Our iconoclast hostess, Arianna Huffington, is one of several female "curators" on the Web that I admire--visionaries who cherry pick the best of what fascinates them, and turn their finds into successful online enterprises.
I have a similar bent--you might call it an obsessive quest--for seeking out quality lifestyle gems from around the world, be they charming hotels or niche lifestyle services. After 15+ years of collecting my finds and having friends tap my "files," I launched Suzanne"s Files three years ago to share these special finds with a global audience. I'm grateful that I can earn a living doing something I love and I admire these other Chic Curators of the Web--all smart, stylish, savvy women who cut through clutter to present their well-edited selections with intelligence, panache and an honest--and often entertaining--point of view. They've inspired me, and they just may inspire you ... (prepare to bookmark!)
Natalie Massanet, Founder and Chairman of Net-a-Porter
Net-a-Porter is perfect for busy women who don't have time for shopping excursions. Its founder, Natalie Massanet, an American expat in London (like me!), worked as an editor at TATLER, and as a stylist for the late Isabella Blow before discovering the Web; she was immediately perplexed by its lack of upscale e-boutiques. First, she advised a friend importing pashminas for department stores to instead sell them directly to global consumers online. The friend didn't listen, but not wanting to miss a glaring opportunity, Natalie launched the aptly named Net-a-Porter.com in 2000 with a mission to make her favorite seasonal runway looks available online. "Names, names, names!," Edina from Absolutely Fabulous would exclaim with glee if she logged on; they're all there, from Pucci and Edina's beloved Christian Lacroix to young designers and edgy brands like Philip Lim and Thomas Wylde. Recession woes? Once again, Natalie's ahead of the curve--she's about to launch The Outnet.com, a designer outlet selling major labels at markdown prices, with the trademarked slogan of "It's Chic-onomics." Can't wait!
Heather Stephenson & Jen Boulden, Co-Founders of Idealbite.com
The Green Gods must have been conspiring the night Heather Stephenson and Jen Boulden randomly met in a restaurant in New York several years ago, and became fast friends when discovering they shared experience in and a passion for sustainable business and conscientious consumerism. Enter Idealbite, a four-year old site the duo launched to help time-starved people to lead more eco-friendly lives, thanks to bite-sized tips delivered via daily e-mails. Heather and Jen's "lite green" philosophy is to seek out simple ways all of us can play a small part in saving the planet without having to feel guilty or give up creature comforts. The response has been so enthusiastic that they've rolled geo-specific e-mails for New York, Chicago, Denver, L.A, San Francisco, and Seattle. I'm tapping my green thumbs hoping for a London edition soon!
Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti, Founder and CEO, Vivre.com
I met Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzetti last year, and she was as chic and savvy as I imagined. Even before I met her, it was clear from how she curates Vivre"s exquisite products that she has innate style and a keen eye. Eva was raised in Switzerland and attended college in New York, where she worked in investment banking before launching Vivre in 1996. Eva scours the entire world for an eye-catching mix of clothing, travel accessories, jewelry, home furnishings, and gifts--some from luxury brands, but others from obscure craftsmen or artists. Her sensible approach to the art of living well appeals to me; her selections aren't about fads or flaunting labels, but instead are about well-made products that have value because they're artistic, clever, beautiful, timeless, practical, or simply because they'll delight a loved one--and that's a worthy investment.
Carmen Busquets, Founder and CEO of CoutureLab.com
Even if you're not in the market for a one-of-a-kind lapis lazuli necklace with an ancient pendant from Afghanistan (but made by a French artist based in Bali), it's worth checking out CoutureLab.com, if only to be inspired by its unusual, innovative fashion and design pieces. (Yes, these exclusive items don't come cheap, but a girl's gotta dream!) The London-based gallery and online shop was launched in 2007 by Carmen Busquets, a Venezuelan-born businesswoman who once owned a boutique in Caracas, and later became a founding investor in Net-a-porter. Her new online venture is all about things that are rare and remarkable; to emphasize the artistic nature of her collection, she opened a Chelsea gallery to display her custom commissions from artisans and designers. Because her pieces are made in limited quantities, some are only available to invited members, and the gallery is by appointment only. You can find out more about how to become a member here, and tell her Suzanne sent you!