By Meda Kessler
Photos by Meda Kessler
Casual, modern, classic: Susan Dunkel and Stephanie House are spreading the word about Pearl by Lela Rose
Their friendship began thanks to their kids, the PTA and a mutual love of timeless style. Susan Dunkel, who lives in Colleyville, and Stephanie House, now a resident of Flower Mound, are not only kindred spirits when it comes to fashion, but they are known for their support of local charities and of each other as independent businesswomen.
For nine years, they teamed up as the Southlake area’s personal stylists for the Worth Collection, a luxury line of women’s ready-to-wear. Dunkel and House hosted direct-sales events at their homes for the label, which closed its doors early this year after 29 years in business.
Sticking with what they do best, the pair picked up where they left off by becoming stylists for the Pearl by Lela Rose line. (The president of Pearl by Lela Rose had formerly worked at Worth.) Rose is a well-known Texas designer who launched her direct-to-consumer business in 2018 and, like Worth, looks to hand-picked stylists to create in-home selling events. With COVID-19 affecting retail, Rose told Women’s Wear Daily, shopping as we have known it has forever changed.
Rose grew up in Dallas and majored in art at college but eventually veered into fashion. She launched her first collection in 1996, working with private clients until she dressed the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara Bush, at their father’s 2001 inauguration. Today, she lives in New York City and is a familiar name at small boutiques and major retailers such as Neiman Marcus. Rose has a free-standing shop in Dallas’ Highland Park Village.
Dunkel and House were among the small group of stylists invited to a dinner at Rose’s New York home as a welcome gesture and as a way to showcase the collection and offer training. “She was so warm and gracious,” says House. “We appreciate not only her clothes but the culture she cultivates.”
Rose is known for her love of entertaining; her book, Prêt-a-Party: Great Ideas for Good Times and Creative Entertaining, is on display at a Pearl trunk show in July in Colleyville. Dunkel and House host clients in a pool cabana offered up by a friend. It’s cool inside, a Lela Rose candle is burning, cold beverages are available to the by-appointment-only guests and all the garments are displayed on rolling racks. One room in the cabana serves as a spacious dressing room.
While the pandemic delayed the launch of the spring-summer line, the items available are suited for Texas now and into fall: floral eyelet dresses to wear with summer sandals and cowboy boots later, a black-and-white checked seersucker jumpsuit, striped lace skirts. The price point is less expensive than her signature collection, but there’s no skimping on quality or attention to detail. The designs are more classic and less trendy, pieces that are meant to last. All the clothing is still made in New York City, and the signature touch, a tiny “pearl” sewn into the garment, makes each piece feel special.
Dunkel and House are both wearing Pearl dresses, of course, and Dunkel wears a matching face mask made from leftover fabric after her dress was altered for length. Seeing how clothes fit on a real person is better than seeing them on a hanger.
“Shopping can still be an experience,” says Dunkel, who adds that their clients typically range in age from their mid-30s to women in their 70s. “We help customers figure out what best works for them.”