Pauline Durban, British Born Founder Of An American Company Designing Clothes For Women Over Fifty, Still Wears High Heels And Finds Time To Keep Up With Her Favorite Soap Operas
This was my first conversation with Pauline, and I was blown away! I did read on Pauline’s website that she is from England, so when I heard her lovely accent I knew I was in for a treat! Pauline Durban is the Founder of Covered Perfectly, a company dedicated to designing clothes for women over fifty, so I thought it was fitting that we get to know her. We laughed quite a bit during the interview, as Pauline loves to laugh and she clearly enjoys her work. When I first approached her for the interview, her first response was, “I don’t think I’m that interesting…” I beg to differ…
Let’s begin by having you tell us a little about yourself, how old you are (if you wish to share), where you live, where you were born, and your family.
As you can tell, I’m not from America. I came here [to the States] from England in 1992, and I planned on staying here for about a year. Then I met my future ex-husband and that was the end of that! I met him in 1993, it was around the time when I said to my mom, “You know I think I’m going to come back now, kind of running out of money (I was living off savings) and time to get back to the real world and make some money. And then I met him, and 26 years later I’m still here. I live in Lake Balboa, near my office in Van Nuys, California. I like the LA lifestyle.
I just turned 62, but I like to say really I’m only 15.5. I’m a leap year baby — I was born on Feb 29th, which means I only have a real birthday every 4 years. As my uncle said to me recently, “Oh my god, you’re going to be 16 and that’s going to be real trouble!” [Linda is cracking up] Facebook gets totally confused with my birthday – one year it tells me my birthday is on the 28th, and sometimes it’s March 1st. I always celebrate on March 1st. The reason being when I was young I wanted the 28th, and my mom’s answer to that was you were born the day after the 28th, so whether it’s the 29th or the 1st, that’s your birthday.
My family is all in England. My son was out here with me. He came to California when he was seventeen. He would be back and forth and then in 2010 after spending most of his adult life in California, he decided he wanted to go back and live in England and experience life there. And, here’s what’s quite ironic – while he was back in England he met a girl he’s engaged to now – and she’s from Irvine, California. How ironic is that? He goes back to England and meets an American
I go back to England once or twice a year depending on what’s going on. I was there last year for my mom’s 80th birthday. And I have a hard time saying this out loud, but I’m going to be there in July for my son’s 40th birthday. How did that happen? I always say I had him when I was 10! It’s a long way to go but I go back as much as I can to spend time with my family.
What’s the quirkiest, most interesting, thing about you?
When you told me you were going to ask me this question I thought, I have no idea. I asked a couple of people – they all said my sense of humor. One of my friends said, “Not everyone gets it.” It’s an English thing. We can come across as mean when we’re being funny, and I have to kind of curb that a little bit because Americans may not get my humor. I’ll tell you a funny story – years and years ago an American friend and I went out with some English friends of mine who were visiting LA, and we did the English thing, the insults and the banter with each other all night. And when we left my friend said to me, “I thought they were your friends?” And I said they are my really good friends. She said, “But you were so mean to each other!” And I said that’s because we like each other. It’s a British thing.
I don’t think I’m interesting.
[I continued to press Pauline to tell me something she does that others might consider quirky — something she does every day, a habit, etc. Finally she thought of something, and it’s a goodie!]
I do something every day – I watch two soap operas, and I’ve been doing that for 26 years. And that’s something no one expects from me. When I say watch, I mean I don’t sit down and watch it – it’s on my TV while I’m doing something else. I tape the shows every day. I watch The Young And The Restless and General Hospital.
I know one of the actresses on The Young and The Restless, and we were at a party recently talking, and I was bringing her up to date on what was going on. She said I can’t believe you’re still watching it! It’s a habit! I got introduced to them when I was in a roommate situation and the girls were watching it.
When, and why, did you start your company, Covered Perfectly?
I was getting ready to go to a party and I couldn’t find anything to wear – we all go through that, right? My thing was my arms were falling apart and just not what they used to be. One of the reasons for that was I lost weight very fast at one time. So, my flabby arms I no longer wanted to be showing off. Every top I pulled out either didn’t cover my arms or exposed my tummy that I didn’t want to be showing off. And I said this is ridiculous, I can do this. This is the missing piece to the fashion industry, where women could go to one place and find tops that cover your arms and your belly and your backside. And that was when the idea hit me. Bear in mind, I had no fashion industry experience. I’d never run an online store. People told me afterwards that you know those are the two hardest industries to get into. I’m glad I didn’t know ahead of time! Not that it would have made a difference.
