Jane Keltner de Valle is case in point that you never know who might open a door for you. When she was first starting out in the world of glossy magazines, it was her then boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend who got her an interview for an internship at W magazine in New York...
After stints at Elle, Teen Vogue, and Glamour magazine, she’s now the style director of Architectural Digest. “AD came about shortly after my husband and I renovated our first family home and were in the process of decorating it. Our personal project really deepened my interest in and appreciation for home and design,” she says. “I haven’t made that many moves in my career, but the ones I have made have very much been in sync with my own personal evolution.”
Her latest personal venture, and first foray into the world of entrepreneurship – a children’s skincare brand called Paloroma – came about after she became a mother. “Roman has very sensitive skin and we couldn’t find anything we liked, trusted, and felt we could connect with. We incubated the idea for Paloroma when I was pregnant with Paloma,” recalls Jane, who founded the company with her husband Giancarlo Valle and named it after their two children Roman and Paloma.
Jane is also case in point that when we surround ourselves with uplifting, inspiring people, they both consciously and subconsciously challenge us to be our best selves. It was her peers who sparked her to take the plunge. “I’ve been really inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit that I’ve seen emerge among my female peers over the last 5-10 years. I think seeing so many friends and colleagues have the courage to create something and put it out there was ultimately what inspired me to launch Paloroma,” she says.
Here, we step inside her dreamy home (note the use of colour!) and chat about her career, raising children in New York in a pandemic, and, of course, all things Paloroma.
Go to paloroma.com
You grew up in New York City – what’s life like for a child in NYC?
New York City is the most magical place to grow up. The whole world is at your fingertips — food, street life, culture, and of course, the people. My parents were very active participants in city life. They had season tickets to the ballet, family memberships at all the museums. We went to the US Open and Knicks games. As a teenager, I used to sneak out and go to raves under the Brooklyn Bridge, which I hope my children will never ever do. For me, the energy, excitement, diversity, and creativity here were addicting. Aside from two years at boarding school, I never left. I feel so lucky to now be raising my own children in this city and to have their grandparents and my sister and her family nearby. New York is not for the faint of heart — having a local support system is a real blessing.
You’ve always loved magazines but didn’t put together that it was a career until you got to college which is exactly what I experienced. When you realised you could have a career in magazine publishing, how did you set about achieving your dreams?
Interestingly enough, it was my then boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend who got me an interview for my first internship at W Magazine. You never know who might open a door for you! As soon as I got there, I was intoxicated. I just tried to be a sponge to it all and also always said yes. I learned so much from interning there and then at Elle magazine, where I landed my first job out of school. At a certain point though, I did decide that I wanted to broaden my repertoire and get experience working with other people. I had followed my editor from W to Elle, so I’d basically worked with the same team since I was 19 years old. Around that time is when I got a call from Amy Astley about a position that had just opened at Teen Vogue. And 15 years later, I am still with Amy at Conde Nast — though of course now at AD.
Having spent so many years writing about fashion, what are the greatest lessons you learnt?
I’ve been really inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit that I’ve seen emerge among my female peers over the last 5-10 years. I think seeing so many friends and colleagues have the courage to create something and put it out there was ultimately what inspired me to launch Paloroma.
What are your thoughts on how the fashion industry can move forward sustainably?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this with respect to my own business. Manufacturing locally is important to us. All of our formulations are made in America, specifically in Vermont. We’re really proud of that from both a sustainability and quality point of view. We’re taking a closer look at our packaging too. It is all partially recycled and fully recyclable, but beyond that, we are working to reduce how much of it we actually use.
Jane at home with her two children Paloma and Roman
You worked in fashion for most of your career, and I love the idea that our lives are full of chapters. How did you feel about closing the fashion chapter, and opening a new chapter in the world of architecture and interiors?
