Wendy Bellissimo Biography



Home-furnishings designer

Born c. 1967, in Connecticut; daughter of Jay (a tool designer) and Lonnie (a furniture-store owner) Jarmolinski; married Joe Bellissimo (a marketing executive), 1995; children: Gracie, Cecilia, Willow, Marlie. Education: Earned degree in interior design from Teikyo Post University, Waterbury, CT, c. 1989.

Addresses: Office —c/o Toys 'R' Us, One Geoffrey Way, Wayne, NJ 07470-2030.

Career

Worked as an interior designer in Los Angeles, CA, after 1990; began making pillows and other decorative textiles for the home, 1994; launched Wendy Bellissimo Baby 'N' Kids, 1998, and Wendy Bee line, 2002; signed exclusive contract with Babies 'R' Us, 2004.

Sidelights

California-based home-furnishings designer Wendy Bellissimo tapped an unfulfilled market with her line of fabrics and accessories for the nursery. Eschewing the standard bold colors and tired graphics, Bellissimo believed that babies should be ensconced in a calm, soothing palette, and their stylish mothers have a room that did not offend aesthetics. "Everything doesn't have to change just because you have a baby," she told Jane Kitchen in Home Textiles Today . "You can still have pretty things in your house."

Born in the mid-1960s, Bellissimo grew up in Kensington, Connecticut, where her mother owned a furniture store. She enjoyed sewing and crafts projects as a teenager, and even won her high school's homeeconomics award the year she graduated. After studying interior design at Teikyo Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut, she traveled in Europe for a time before settling in the Los Angeles area. By 1994, she was working as an interior designer at a store when she and the other staffers were informed that the business was closing. Told to dispose of a large pile of fabric swatches, Bellissimo took them home instead and sewed some throw pillows to accent a sofa she had recently slipcovered. The pillows won rave reviews from her friends, and Bellissimo's fiancé suggested she make a sample batch and take them around to the specialty furniture retailers along Montana Avenue in Los Angeles. "The first store bought 29," Bellissimo recalled in an interview with Allison Adato for People . "I was in shock."

Within a few years Bellissimo's pillows and other home-décor items were being sold at such retailers as Bed, Bath and Beyond and Bloomingdale's. When one of the representatives of a textile company showed her some new fabric that might be appropriate for a baby's room, Bellissimo decided to make a line of infant bedding and include it with the other wares she planned to preview at the annual New York Home Textiles Show, where manufacturers show off their latest lines to store buyers. "I had no outside influence, but thought the current market wasn't very creative and might be looking for something new and fresh," she told Los Angeles Daily News writer Barbara De Witt. "Honest, I really went by the seat of my pants, and it ended up that 90 percent of my orders were for the nursery collection."

By 2000, Bellissimo's company was selling 8,000 crib sets a year, which were made at a small factory in the San Fernando Valley community of Canoga Park. Her wares were available cross-country at high-end retailers that included Bellini and Neiman-Marcus, and featured zippered elements for easy laundering and unusual fabric and trim combinations. Bellissimo also stayed with a soothing palette, believing that the overly bright colors and bold graphics that featured so prominently in the mass-market lines agitated infants and toddlers instead of calming them. Another top seller was her company's Moses basket, a wicker carrier that moms-to-be could order in the fabric and color combination of their choice. It proved a popular baby shower gift in the Los Angeles area, and was spotted alongside such celebrity moms as Cindy Crawford, Kate Winslet, and Iman.

When Bellissimo and her husband were expecting the birth of their first child in 1999, everyone inevitably asked her how she planned to decorate her home's nursery. She came up with a plan and hired a local artist to paint a mural that included the couple's two Labrador retriever dogs floating blissfully across the wall in a hot-air balloon. When a picture of the room appeared in a magazine, Kelly Ripa—the daytime television star who became cohost of a popular morning show with Regis Philbin in 2001—contacted Bellissimo and asked her to decorate the nursery room she was planning for her daughter, Lola. That job led to other celebrity interior-design clients for Bellissimo, including Meet the Parents star Teri Polo and Camryn Manheim of The Practice . Bellissimo was even featured alongside Brooke Shields in a 2003 article for People . In it, Shields admitted she had dawdled about getting a nursery ready before the birth of her first child, after trying for many years to become pregnant. Finally, two months before her due date, Shields called Bellissimo, who finished the job on time. "Brooke told me the nursery made the idea of being a mom real to her," Bellissimo told Adato in People . "Those are the moments that make me say, 'I love my job.'"

Bellissimo also cultivated a non-celebrity clientele for her business. She launched the more affordable Wendy Bee line in 2002 after fans of her higher-priced "Wendy Bellissimo Baby 'N' Kids" wares wrote to say they could not afford to spend that much on the nursery. Even some of Bellissimo's friends confessed that spending up to $900 for a single nursery room accessory was impractical for them. "That's how I know that there is that consumer out there that has that design level and taste," Bellissimo told Kitchen in Home Textiles Today .

In late 2004, Bellissimo's company—of which her husband, Joe, is a partner—announced it had inked a deal with Babies 'R' Us to carry her line exclusively. Its 232 stores would sell Bellissimo's four signature lines: Vintage Teaberry, Vintage Firetruck, Sir Leaps-A-Lot, and Starlight. A fifth, Honey Bee, followed, and Bellissimo had even bigger goals for her company in the coming years. She was planning stroller, furniture, and even apparel lines, and she also hopes to host her own television show eventually. Her four daughters—born in rather rapid succession from 1999 to 2005—serve as an ideal test market for her new ideas. Her creative inspiration comes easily, if somewhat inconveniently, she told De Witt in the Daily News . "I'll see a swatch of a new fabric and I can envision the whole thing," she enthused. "For instance, I saw some stripes and quickly thought how cute antique trains would go with it … but usually I get my ideas at 2 o'clock in the morning, so I've learned to keep a pad of paper and a pen next to the bed."

Sources

Periodicals

Child , December-January 2002–2003, pp. 80-84.

Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), July 28, 2001, p. L12.

Home Textiles Today , November 18, 2002, p. S18; November 29, 2004, p. S12.

People , June 9, 2003, p. 103.

Online

Wendy Bellissimo Baby 'N' Kids, http://www.wendybellissimo.com/home/index.php (June 26, 2006).



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