And that was where it started. That was in 2012. Then I had to find out how you did it because, you know, clothes don’t magically appear. I went to visit some wholesalers – and most of the wholesalers sell cheap stuff from China. That’s not where I wanted to go with this company, so I had to make it myself. I had to find someone to help me with that. There’s more than just making the clothes, selling them and shipping them out. There’s a process you have to go through.
And the fabric was the other thing. I went through so many different fabrics, and said no, that’s not right, that one’s not right. And then they said to me, you know we have this micromodal fabric – it’s more expensive but it might be what you’re looking for. I was in love! It’s breathable and great for older women going through “power surges,” it’s not heavy, it travels well. I always tell women, if you’re in a hotel and it’s got a few wrinkles, get the hair dryer out and that will get rid of the wrinkles. You can wash it, hang it up and all the wrinkles fall out.
So that was how it all came about. It took me a year to go through the process of learning about manufacturing and setting up a website. I was very fortunate because one of my friends was my first customer, and one of my business associates was my second customer and she bought five tops and I was so excited! And then I had to learn how to get the website out there, because I say putting up a website is like hosting a store in the middle of the desert and hoping that someone stops by. You have to let people know it’s there.
That was my journey. I wanted to fill a void for women over fifty. I had the idea, the excitement and the passion to do it. You know it started for women over fifty, but I kept getting emails from women in their forties asking what about us? I said, you can wear them too! I do have customers who are much younger, because the simple designs are great as layering pieces. All ages wear these tops, but I still focus on the market that was my goal to fill – the woman over fifty. And I added tanks last year because people who live in Florida and other warm climates were asking for sleeveless tops. I fought it for so long because it goes against the theme of my company. But I gave in and made tanks. People wear them under jackets, too, and they sold so well that we added a V-neck and boatneck tank as well. So I do listen to feedback!
What are your top priorities in running your company?
There are a couple of things that are my top priority. One is always provide a good quality product at a reasonable price. But what’s as important to me is customer service. We strive to offer the best customer service. And, for the most part we achieve it. There’s always someone that no matter what you do it doesn’t make them happy. But overall, you’ll see comments about how quickly we ship and how great our customer service is. It’s one of my goals and it’s on my wall – the customer comes first. It’s a matter of women supporting women.
What are some of the issues you have faced that may have affected your confidence, and how did you overcome those issues?
I don’t think I’ve ever lost my confidence in what I’ve been doing with Covered Perfectly. There’ve been obstacles to overcome as there is in life and as there is in business. One of the best things for me is that I had such a great support system when I started Covered Perfectly. I think that anyone who starts anything needs to surround themselves with positive people that are going to support you. Because you do go through a lot of challenges. I remember before I launched I went through all the “what ifs.” What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t sell?
I don’t think it was ever a lack of confidence, but for me, it was that I was going to have to do whatever it took to make it work. The biggest thing is to have that support group, so if there’s ever a time you’re worried or think what did I do, you call one of those friends. Funny story… I was supposed to go to England one Christmas and I didn’t go. I posted on Facebook, “I can’t believe I didn’t’ go to England. What was I thinking?” And my friend responded with, “….Fabric?” [laughter] It was exactly what I needed to hear! Yep, you’re right, I bought fabric with that money. So, a good support system is key.
So, I guess the answer if I ever I had a lack of confidence about what was going on, then I would call a friend!
And, friends still help me. Right from the start my friends have been models for Covered Perfectly. I’m very fortunate to have beautiful friends. My friend, Dana, has not missed a photo shoot from the beginning. She is still around supporting me.
How would you describe YOUR personal style? How do you dress every day?
I wear Covered Perfectly tops every day! Most days I dress California casual. Sometimes I will add some jewelry to spice it up. You can dress up my tops or dress them down. And you know in California, even when you go out for an evening it’s casual. When I go to England it’s more dressy. I still wear my tops, but in a different way. I wear pants and leggings…I won’t let anyone tell me that women over sixty shouldn’t wear leggings. They’re comfortable, as long as you wear the right top with them. You don’t want to be wearing leggings and showing off too much of THAT [laughter] – they need to be longer tops. That’s a must.
I still wear high heels – every day – 3” and sometimes more. I must say I was happy when these chunky heels came in because they’re way more comfortable and easier to walk in. But, I’ve worn high heels all my life, and I’m fortunate that I haven’t had a problem continuing to wear them. I have more trouble with flat shoes – believe me, I’ve tried them. But they hurt the back of my leg. So, I stick with my high heels. I just ordered a pair of high heels from Nordstrom. [I asked Pauline what brand of high heel she likes] Oh I don’t pay any attention to brands. I’ve got Bagley Mischka, Carlos Santana, or I might be walking through an alley in LA and see a pair for $20 and buy them! If I like it I buy it. I don’t think I’d spend thousands on a pair of shoes, but shoes are my thing. Betsy Johnson makes a great shoe…
How has your personal style changed after fifty?