I haven’t made that many moves in my career, but the ones I have made have very much been in sync with my own personal evolution. I moved from Teen Vogue to Glamour shortly after becoming a mother, and I was very interested in exploring fashion and female identity through the lens of working motherhood while there. AD came about shortly after my husband and I renovated our first family home and were in the process of decorating it. Our personal project really deepened my interest in and appreciation for home and design. And the idea for Paloroma was born with my children. Roman has very sensitive skin and we couldn’t find anything we liked, trusted, and felt we could connect with. We incubated the idea for Paloroma when I was pregnant with Paloma.
What are your top tips for a beautiful home that is also child-friendly?
We never really child-proofed our home or compromised on the design for the sake of our children. I think it’s a discredit to kids to assume they can’t live in a space with nice things. Homes are meant to be lived in — a life well lived in one adds character. Growing up with art, design, and books does so much to color your imagination and open your eyes to the world. My husband collects wood-carved African masks — they are all over our apartment — and the kids just love them. There are stripes painted on the ceiling in our hallway, wild Marilyn Minter portraits of each of our kids in our bedroom, an Ethiopian throne chair, and tons of my husband’s furniture throughout. Roman takes great pride in the pieces his father designed. His canopy bed for one is the most magical place to cuddle up and read at night before bed.
You took three months of maternity leave after Roman was born – what are your thoughts on the maternity system in the US? What changes would you like to see made?
I technically took 12 weeks leave with both children but regret that I never really checked out. I remember writing a cover story a few weeks after Paloma was born. It was no one’s fault but my own for raising my hand to do it, but it was too soon. It added stress to a time that is already challenging in many ways. Beautiful, but challenging. And it took away from me being able to be fully present, not only for my newborn daughter, but for her brother, who was dealing with this big transition in his own way. I would definitely encourage other parents to take the time and not feel it’s indulgent because it isn’t. And at the end of the day, 12 weeks is such a short amount of time anyway. The silver lining of this whole pandemic is that I have had excessive amounts of time with my children that never would have been possible in our previous lives when we’re all running off to school, work, dinners, events. It’s been a bonding experience I will forever treasure.
Your son Roman was diagnosed with eczema as a baby – talk me through what the experts recommended and how that inspired your journey to launch Paloroma?
I initially started to become hyper-aware of what I was putting on my skin during my first pregnancy. That is what prompted me to educate myself about clean beauty. Then when Roman was a baby, he had eczema, which is very typical of babies. I took him to a couple of dermatologists for advice on how to treat it, and I was shocked by the recommendations they gave me. Brands that have been around since I was child. We wanted to find something that would be effective but that wouldn’t have harmful ingredients in it. Beyond that, Giancarlo and I couldn’t find any brands we related to, that felt inspiring and drew a personal connection. We’re both visual, and we care about design. We didn’t feel like there was a brand out there that hit on all those points for us, that was complete. It would either be ingredient-focused and lacked design, or very cutesy but didn’t have any substance. So we set out to create something that would be beautiful on the inside and out. We named it after our two children. The characters on the packaging are caricatures of Roman and Paloma on various adventures. We wanted to create something that felt timeless, beautiful, special, but also whimsical and fun, not self-serious, something that would appeal to both parents and children. A lot of the stuff out there is very baby, and we wanted a brand that children could grow up with. The colors were inspired by the color palette in our children’s room. I’ve always loved blue and red.
Giancarlo’s family is in the skincare business, and he grew up in that business. We saw an opportunity to tap into a network of progressive manufacturers. We’re working with an amazing, progressive lab in Vermont. They’ve been so collaborative and also patient with us, because it’s been a huge learning curve. We spent over two years working through the formulations.
Another thing that was important to us was community. The idea of community grows and changes when you have children. We see this as an extension of our community. We want to scale it organically and authentically, share it with our friends, and hope they share it with theirs… kind of the old-fashioned idea of word of mouth. We shot the campaign exclusively with children of our friends and collaborators, no professional models — and we hope that resonates and speaks to the idea of it being one big family and community.
What has been your favourite stage of motherhood so far?
Whatever moment I’m in right now feels like the most magical one. It’s all so delicious and such a gift.
