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Grit + Grace: A Conversation with Jan Barboglio, Designer of The Rustic Mexican Home Decor Brand You’re Going to Fall in Love With

Getting to know Jan: her thoughts on family, career, and expression of personal style.

Whimsically bright in nature and just happy to be, luxury home decor designer Jan Barboglio is a joyous spirit reflective of a time when life was just a little bit simpler. She is a vision: her runway model height coupled with her excited eyes and sincere smile can fill any room, no matter the size. Her personal style is iconic, and those who were just stepping out into the world to fulfill their dreams as #bossbabes in the 1980’s will most likely remember Jan and her sister’s clothing line, the Barboglio Cristina &  Jan Collection. (You can still find their pieces on Etsy and other resale sites!)

Jan visited Neiman Marcus San Antonio last weekend to launch her romantically rustic Spring 2017 home decor collection, inspired by artifacts she found on a recent journey to Michoacán, MX. The collection celebrates balance: not only calm and comfort, but also a voice of the past with the arrival of daring new dreamers. ( Jan’s artistry is admirable, her energy infectious, and I feel oh-so lucky that I had the opportunity to sit down with her and chat about her inspiring career as a seasoned dreamer.

ELEANORA MORRISON: Jan, your designs are inspired by growing up in Mexico. Where were you raised and what was your childhood like?
JAN BARBOGLIO: I was raised in North Central Mexico, South of Chihuahua on a ranch. I didn’t go to school until I was seven years old. It’s very different now! My childhood was simple, but rich in tradition and natural beauty. I went to a girl’s Catholic school. Then from there, I went off to boarding school.

EM: Where did you go to college and what did you study?
JB: I started at the University of Texas. I had too much fun, so my Daddy took me out and put me in school in Mexico City. I begged to go back to college, so he sent me to Sul Ross State College in Alpine, Texas because he knew of a ranching family that would take care of me. Soon, he realized I was really studying animal husbandry. He did not want his daughter in ranching, so he pulled me out and enrolled me at SMU in Dallas. What’s wonderful about that, by the way, is that years later my son Angus would combine his love of ranching with the leadership of our business. He’s directing the future of our company and his dedication inspires me every day.

EM: You and your sister started your careers in fashion design with your female clothing line Barboglio Cristina & Jan. At what point did your work start to shift to interior design, and what inspired that turning point?
JB: You know, my mother always loved beautiful things. She had a lot of beautiful silver and candles, so in a way I grew up with an appreciation of interior design. When I left the fashion business, I started entertaining, and I wanted lots of candles. My very first design was a 7-inch wide bobesh to catch wax. I would entertain and have lots of candles, and there would be wax all over the floor. So I designed this “wax-grabber.” My sister loved it, and she wanted one, but without the hole. She wanted them as little underplates for silver bowls. So that gave me the idea to make that plate, follow it up with a charger, and then add a tray, and now here we are. That was 27 years ago. Simply, it was my love of candles that started this whole collection. I didn’t like to pick up the wax…so it was, and is, out of necessity that the collection was born.

EM: How did a background in the business of fashion prepare you for a career as a designer?
JB: Well, I worked for Neiman Marcus after college before I started designing clothes. I was in P.R. I also went through their Executive Training Program. It was at Neimans that I really learned about product quality. The combination of those skills…knowing how to promote a brand and working with quality products…was what I drew upon when we launched our clothing collection, as well as our home collection years later.

I want to talk about your personal style. It’s very unique and iconic. It’s classic, but with its own authentic flair. How did you find that?
JB: I have no idea. Personal style just happens when you feel comfortable. Life gives your style authentic undertones. For example, I always wanted to be in ranching, so my style was sort of androgynous. It’s funny that you ask this, because my daughter Pilar sent me something recently that I was quoted saying back in the 80’s about my personal style. I find it still true today. I knew who I was back then and I’m still that person. My style has always reflected that.

Style is a sense of grace, proportion and balance. It’s unstructured and uncontrived. This may sound funny, but I’m thinking of Miss Ellie [from the TV show Dallas]. She really had style, and she’s not the type that changed the way she dressed each season. My own style has a sense of humor, a leaning toward the bizarre but hopefully not to the extent to where I lose the grace and the proportion.” –Jan Barboglio for D Magazine, 1984.

EM: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur and business owner?
JB: Balance. I’m a mother, and raising my three children while working was a challenge. I was designing fashion when they were little. I would have to leave them when I went to New York, and it killed me. But now they are grown and marrying and starting families of their own, and I see them happy and living with good morals and values. So it all worked out. Most importantly, I always made sure they knew how much I loved them. That was what mattered.

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EM: If you could give your 22 year-old self one piece of career advice, what would it be?
JB: Never give up. Ever. They say, and I truly believe, “that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
EM: If you could have lunch with any woman in the world, (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
JB: Madeline Albright. She was the first female Secretary of State. She spent her career balancing one culture with another, all in an effort to make things better than they were… creating order out of chaos. That is what made her inspiring.

EM: The mission of Oh, Eleanora is to share content that inspires, encourages and empowers women to create the lives they want to lead. How essential has it been to your success to have women in your life who have encouraged and supported your dreams?

JB: I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by friendships that are loyal and enduring, loving and sincere. This energy, along with a shot of tequila, goes a long way.

Shop the Jan Barboglio Spring 2017 collection (available now at Neiman Marcus).

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