My skirts are not as short. [laughter] Although my legs have stayed good – they’re the last to go. That might be because I wear high heels! But, even in the summer I don’t wear short shorts like I did when I was young. I’ve had to change my style a little because I put on weight in my forties and then in my late forties I lost a lot of weight and got down to a size 4.
And I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but I got breast cancer in 2007. So, everything that I did had to change. Because to stay a size 4 I had to do fifty minutes of Tae Bo every day. My surgeon said no, you can’t do that anymore, it’s too strenuous. So, I stopped of course, and I put on weight. Fortunately, it’s been eleven years that I’ve been cancer free. I was very lucky in that I did a self test every month and I found the lump. I’ve been in remission for eleven years now.
I don’t know if I’ve really changed my style that much – other than the fact that my butt’s now covered, my tummy’s now covered, and my arms are covered. [laughter]
What is your favorite style trick or tip you’d like to share?
My go-to style tip is the cascading vest. When I first designed that, I was thinking, okay, I need a cover up of some kind. I looked at different styles and thought, okay, this will work. And what was interesting was I’ve got this flowy vest. All of the sudden my blogger friends started styling it in all these different ways. I always say now, that you’re only limited by your imagination – you can do so much with it. When I want to cover my midsection I tie it up and it covers a multitude of sins.
So, pretty much every day I wear a vest. We have so many prints in these vests and I’ve two new prints coming out shortly.
Here’s the question I get all the time: how do I cover my muffin top? It’s not just about the top – you have to start with good fitting underwear. If you have a bra that’s too tight, that you’re bulging out of it all over the place, no top is going to hide it.
You have to have well fitting skirt or pants – if your pants are too tight, it’s going to hang over the top! Fortunately, some of my tops will cover that, and also, the cascading vest will cover it. But in reality we don’t like to go up a size, but we should. At my age, it’s about comfort. I can still wear the same style, but now it has to be comfortable, and I don’t want to feel like I’m cut in the middle.
So when people ask me whether my tops will cover muffin top I tell them first, you need the right bra, and secondly, you want to wear a skirt or pants that actually fit you. It will then cover everything else.
What’s coming up for you and your company — what would you like to announce?
We just added some beautiful skirts with matching tops. You can buy the top that has edging on it. I just launched two new tanks and a new top, and in about three weeks there will be a couple more. But for my first time website visitors, there’s something for everybody – high neck, low neck, short tops, long tops, tank tops, the LBD, skirts. I’m adding a couple of new pencil skirts.
What would you tell a woman who is ready to make some changes in her life?
I came up with the idea of Covered Perfectly when I was 56 and I launched when I was 57. When a lot of people are thinking about retirement I’m starting a business.
Women have to realize that it’s never too late to do anything. I started a business. I spent my whole life thinking I wanted to travel. Travel? We only get one life, and I’ve been fortunate because I’ve lived in Spain, England and America. If you’re waiting for the exact right time it’s not going to happen. When I look at something I look at all the reasons why I SHOUD do something. A lot of people look at the reasons why they SHOULDN’T do something. And I guarantee you, if I’d looked at all the reasons why I shouldn’t have come to America, I wouldn’t have come. There were more reasons not to than to.
If you look at what’s stopping you, you can always turn that around and instead, look at what you can do to turn that SHOULDN’T into a SHOULD.
For me, I wanted to fill a void. There was definitely a void for women our age to have stuff that was made just for them. If I had really looked at this I would never have started Covered Perfectly. Fortunately I’m a workaholic so I don’t mind working all the hours under the sun. I don’t feel that working is work, because it’s what I want to do.
What is the best way for members to connect with you?
Here are some ways to reach me:
Covered Perfectly Website (Please use this link, which is Linda’s Affiliate Link when checking out the site)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Pauline will see your emails)
Pauline wanted me to add that for those who don’t like to shop online, they can look at the website and call Covered Perfectly to place an order with a real human being! The phone number is (818) 322-0602 and the office hours are Monday – Friday 10:00am – 4:00pm PDT.
Please share an inspirational quote with us.
The one that comes up for me is this quote,
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
I have to make things happen. No one else can do it for me…
Another is a favorite poem, “Don’t Quit.” Have you read it? If not, you should Google it. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I read this poem. Today is my Dad’s birthday, and he’s no longer with us. He was a singer so I have songs of his. And yesterday I was having a really bad day and he came on my iTunes singing “That’s Life.” Okay Dad, I hear you. Get over this. Don’t quit! Basically that song is about life’s ups and downs, so I said okay, Dad, thank you!!
Thanks so much for sharing your personal journey with us. It was inspiring and fun to chat with you!