The First Family of Fashion is back…to New Jersey, that is. The women of Diane & Co., the super popular dress store featured on Oxygen’s Jersey Couture, dress up fashion—and drama—each week on their hit show. Celebrity Parents spoke with mom Diane Scali and sisters Kim and Chrissy about fashion, fun and family, Jersey-style.
Let’s talk about life prior to Jersey Couture.
Diane: I have been in business for 34 years. I started out here in NJ 18 years ago, in a little store. For 20 years, I did casual wear and then I changed over into formal wear. I had so many great customers, and built up great relationships. It came to the point where I began designing dresses for women, too. People started coming and coming, built up relationships, started designing for women. I had a vision for them, and overnight I became a fashion designer, because I cared for them.
Chrissy: It’s a hard business to be in. Our salesgirls don’t run on commission. It’s a way of life for us; this is all we know. We don’t really have a life. We don’t get to see our friends. People think, “Oh, you get to work with your mom and play dress up.” It’s not like that. Your feet burn at night, and you work 12 hour days.
So what’s the tradeoff?
Kim: The joy is when you have a plus size girl who cries because you made her look good, or you have a mom dying of breast cancer and she gets to see her daughter go to prom in a pretty dress. Or you have a woman who lost 150 pounds and is now in a size ten. It’s when your customers hug and kiss you when they leave.
Chrissy: Or when you have your wedding on a Friday night and you’re here Saturday morning still in your makeup and hair to show us the pictures!
Diane: I think our customers love us because it’s not just about the dress. We’re their therapists. I know that I’m a gynecologist, a psychologist, a boobologist! [laughs]
Kim: Our goal is not to dress a celebrity. Our goal is to dress the everyday woman and make her feel like a celeb.
Diane, I’ve read that you didn’t go to your own prom. Why is that?
Diane: I’m the youngest of six, and I’ve been working since I was 13. Prom wasn’t as big a deal then as it is now. As the youngest, we just didn’t have enough money to buy the dress. All of my friends went but I didn’t go. Now, I take prom very seriously. I want all my girls to have the best dress possible for their prom.
Kim: Prom is to high school kids is what the Oscars are to Hollywood. That’s how we treat it. We get people from Ohio and West Virginia, all across the United States, who come to see us.
Diane: I’ll always be able to find a dress for a girl to go to prom. I wouldn’t want someone to not go to prom because she doesn’t have a big budget.
What are some mistakes or myths about dress buying that women make?
Diane: I like to educate people. I think that ruching is not good for everyone.
Kim: Another mistake is thinking that because you’re plus size you need to wear a big jacket or that you have to wear chiffon. You can break the rules but you have to know how you do it.
What is the philosophy of Diane & Co.?
Chrissy: We don’t stop until you find the perfect dress. You want a dress, you give us a budget, and then we’ll get you your dress. We run our store differently. It’s a one-on-one service, and we pull for you. We call it the Pretty Woman Experience. You’ll walk out of our store with a dress that you love.
Now how did Jersey Couture come to be?
Chrissy: Whose version do you want? [laughs]
Diane: I’ll tell her.
Kim: But you’re version is too long!
Diane: I’ll cut it. [laughs] A lady called and said that her daughter was getting married. She made the appointment and we gave her the Cinderella experience. As they were leaving, the bride said, “You would make a great reality show. I’m a TV producer and I’d love to do a show on you. Right after my wedding, I’ll call you.” It happened very quickly after that. We shot the pilot and then signed with Oxygen.
How has the show affected your lives?
Diane: My husband and I fight over it. It’s a lot of stress. If you watch one of the previous episodes, there was a big fight.
Kim: What comes with it can be stressful. It’s everything else that gets put aside to film. I’ve forgotten my daughter at school twice!
From the first to the second season, what changes have you seen in yourselves?
Kim: We’re still the same.
Chrissy: The first season focused more on our personal lives. But now with the second season, I’ve found my title, so I don’t get picked on as much.
What is it like working together?
Kim: It’s all we know.
Diane: I’m blessed to have my kids with me all the time. People die to see their grandkids and I see them all the time.
Chrissy: We’re mother/daughter but we’re also business partners. We should talk to each other as business partners and not scream at each other in the store, but sometimes it happens.
Diane: But we’re here 80 hours a week together, so there’s no filter. We all vent to our husbands and Chrissy vents to her boyfriend, but then the next day it’s all forgotten. Yes, there are fights, but it’s more of the stress and it’s always about the business, or about what we forgot to do.
What can fans expect this season from Jersey Couture?
Chrissy: Fashion that you’ve never seen before. A lot of stories behind the dresses. We always say that every girl has a story and every story has a dress.
Kim: We never know who is going to walk through our door. We never know who we’re filming with; it’s as natural as a regular customer coming in. We don’t want to know anything about them ahead of time, so it’s natural and really represents how we operate.
We’ve talked a bit about balance, but how do you find it?
Kim: There isn’t any. I only took two weeks maternity leave! I had cameras installed in the store so I could watch at home and on my phone. I’m addicted.
Chrissy: She’s a workaholic. She lives and breathes business. I turn everything off when I go home.
What are your plans for the future?
Diane: I would like to expand. We’re getting more into pageants and we’re going to need a pageant room. I’d also like a playhouse for my grandkids, and offices for all of us. It would be great to put in a runway, too.
Chrissy: We love what we do. We love the customers we get to work with. They connect with each of us in different ways. In the end, we want a customer for life, not just for one dress.
Kim: I think that everyone can relate to us, whether you’re from Jersey or not. Our show shows that you can run a business with your family, be successful and be happy.