After a successful career in the fashion industry, Barbara Warren found herself at a crossroads. Armed with skills and experience – including launching a successful fashion brand – she was optimistic about her job prospects. “I thought: ‘I built businesses. I can create and I can analyze. I have so much to offer.’ But I couldn’t even get calls back from headhunters. It was a joke.”
Her own experience — and the knowledge that many of her friends were going through the same thing — was the impetus for launching Perennial Project in February of this year. The lifestyle blog covers the challenges, changes and opportunities affecting women at their midpoint in life, whether it be with their bodies, their careers or their families. She plans to launch a fashion line for women over 50, leveraging the Perennial Project brand.
“This is the world telling me what I need to do,” says the 56-year-old entrepreneur. “We need to have this conversation about women and aging. I started writing about it and created a platform around it.”
AGEIST: How did you come up with the name Perennial Project?
Warren: I love the implication of ever-blooming and everlasting. The word perennial is an expression of ongoing relevance for an underserved yet vital and growing population.
AGEIST: Who is the Perennial Project audience?
Warren: I’m targeting women and the challenges and opportunities they face in midlife. We’re becoming parents to our parents. Our kids are going away to college and we’re parenting them through the next chapter. We’re going through menopause. It’s a huge shift. We’re asking ourselves ‘What are you going to do with this time, with this chapter?'”
AGEIST: You had a successful career in fashion. Did you always know you wanted to be in fashion?
Warren: I studied art history in college at George Washington University. When I got out, I was an unemployable art history major. I always had very strong visual skills and I loved clothing. I got a job at an Ann Taylor store, but I didn’t like retail. I moved home to New York and connected with someone in wholesale clothing manufacturing. That was my true love.
I loved the whole process from creation to production and worked my way up. I always had an affinity for knitwear and that’s where I ended up. I started White + Warren in the late 90s when luxury was hot. My concept was: ‘Let’s make affordable luxury.’ We launched with a $98 cashmere t-shirt and built a business democratizing cashmere, adding products over time. When I left there in 2008, we had revenues of $40 million, 20 employees and our products sold in 500 stores.
AGEIST: What prompted you to leave Warren + White?
Warren: It was a pivotal time in my life. My father had just had a stroke and couldn’t walk and talk. My kids were in middle school, and I hadn’t been home to raise them. It was time to pull back and come home.
I consulted for a while for companies in the ecommerce-fashion industry. But I always wanted to start another business, and I had an idea in mind. When I stopped going into the office everyday, I stopped wearing high-fashion corporate clothes. One thing led to another, and over time I developed a concept for a high-end lifestyle-activewear brand for women like myself.
I started B3.0 in 2014. I did that for three years, closing it in the summer 2017. It was a little ahead of its time. The clothing that was popular, products were very young, very millennial, very sexy. What I was doing was very understated and sophisticated. There wasn’t enough of a market for it. After I closed, there was a shift. Now you have brands like Tory Sport, Goop and Outdoor Voices. But I have no regrets (about setting down B3.0). I like to keep moving forward.
AGEIST: You have talked about creating a line of clothing for women over 50. What do you have in mind?
Warren: There is a dearth of product out there for women like us. Everything seems to be designed with millennials in mind. I would like to create a line that’s very streamlined, with a few pieces a season — the perfect blouse, the perfect coat, the perfect pant.
A lot of what’s out there is a watered-down interpretation of what people think a woman over 50 wants to look like. Women want to be fashionable. They want to wear gorgeous clothes that make them feel sexy and fabulous.
I would love to start working on it within the next year. I need to make sure Perennial Project’s message is out there and the timing is really right. I want it all to be a part of one platform, where people can go to get great information, find out about trends and buy the clothing right there.