For over a decade, Wendi Koletar Martin has been starting a conversation about style in Texas. Her boutique Kick Pleat defines self-awareness, with one finger on the pulse of what’s relevant in the broader sartorial spectrum, one foot firmly rooted in where she is: Austin (and most recently, Houston. She opened a second shop location earlier this month). As a result, she’s got a true knack for creating the desert-hued, laid-back feeling particular to the geography and women around her. Telling the Kick Pleat story is also to tell part of our own…Wendi’s was the first shop to ever carry Apiece Apart, and we’ve been following along since — her story, one of striking out on your own and sticking with it — is the first in a series we’re excited to share with inspiring Texas women, each going against the grain in their own way.
APIECE APART WOMAN
Can you share more about your upbringing — where you are from, what your childhood was like?
I grew up on the coast in Corpus Christi, TX. As a result I’m a beach person through and through. I just breathe better when I'm there.
I was a middle class 70s kid: “go ride your bike outside and come home when it gets dark.” I grew up in the back of my mom’s aerobics class. She was an artist and owned an aerobics business during the time when Olivia Newton John was singing “Let’s Get Physical.”
I started Kick Pleat 12 years ago. I am fluent in Spanish so my previous experience is working in Latin American departments in various companies, the last one being Dell Computer. I quickly discovered that I love Latin America and Spanish but corporate America wasn’t the right environment for me. Fashion was something I’ve loved since I was a kid, and I wanted to be my own boss.
Can you share more about what it means to you to have a self-made career and to work independently?
I love my job and I am proud of what I’ve created, both in the capacity that it allows me to work creatively and spend time with my kids. Having your own business is rewarding but it’s all on you, and you need to be up for that challenge. If things go south you have to figure out if you’re really in it for the long haul.
During the recession I really didn’t think we were going to make it, but I think we ultimately did pull through because I just decided to keep the doors open. I would just wake up everyday and think, “doors are still open today.” Doubting myself and feeling unsure are part of the deal; I’m doing something creative and putting something out there. I literally hand pick every item that hangs in the shop and we put online. Everything matters to me.
Do you have trouble turning off work?
I wish I had advice on turning off work but right now I am either with my family or working. I am opening a second location in Houston and planning an expansion in Austin, so 2016 will be all about work for me. I am embracing the work as I am so grateful for this growth in my company and doing what I love. So I think I actually am in need of some advice about this!
Describe a turning point in your career.
There have been a couple of turning points: one was mentioned above, leaving a job at Dell to start Kick Pleat. A big leap. Another more “brass tacks” turning point was when I realized I was underbuying in the shop. That realization turned everything around for the profitability of my store. And I actually think I’m going through another turning point now…
Leading into summer in Austin…please share your strategy for getting dressed when it's too hot to care.
Dressing for the hottest months is an art we must master in Texas. You only want one light layer on your body, but you can make it all work with color, shapes, and shoes. An example would be an easy white dress, good sandals, and jewelry. I am a pants person so my typical outfit would be the Apiece Apart Taiyana Wide Leg Pant in the lighter fabrics and the Galisteo tank…nothing that touches my body too much and everything that is breathable and easy.
How do you spend the first 10 minutes of your day?
My one year-old son is an early riser so he wakes me up every morning. He wakes with an appetite, so after a quick diaper change we head to the kitchen and he gets his breakfast. I am then a waitress fulfilling needs and cleaning up all the while. During this process I make coffee and embrace my cups as they bring me warmth and peace and get me ready for my day.
What are some cultural touchstones you consider a part of who you are today?
I think travel has influenced and inspired me most in my life. The experiences opened me up and taught me life lessons about food, differences, independence, acceptance, culture… some of those special places include Mexico, Argentina, France, Italy, Turkey. I also love languages and the process of learning them (slow and steady wins the race) so that has become a hobby and a source of enjoyment for me.
What do you make for dinner alone?
I always have a pot of home made black beans and brown rice in the fridge. I heat those with Monterrey cheese on top. Then I cut up tomato and avocado and put those on top. It is the most delicious and nutritious meal, and one that I have about once a week.
What is something you are currently struggling with?
What is something that you currently feel confident about?
My children and how great they are.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
I have life lessons that continue to pop up. I suppose we will continually need to learn these things. One of the lessons is that trying to seek happiness outside of myself just really isn’t going to work.
Photography by KATE LESUEUR | Story by LEIGH PATTERSON | Styling by ALEXA HOTZ