessory. Everybody in New York has that downtown vibe. We’re so not that. It’s different here; there’s a different attitude that fits our line.
You use Tiffany glass, right?
The glass factory I use is close to here in Kokomo, Indiana. It’s the oldest glass factory in the U.S., and it was one of the original sources for Tiffany lamps. They produce sheet glass that goes into church windows or stained-glass windows. They are wonderful, wonderful people and have 20,000 color combinations of glass stored out in these huge barns. It’s so cool
How did you pick the colors?
They’re always bright, or an odd combination of things. In Kokomo, they mix and pour two or three different colors out on a big sheet and roll it out, almost like fudge, so you get various colors in the same piece of glass. No two will ever be the same.
What inspires you?
I grew up in West Virginia and have always been very inspired by the Greenbrier Hotel. It’s where all of our look books are shot. The hotel is so colorful and I’m super-inspired by colors. My collection is all derived from growing up there. Even the community was inspired by it—everyone dressed in really bright, loud colors and prints.
I grew up with my grandparents. My grandmother is still there. It’s very important for me to have my family involved with my company and to involve the place I was raised in our brand. I think every little community in America has a cool personality, so that’s why it’s so great to be visiting the North Shore. The little town I grew up in was much like this. It’s a perfect fit.