Meet Lynwood Holmberg

Location: Seattle, WA
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Married
Education: University of Washington

For the last nineteen years Lynwood Holmberg has brought high style to Seattle and Portland. As the Fashion Director at Mario’s, a 20,000 square foot fashion Mecca with locations in both cities, she employs the following mantra: “Take ideas from Milan and Paris and pare them down to work in reality.”

Not surprisingly, designers love her and customers want to be her. She’s also turned Mario’s once small women’s department into the designer clothing destination in the Northwest.

All that, and she’s a grandmother, even if, in the words of her colleague, “She doesn’t exactly look like a grandmother.”

How would you describe your style?

I like a little bit of a twist; bows or buttons; ruching, folding and interesting fabric. I try to be appropriate and modern.

What do you mean when you say appropriate?

That’s the biggest challenge right now for women our age. So many of the styles are bare, or there are straps everywhere or your bra is sticking out. The challenge is coming up with creative ways to be covered or not covered. For instance, some women are comfortable with their arms and some women aren’t, even though they might have the most perfect arms. You can’t convince them to wear something if they don’t feel good about it.

It doesn’t matter how you look; it’s how you feel.

Right. In Europe I see a lot of older women with bare arms and no stockings, whereas American women are more self-conscious about that. I think people see ‘older’ as being more beautiful in Europe.

What influenced your style?

I grew up riding horses and that’s how I first loved clothing. My pinstripe riding suit, my tuxedo and top hat, my fine leather boots. When I started in the clothing industry, being able to discern fine fabrics and quality gave me an edge.

Do you have designers you especially love to wear?

Prada, Lanvin and Narciso Rodriguez. I couldn’t go anywhere without basics by Peter Cohen and Jil Sander. I have so many of her basic pieces, from the stretch top and cropped pants to the reversible coat and packable raincoat. That’s the base that everything else goes on top of.

Why do you think Mario’s is so successful?

We listen to our customers and buy with them in mind. We have so many different lives that we take care of. Women come back from Europe and tell us that rather than walking down the street and going into all the designer shops, they can come in here and we pull the best of what’s out there. We rarely buy a look that would only work on the runway; instead we think, ‘Who’s walking around Portland or Seattle that would wear this?’

You seem to really enjoy what you do.

I do. Recently, my husband and I were walking around town and a customer honks and rolls down her window to tell me how much she loved this dress and how fantastic she felt. My husband said, “My wife is the only person people thank for taking their money.”

Why do you love working at Mario’s?

I love that it’s a family run, family feeling store. We’ve had customers for years and years that keep coming back to us or tell their friends. It’s a friendly, knowing atmosphere. Our customers appreciate that when we go to market, we’re looking at the clothes with them in mind.

Do you have a signature item of clothing?

Two ivory coats from Lanvin are my favorites right now: a linen trench coat and a wool Melton with a ruffle at the bottom. I love that they have a little humor about them. Putting on something Ivory just makes me happy.

Do you have a signature perfume?

I’ve worn Annick Goutal, Gardenia Passion forever. I discovered it in Paris.

What about lipstick?

I change my lipstick around with my mood and the seasons. I like Poppy King, “The Lipstick Queen.” Her stuff is fantastic.

Tell me your beauty routine.

I use Sothys products from France. I met a French woman with the most gorgeous skin, and she told me about Sothys.

What’s a great book you’ve read?

I loved Out Stealing Horses, about a relationship between a father and a son. My children are the most important thing to me, so it hit home. And it was so beautifully written.

What about a favorite restaurant?

The Boat Street Café in Seattle. It’s a simple menu featuring Northwest produce and seafood. It has great ambiance, and a great chef. And Madison Park Café. They have the best breakfast in Seattle—wonderful fajitas and eggs.

In Portand, I like Café Mingo. It’s Italian, with a little kitchen you can sit around, and fresh local produce. It’s comfortable and dependable and has an excellent gnocchi—my favorite.

What about a favorite secret place?

The Olympic Sculpture Park on the Sound. If you were coming into town I would take you to the Sculpture Park and to Boat Street Cafe.

Who inspires you?

Michelle Obama. I think it’s great what she’s doing for us and our country. I love that she’s promoting healthy food but without a heavy hand.

What’s your passion project?

Mario’s. If I’m not with my children or my friends, I’m there. Through Mario’s we’ve supported various charities in both cities. One of my favorites is First T, which introduces young children to golf, especially underprivileged kids.

How do you rejuvenate?

Because I travel so much, I love just staying home and spending time with my family, my children and my granddaughter. And I play golf with my husband. It takes my mind off work and fashion and everything in order to hit that stupid ball.

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