Libby Fitzgerald lives in Manhattan, but if it were up to her, she’d be in the sun on a beach (same here). And, of course, she’d be wearing the appropriate footwear. The 57-year-old is the founder and CEO of Sea Star Beachwear® , a line of remarkably stylish, breathable, and quick-drying print and patterned water shoes.
Fittingly, Fitzgerald’s idea for Sea Star Beachwear was inspired by her travels — specifically to beaches such as Barbados, where there’s coral in the water. “I had to wear water shoes to go in, and I had typical water shoes, which are black, meshy, cheap, and fall apart,” says the mother of three. “My boys would make fun of me and say, ‘Why are you wearing those ugly shoes, Mom?’ I thought, ‘There must be something out there that is better made, more comfortable, and that looks better than what I'm currently wearing.’”
Fitzgerald excitedly began her research in 2014, and as it turns out, there weren’t viable options — so she founded her company the following year. But despite being a new entrepreneur, this venture wasn’t her first journey into fashion. Fitzgerald worked for Hermès® and Ralph Lauren® after graduating from Duke University® with a degree in Biology. “When you're 23, you sometimes make decisions — for whatever reason — and end up on your life path,” the Baltimore, Maryland, native points out. “I wanted to move to New York, where I had a lot of friends. I was interested in fashion, special events, and PR.”
After working for these two iconic luxury brands, Fitzgerald left the corporate world for 20 years. It was time for her to focus on family and raising her children William, 26, Robert, 24, and Laird, 17, with her husband Terry. Once her youngest child left home, though, Fitzgerald felt the urge to get back into business.
“I always thought about what I was going to do when I became an empty-nester,” says Fitzgerald. “I wanted to go back to work and do something creative in fashion, but sometimes it's very hard for women to jump back into the corporate world when you've been out of the working world as long as I had.” It turns out that she needn’t have worried. Her idea, which started as a beach water shoe, evolved into comfortable footwear beloved by many — and is even sold at J.Crew®. The espadrille-inspired kicks can be worn during water sports, rainy weather, and dog-walking. In short: they’re multifaceted (and stylish), just like Fitzgerald herself.
In our one-on-one interview, Fitzgerald shares her tips for starting a brand, getting back to work after a hiatus, and how her beauty routine (read: sleep) has changed since having kids.
Spotlyte: What career advice do you have for people who want to follow in your entrepreneurial footsteps?
Libby Fitzgerald: If you have an idea, the first thing to do is as much research as possible. With the internet, you can very quickly see what is out there, what your competition would be, and where there is space — where something doesn't exist. For me, the product is really what drove the idea and the company.
You're not going to have the answer to everything, and you have to be willing to ask questions — and rely on your support system to help you. Being older, I have a lot of friends that are still in business or had gone back to work, who had a lot of expertise in areas where I didn't. When I had questions about contracts, trademarks, manufacturing, marketing, or digital computer things, I relied a lot on my friends to help me. They were extremely supportive and helpful.
Spotlyte: What’s the best advice you’ve received?
LF: Not giving up and having the confidence that you can do it is really important, particularly if you're starting your own company. There are so many challenges and things that can trip you up. It's important to focus.
Spotlyte: What does a typical day in your (water) shoes look like?
LF: I am up early. I work out at 8 a.m. every morning. I live on the Upper East Side, so I commute down on the subway. I get into the office in SoHo around 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. I have a lot of meetings. I'll meet with editors or potential investors. Depending on what my schedule is, I stay there ‘till 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.
Spotlyte: You mentioned being active. What is your workout regimen?
LF: I work out pretty much every day and go to Exhale℠ for cardio, Barre, and yoga.
Spotlyte: What spa treatments do you love?
LF: I get facials or massages at Exhale once a month. I get a lot of manicures and pedicures at my local corner spot in Manhattan.
Spotlyte: How has your beauty routine evolved over the years?