Your products are free of parabens, phthalates, silicones, sulfates, dyes, petrolatum, and fragrances – tell me about the non-negotiables when you were formulating the products?
Oh my gosh, where do I begin. There were thousands of ingredients that were non-negotiable for us. The one that was most eye-opening for me was fragrance. I hadn’t realized that something listed as “perfume” or “fragrance” on an ingredient list is actually made up of tens of ingredients itself and there is often no transparency or accountability around what those ingredients are. It is considered proprietary information. That was pretty mind-blowing to me. Beyond that, I came to learn that fragrances are very often used because they help mask aromas from natural ingredients that can sometimes be unpleasant. Often masking agents are used to neutralize those smells, which we also didn’t want to do. So I am especially proud of the fact that we managed to create products that are totally free of fragrance without compromising on anything else.
What’s bath time like in your home?
My daughter loves taking baths and it’s a struggle to the end to get her out of the bathtub. My son just turned 7 and became a teenager overnight. He wants to take showers now and do it all himself. We obviously love bathtime in our house. I think it’s that moment in the day when you wash away any stresses and transition to calm, quiet time. There is nothing more delicious than wrapping a little clean bean up in a bathrobe, massaging cream onto their body, putting on fresh pajamas, and then crawling into bed for reading before they drift off to sleep. It is such a beautiful ritual.
What are your favourite Paloroma products and why?
I love them all! We launched with three core products and really sought to make each one best in class.
So many women dream of launching a business but fear holds them back – what’s your advice to these women?
I can totally relate to that. It’s terrifying to pour your heart and soul into something and then not know if it’s going to succeed or flop. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Ultimately, I couldn’t ignore the voice in the back of my head.
How do you manage your work load – what are your time management tips for getting everything done?
I think this new work from home model has blurred the lines of on duty and off. I basically work at all hours. I am trying to be more mindful of tuning out from work at a certain time.
How has the adjustment to working from home been like for you over the pandemic?
The first six months of working from home was not easy. We had no childcare, and my husband and I each have demanding jobs — plus we were launching a new business. Every minute of our day was scheduled. We each had work shifts and childcare shifts. We were like two ships passing in the night. The only real time we saw each other was when we all sat down to eat dinner together as a family. After the kids went to sleep, we went back to work. But I have to say that I am incredibly lucky to have a partner who co-parents and who respects and values my career to the degree that he does. We have a sense of equilibrium in our relationship that I never take for granted. And even though we rarely had a minute to ourselves, I loved knowing he was near me, working side by side with him at night. It gave me a real sense of security and peace during a crazy time.
What’s it like working with your husband Giancarlo Valle?
There is no one I trust or value more. We speak the same language, finish each other’s sentences, and at the same time, each bring different strengths to the table.
Can you share some defining moments in your life from 2020 that you’ll never forget?
Celebrating our ten-year anniversary while sheltering in place. My sister babysat our children while we dined in the room next door. Launching a company in the middle of a pandemic whilst having no childcare and my husband and I both having rather demanding “day jobs.” Watching our children grow and evolve during this time has been manic and magical. I realized how much I was missing on a day-to-day basis. In the six-month quarantine, we potty trained our daughter, taught her how to swim… there were so many milestones that in more “normal” times I might have outsourced. I’m proud and grateful that that wasn’t an option. I hope we never have to return to sheltering in place, but I will look back on that time romantically and cherish it always.
Can you share your list of loves?
Petite Plume pajamas for children
La Coqueta hair bows for my daughter
Oso & Me’s rollup colored pencil case for our many art projects
Paloroma’s ABC Kit for gifting all my friends with newborns
Bedtime stories and snuggles with my children
Three beauty products you use daily?
Vertly face mist, True Botanicals renew pure radiance face oil, Paloroma cloud 9 daily cream for my hands and body.
Three fashion brands you shop from time and again?
La Ligne, Emilia Wickstead, Carolina Herrera.