From an Audrey Hepburn-inspired style to a taste for the finer things, the director of Edmonton's Tiffany & Co. was destined for the job
By Caroline Gault | July 1, 2015
photography by Adam Goudreau and Dwayne Martineau, styling by Sandy Joe Karpetz hair and makeup by Jasmine Ming-Wai Ma
The doorman of New York City’s upmarket NoMad Hotel greeted 29-year-old Laura Smythe as she stepped from the lobby and onto Broadway.
“I just need a cab to Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue,” said Smythe.
The doorman raised his arm to hail a taxi, then narrowed his eyes and repeated, “You just need a cab to Tiffany on Fifth?”
Smythe could barely believe it herself. The rest of the day’s events continued to play out like a dream; a private tour of Tiffany’s famed 1940 salon and the flagship’s six floors, trying on a multimillion-dollar blue diamond ring at her tour guide’s insistence, and five intensive interviews for a coveted new position for which she’d been recruited: Director of Edmonton’s first Tiffany & Co. store at West Edmonton Mall.
“As much as I was trying to impress them, they were impressing me. It was just so perfect,” she reflects. Fast-forward to present day, as Smythe sits beneath a skylight and a grand chandelier in her impeccably styled Terwillegar home, before a Tiffany Blue table spread of tea and chocolate caramel biscuits. Now 32, Smythe has been the director of the Edmonton Tiffany & Co. since 2013.
She earned a bachelor of arts degree in commerce from the University of Alberta in 2007 with a focus on human resource management and business law. She has worked in retail for 15 years – mostly with Guess. From sales associate to store manager, she was later promoted to directorial roles, travelling across Canada to present and lead training. Among other recognitions – like District of the Year for North America at Guess in 2012 – she twice received the prized “Attitude is Everything” Award at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, the same stage that hosts the Golden Globe Awards. “I was always practising to deserve this,” she says, citing her current position with Tiffany & Co. as her dream job.
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Apart from Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Smythe couldn’t be a better depiction of the brand. From her sparkling personality and sophisticated dress, to her immaculate attention to detail (she has a gift wrapping station – not without ribbon spools – built into her home cabinetry), being “put together” is a way of life.
“Well put-together,” says Smythe. “That is the Tiffany brand.” Top from Guess by Marciano; skirt from Pink Tartan, heels from Kate Spade; ring, earrings, necklace and bracelets from Tiffany & Co.
How would you describe your personal style?
A combination of classic, refined and girly styles – unapologetically. I challenge myself every day to figure out how I can put a bow into my outfit. I am not kidding, I do. I like feminine touches and things that truly never go out of style.
What are the five favourite items inyour closet?
I am midi-skirt obsessed. I would say my favourite one is a royal blue Pink Tartan with polka dots all over it. That would be number one. I have a tweed cape by Marciano. I wear it all the time. If I ever lost it, I would be heartbroken, because it’s just the perfect cape, and I love a good cape. That’s my number two. And then I have this Diane Von Furstenberg fit and flare dress – it’s black, and it’s just so classic. I have this Anthropologie three-quarter-length shift dress – it’s the cutest thing ever. And then a Lord & Taylor ivory and dark green fit and flare with pockets. They all have pockets, everything I’ve mentioned.
Do you have any trademark looks?
I always have my hair down. If I had my way, I’d wear my hair the same way every day – down and fabulous. And then I always wear a silk Tiffany scarf and pearls. It’s rare to catch me not wearing pearls. And I’m always wearing a black stocking – which sounds like I live in the 1920s!
What era were you meant tolive in?
The ’50s. I love chivalry. I love manners. Manners matter. That’s really important to me. I could be wearing an apron and baking cookies but, for me, I couldn’t be a Stepford wife. Except for the sexism, I definitely could’ve been in the ’50s!
