Meet Wendy Foster

Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Age: 69
Marital Status: Married
Education: My real education was traveling around the world by myself for 10 years, where I learned different languages and cultures. It was amazing. I always have a big dictionary next to my bed, and I still LOVE to learn!

Wendy Foster “brought style to Santa Barbara,” declared the Santa Barbara Independent in 2008. Foster spent her 20s and 30s traveling the world, supporting herself every which way, including as a UNESCO ambassador in Paris and a chef in Israel. It wasn’t until she was almost 40 that she started her fashion career, opening her first boutique in Santa Barbara and modeling it on her own closet…

Today she owns four trendsetting clothing stores in the city: Wendy Fosterand Sportswear in Montecito’s Upper Village, Angel on Coast Village Road, and Wendy Foster on State Street.  But, “I’m still off what the normal person wears in Santa Barbara, I think,” says Foster. “Some of my favorite designers won’t sell here!”Foster’s local empire also includes husband Pierre Lafond’s two vineyards, a bistro, a gourmet market, and a home accessories store.

How do you define your personal style?

Strong and soft. I’m thin, but tall—5’9”—so I have a strong look about me. I wear strong things but I soften it by wearing subdued neutrals.

Do you have a signature look?

I mostly always wear Sofie D’Hoore cotton pants and a Johnny Farah belt and t-shirt with a sweater. I don’t have a lot of clothes. The less you have, the more creative you can be.

Who are your favorite designers?

Dries Van Noten, Sofie D’Hoor and Yojhi Yamomoto—although I can’t fit into Yamomoto because it’s made for smaller women. Dries has always been my favorite because his clothes are inspired by different cultures. He’s been a bit off his mark the past few seasons, but this year he’s gone to Japan and India so I can’t wait to see what he does.

Peachoo and Krejberg is a new love—they’re from Paris and they remind me of Ann Demulemeester. I could never sell her here—she was too edgy for Santa Barbara.

Any style no-nos?

A Dirndl miniskirt, a baby doll top or an Orlon poncho. Dirndl skirts make you look fat unless you’re bone thin. And baby doll tops are always pushed on older women, even though they’re for babies. I encourage my customers to take chances and not get stuck in one style. Just because you’re an old lady, doesn’t mean you have to dress like one.

What has influenced your style most?

Living in Israel, Paris and England. I lived on a Kibbutz in Israel and actually had a restaurant in Tel Aviv in the 1970s. Arab culture taught me take chances in my life and my style. I love British style for the knits and handmade quality. I subscribe to Selvedge—a British magazine that teaches you how to craft and where to buy fabrics.

Who inspires you?

Christina Kim—a clothing and housewares designer with a little store in New York called Dosa. She’s a fabric nut and a color genius. She travels all over the far east discovering beautiful things and then helps set up local women in business making them. She pays a fair wage and makes sure everything is produced “green.” I just love her.

Favorite/signature shoes?

Boots from Prada and Ann Demulemeester.

What is your beauty routine?

Lemon Verbena soap and lots of sunscreen.

Signature lipstick?

Fire Down Below by Nars. I like it because of the name, which is fun, and because it is a dry sort of lipstick, and it doesn’t run into the lines on my lips as easily as a softer lipstick.

What’s the last great book you read and want to recommend?

Alice Monroe’s Too Much Happiness. A FABULOUS book of short stories. Oh, My God. What a wonderful writer. I got it for a gift, and I had never read her before. Now I think of all the old ones just waiting for me. Oh Boy!

Favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara?

I have two favorite restaurants. The first one is an old fashioned luncheonette which has been in Montecito as long as I can remember. It has wonderful food, and is frequented by the locals. It has plain old good American food. A BLT to die for, and wonderful Cole slaw.

My REAL favorite restaurant is my husband’s in downtown Santa Barbara: Pierre Lafond’s Bistro. They have fresh baked whole wheat bread and flat breads, which are topped with pesto, tomatoes—things like that—plus a lot of great vegetarian star dishes, as Pierre is a complete vegetarian.

Favorite wine/drink?

My husband’s wine! We’ve been married since 1973, and he owns the first wineries in Santa Barbara since prohibition. It’s the only serious winery in Santa Barbara.

What are you most passionate about.

My garden. I bought a parking lot in downtown Santa Barbara thirty years ago, and now I travel all over California collecting oddball plants to grow there.

Greatest indulgence?

Playing the piano. I’ve been taking lessons for 40 years.

Favorite secret spot in SB?

The Frog Theatre on the Riviera. It’s a super secret place where people leave little frog statues all over a stone wall—sort of like a shrine. It’s glorious, and only the locals know about it.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

If I worked harder than anyone thought was possible, then I MIGHT succeed. And if I LOVED what I was doing at the same time, it doubled my chances.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about money?

It is very hard to come by, and very easy to spend. You have to watch your costs like a hawk.

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