Growing up in Texas in an entrepreneurial family with an upbeat, “can do,” Southern spirit, Elaine Turner was introduced to fashion at a young age. Playing dress up and looking to her mother for inspiration, Elaine began to develop her own unique aesthetic sparked by family vacations, especially international and Mediterranean travels. She was swept away by the effortless, laidback luxury of island living. “I remember being awestruck as I watched my mother on the beach with her oversized hats, bags, and sunglasses—she epitomized elegance and beauty to me. She took pride in putting herself together and had fun with accessories and the statement of fashion,” remembers Elaine.
A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Advertising, Elaine gained industry experience early on, designing for a New York apparel brand. She was passionate about creating products that were a reflection of her dreams and experiences. She especially loved the idea of modernizing classic shapes, like the Kelly bag and envelope clutch, in unexpected materials, such as raffia and cork with bamboo details.
A few years later, Elaine recognized that her passion for all things glamorous and her entrepreneurial spirit could be used to design a line of products that inspire others and give back. After meeting her husband, Jim Turner, the two co-founded Elaine Turner® and launched the eponymous lifestyle brand in April 2000, starting with handbags. The goal was simple: use the language of design to create elegant, yet affordable, accessories that make women feel beautiful inside and out.
To those who know her, Elaine has become known as “Houston’s handbag queen,” with an infectious laugh, relatable personality, and overwhelmingly positive outlook on life. Her company has expanded from handbags, shoes, and jewelry to apparel as recently as spring 2015.
Grounded in meaningful purpose, the spirit of giving is at the very core of the Elaine Turner brand and belief system. During Elaine’s first year in college, her mother Marlaine was diagnosed with breast cancer, and still receives treatments every three weeks at MD Anderson. Elaine’s mom’s battle has placed even larger importance on giving back and living life to the fullest. Since the company began, Elaine has avidly supported breast cancer awareness, donating time and funds to various cancer related non-profits. Dedicated to leaving a legacy of giving, Elaine actively seeks opportunities to connect with local and national charity organizations.
In April 2015, Elaine and Jim helped launch Autism Rescue Angels in honor of their daughter Marlie. The organization is dedicated to helping families with the financial burden of raising a child diagnosed with autism. Each of the brand’s eight stores in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio have become a platform for women to connect and inspire each other, while raising awareness and funds for causes close to their hearts.
Since Elaine launched Elaine’s Big Life, a documentary style web series on YouTube, she has been able to pursue her dream of further connecting and engaging with women who want to get to know her! The video diary shows a never before seen, behind-the-scenes look at the glamorous (and at times, not so glamorous) life of the mom, wife, designer, and philanthropist as she celebrates her fifteenth year in business and hits the national stage. This September the series will re-launch as Elaine’s Big Ideas, focusing more on life and style advice from Elaine’s perspective. “My hope for the series is that viewers will feel an emotional connection. I want to set an example and show that it is possible to keep others in mind and have a sense of humor, even when wearing many hats and struggling to find a balance in our sometimes stress-filled lives. I hope to empower women who feel that nothing’s ever enough,” says Elaine.
Elaine and Jim have succeeded in creating a truly distinctive company culture that is authentically their own, one that encourages originality, celebration, and a love of pink. It is Elaine’s hope that her brand will continue to inspire and empower women as it grows into a comprehensive lifestyle brand with product offerings in the areas of fashion, beauty, and home décor.