LF: When you have kids, particularly when they're young, you realize how important your sleep is. Even when they're older, your sleep gets disrupted a lot. I am definitely one of those people that likes to get eight hours of sleep. I can really feel and see the difference if I'm not getting enough sleep, mentally and physically. It's taken me a while to get into that regular sleep pattern.
Spotlyte: What is your morning skincare routine?
LF: I am a total Clarins® girl. I almost exclusively use Clarins products. I wash my face in the shower with Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser. I get out of the shower and put on Clarins Toning Lotion. Then, I use Clarins Super Restorative Remodelling Serum. Then, I use Clarins Extra-Firming Wrinkle Control Firming Day Cream. On my eyes, I use Clarins Eye Contour Gel. Because I am outside a lot, I do use quite a bit of Chantecaille® Ultra Sun Protection Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 45 Primer.
Spotlyte: What is your evening skincare routine?
LF: I use Clarins Super Restorative Night Wear Cream, and a plain lanolin cream at night for my eyes. To moisturize, I really like Kopari® Coconut Body Milk. This is one of my favorite things because I'm beachy. It smells like coconuts. I use that all over, and even in my hair sometimes, because it's so great.
Spotlyte: What makeup and beauty products do you love?
LF: I don't wear a lot of makeup, because my lifestyle is active. I use Clarins Instant Light Brush-On Perfector Concealer under my eyes. I use Clarins Crayon Khol Eyeliner Pencil, and maybe a little lipstick and mascara sometimes.
I'm a big user of Viviscal® Professional Supplements. It's a hair vitamin I take twice a day. I love it because I have long hair, and I think that it really has thickened my hair.
Spotlyte: Do you get injectables?
LF: I've gotten injectable wrinkle reducers in my forehead and crow’s feet. I go to Dr. Pat Wexler every three to four months. I've been going to her since I was in my early fifties — for five or six years.
Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now
Spotlyte: What do you like doing in your free time, outside of work?
LF: I love going to the beach, swimming, and walking in the sand. I love traveling, being with my family outside of the city, seeing my boys, and being outdoors. I love to do yoga.
Spotlyte: Speaking of family, do you think any of your sons will follow in your footsteps?
LF: I think they may be entrepreneurial in spirit, but I don't think they would be interested in fashion. They see how hard I work now, and they appreciate that. We had a Southampton pop-up that my middle son, Robert, ran for me one summer. My youngest son, Laird, worked for me one summer helping with digital marketing. He made videos for us and helped us when we traveled around doing trunk shows. My oldest son, William, is in finance.
Spotlyte: Who has been your biggest cheerleader?
LF: My husband and my family. I also have a lot of very supportive girlfriends, which I think is super important. A lot of them are my age or a little bit older. The older ones gave me a lot of support in the beginning, because they too have gone through the same things that I've gone through — trying to start a new career, starting a new business, and family matters.
Spotlyte: How has the presence of community contributed to the success of your business?
LF: We have a very small team of three. A lot of expertise, like PR, digital marketing, and graphic design, is brought in from outside sources. I love all the people I work with. We're all very supportive of each other. A lot of small businesses, women in particular, have reached out to help. I've had several friends send around emails to their friend group about my company saying, “We should all support this person.” That's been a wonderful thing.
Spotlyte: Do you have a mantra?
LF: I have an inspiration board in my office. One of the things on there is “Failure's not an option.” That was something from Apollo 13, when they had all these issues and they weren't sure they were going to make it back. That's really how I feel. I'm very positive about what we do. When you're starting a company, there are many times you’re thrown things you don’t expect. Keeping that positivity, trying to move on, knowing that you're going to succeed is important.
Learn more about inspiring entrepreneurs:
- Miami’s Hottest Chef Ana Quincoces Has a Room For Her Makeup
- Meet Inge Theron: Founder of FaceGym, a Workout For Your Face
- Drew Barrymore’s Trainer Marnie Alton Has the Positive Energy We Need Right Now
Dr. Patricia Wexler is a paid Allergan® consultant.
Allergan may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.