Tara Mercurio of One Moon sits across from me outside the Surrey Hotel in New York City on a rainy April day. A native New Yorker, Tara looks at ease amidst the hustle and bustle of Madison Avenue, however she (and her trusty sidekick Dudley) have lived in Los Angeles for the better part of the past twenty-years. As the founder & CEO of One Moon, an up-and-coming lifestyle cashmere brand, Tara can be a hard woman to track down. As she races from LA to New York to Dallas to Aspen she is slowlybut surely converting the world to her luxurious “capes with a cause.”
Q: So, Tara, let’s talk about the beginning! Where are you from, how did it all start?
A: Well, I was born in New Jersey and then went to college in New York. I was an actress before I was in fashion, but I was always interested in fashion. While I was acting I did styling work, helped out friends, and worked retail. My interests really developed from a consumer perspective.
Q: Ah, the retail job – so hard to hold on to that paycheck!
A: I always worked retail so I could get the clothing, the clothing allowance! I worked at the GAP in high school.
Q: Was fashion part of your home life?
A: My mom is very, very into fashion. She’s always well put together, even if she doesn’t leave the house she’s done and groomed, very ladylike. I definitely think that had an influence. Trends have never been my thing. I’ve always preferred to buy an investment piece and I think I got that value from my mom.
Q: How did One Moon come into being?
A: The story of One Moon really begins with the philanthropic side. I was volunteering at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving in the LA area. They had sleeping bags for those in need and that evening there were 1200 homeless people and only 500 sleeping bags. November in Southern California is quite cold, and I was really struck with how warmth is a luxury for a lot of people and that didn’t seem right and it just really stuck with me.
Q: That is a very powerful catalyst. How did the business and design aspect of the brand evolve from that thought about warmth?
A: I actually began telling the story [about my experience at the soup kitchen] to a friend of mine who worked at Tom’s Shoes and she said, “that is the story. The power of a brand is your passion behind the story.” So it was this idea of warmth that propelled it forward. Our model is different than Tom’s shoes, they’re one for one, but their business model helped me to understand the power of conscious consumerism.
Q: So, even the business aspect developed from a philanthropic place.
A: Totally. We had sleeping bags on the brain. I wanted to better understand what was needed so I started volunteering weekly with a small group of friends at the Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC) in Santa Monica, which is an incredible organization. As we were volunteering we developed our first piece, the California Capelet. We launched the California Capelet at Christmas with a sleeping bag drop at the OPCC women’s drop-in center. It was small, twenty-five women. We did a little Christmas party and I’ll never forget one of the first women I handed a bag to said: “Oh my God my prayers are answered. I was so cold last night and I had to borrow a blanket. And now I have one. God bless you and your family and Merry Christmas.” I was so humbled by how grateful she was and how she actually felt lucky that she was able to be warm, which is touching and also very heartbreaking because warmth should not be a luxury.
Q: So, what year was that launch?
A: The official launch was in 2012, but we really started in 2011 with that idea at Thanksgiving. So we are almost 2-years-old. This is our third season. The first season was testing the concept and the style, then last fall we added some designs and now we’re sort of on our way.
Q: How did the design elements of the brand and your role as the designer evolve?
A: I’m not a trained designer. I suppose I consider myself more of a conceptual designer, but I use that label very lightly. I think it’s more about embodying a lifestyle. I was really inspired by living in Southern California. There’s a style that you don’t really find anywhere else. I wanted to create something that could be that “perfect piece,” something that goes with you from day to evening and transitions easily. It’s a classic, not a trend, something you’re never going to see on the sale rack.
Q: I’ll take three.
A: [laughs] When I was first coming up with the idea I was traveling a lot and that had a huge influence. The traveling and the packing – I always wished someone would give me a packing list or tell me the five perfect things to buy. I remember going to Martha’s Vineyard in the off-season for a wedding and had this idea of a warm island, so of course I packed wrong. I was running around freezing and trying to find something. It’s things like that that inspired me to think about “that piece” that just works.
Q: I would imagine there have been a lot of learning curves not coming from a design background?
A: Oh yes. For our capelet I wanted this specific blanket stitch, which I discovered through research is done by a certain sewing machine and just tracking everything down. All of our pieces are handmade. The quality is in the details, which is an art form all it’s own. Finding the right craftsmen was a journey unto itself.
Q: Ok, now for the lightening round questions. How would you describe the brand?
A: The brand is really about the casual elegance of the lifestyle enthusiast. Nothing cumbersome or limiting, the idea that you could wear one of our pieces to a cocktail party, but you could also wear it after yoga. An investment piece that you’ll have for ages!
Q: Favorite designer?
A: There’s certainly a range, but I would say my favorite life style brand [designer] is Ralph Lauren—he can be very down to earth in denim shirts and worn out jeans, but can also be very high end. I love the mix of classic and Americana. He really gets it.
Q: Describe your style in one sentence.
A: It’s a bit different from the brand, but definitely embodies the idea of “understated classic,” maybe with a bit of a French edge. I love CÉLINE and that feminine French influence. That’s more than one sentence, but oh well.
Q: Favorite place to ski or snowboard and, maybe more importantly, favorite après ski or snowboard place.
A: That is tough! I’d say probably a tie between Aspen and Deer Valley, although I’m not much of a skier. For après ski, in Aspen definitely the Hotel Jerome. Last time I visited we literally spent every meal there…even though we weren’t staying at the hotel [laughs]. In Deer Valley, The Montage is my favorite après ski spot. They have a s’mores bar, which is of course for kids, but I love it.
Q: Tell us a bit about your new collection. Any must-haves for SNOW readers?
A: The new collection is more complex. We are evolving. Our two new pieces are the Military Cape and our Hooded Wrap, they are winter fashion must haves. The Military Cape is more of an outerwear piece, as opposed to a wrap. The Hooded Wrap is very dramatic, beautiful draping with a fantastic hood, perfect for day or evening. I would definitely suggest the Hooded Wrap for SNOW Readers. It is beautiful on its own, but is also a fantastic layering piece. I love to layer with vests and leather jackets. You can even wear some of our pieces, like the Everything Wrap, as large scarves; you can really be creative and make everything your own all that more special.