Pastime Hosting dinner parties
Hangout spot Cavern
Breakfast spot TheFairmont Hotel Macdonald
Restaurant The Marc
Dish Pappardelle at Corso32
Perfume English Pear & Freesia by Jo Malone
Book I’ll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich
Film Home Alone
Local boutique Workhall
Fashion magazine Elle US
Beauty product MAC lipstick
Clothing designer Diane Von Furstenberg
Jewellery Diamond bow necklace by Tiffany & Co.
Accessory Louis Vuitton shawl
Style icon Audrey Hepburn
Home decor shop Restoration Hardware
Does your taste translate to how you style your home?
Absolutely. I love traditional, but I also love certain components of super modern. And I feel like that’s everything with my style. It’s like my house is like French country, and then my furniture is the same kind of thing – rustic glamorous.
What piece from Tiffany & Co. should every woman have in her jewellery box?
Pearls. If it’s something you wear everyday – whether it’s a short strand or a long strand – every girl needs some pearls. It’s rare that there’s a day I don’t actually have some on.
And DBTY – Diamonds by the Yard necklaces by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. She believed that diamonds should be worn every day with everything. She revolutionized how people wore diamonds in the ’70s. They say they should’ve called it “Diamonds by the Mile,” because that’s how long the lineup was down the street to buy them on Fifth Avenue. A man doesn’t have to buy you a diamond. You can buy it for yourself.
What do you love about working in retail?
What do I not love about working in retail? I am constantly on my toes. I use my degree every single day, which I think is a surprise for some people. And every single day, you know how you did. You don’t need to wait for weeks or months, or until your boss gets around to telling you. I know every day from what my clients tell me and by the time I close my doors and see my reports.
Dress from White House Black Market; jacket from Kate Spade; earrings, necklace and bracelet from Tiffany & Co.
Name one career highlight.
A presentation I did in Los Angeles when I was a lead trainer at Guess. It was called Smile and Move, based on the book, Smile & Move. It’s all about having that upbeat positive attitude, embracing service and being really happy to serve others – not subservient, but truly honoured to help other people. That’s retail. We’re here to help you find what you need. Getting recognition for that presentation was an absolute highlight.
After years in the business, what’s it like working for a historic brand like Tiffany & Co.?
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Tiffany. I am Tiffany through and through – always have been, always will be. There’s only been a handful of brands that I’ve always wanted to work for, and Tiffany has always been at the top of that list. Some people ask if I ever get sick of seeing the Tiffany boxes or the blue bags – and I never get sick of it. It never gets old. But sometimes I need to shake my head and remind myself that this is still the most exciting brand in the world. Really, it is. I think it’s every girl’s dream job.
What’s your involvement with the Edmonton Down Syndrome Society? [My husband] Dave started off as treasurer years ago because he wanted some volunteer experience. Now, he’s the chairman of the board. People often assume that we have a family member or know someone with Down syndrome, but it’s just that we both wholeheartedly believe in the cause. I’m mostly involved in planning Uniquely Me, which is their annual fundraiser and fashion show. It will be the fourth annual on September 10th this year.
Dress from Ann Taylor; jacket from Kasper; Jimmy Choo shoes; earrings, necklace and bracelet from Tiffany & Co. How does Tiffany & Co. get involved?
Last year, Tiffany decided to donate the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” experience in New York City, and we did not even know how excited people were going to get about it. The response was unparalleled. For me, I’m so proudly Edmontonian, so to be able to bring something that people wouldn’t expect here, and to be able to give it to this community, that means so much to me, whether I’m supporting Dave’s charity or not, that’s kind of an extra bonus. And then the fact that it went for $50,000 – that was just icing on the cake.
How does your team at Tiffany & Co. in New York perceive Edmonton?
Edmonton is not overlooked. I’m very vocal about all the great things happening here, and how relevant and applicable everything Tiffany would be to that. And whenever I’m hosting people from New York and from Tiffany, I ensure that I take them to a local restaurant, never a chain. I drive them through our downtown, I ensure they see our river valley, because I think it’s just disappointing when people see the airport to the mall and back. I ensure that they experience what Edmonton really is. I don’t think Tiffany necessarily knew what to expect when they came here, and I definitely know we haven’t disappointed.