Brooklyn Decker and business partner Whitney Casey may have created the smart wardrobe-organizing app Finery, but it’s probably the calendar that she checks most frequently on her phone. As a budding entrepreneur, the mom of two youngsters (Stevie and Hank), the wife of a former tennis star (Andy Roddick) and a busy actress (Netflix’s Grace and Frankie), we can only imagine how hectic things are.
Still, the 31-year-old Decker found a way to squeeze us into her day. We made the most of the time, too, asking the Austin resident (who escapes to her beloved North Carolina when she can) about building apps, traveling with kids and sprinting from the airport to a business meeting wearing a sweatsuit and heels.
Where in the world are you right now?
I’m in Cashiers, North Carolina. Have you ever heard of that?
It’s near Asheville, right?
Yes, I’m an hour west of Asheville.
Have you ever been to Old Edwards Inn & Spa?
Oh, yeah! We’re like 30 minutes away from that. It’s gorgeous. [The North Carolina Highlands] is such a secret little pocket. I feel like people in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee know about it, but other than that, it feels like a secret pocket.
What’s the secret to taking a good idea, like Finery, from a concept to a reality?
We had come up with a lot of bad ideas before Finery. They all sort of revolved around selling more stuff to women, which is fine. I am a true consumer. I shop almost 95 percent online for everything, from my clothes to my household items. It’s not that it’s a bad idea; it’s just that there are so many people doing it well that we didn’t feel like there needed to be another e-commerce site on the market.
Before Finery, it was these crazy, wonky ideas. None of them took off. Then Whitney — I give her full credit — asked, “What do we need in our lives?” We have all these management systems to run everything in our lives, everything from our travel to our music and our finances. I have an app that can control my thermostat from another state. If I’m traveling, I can look at my kids’ baby monitor from my cell phone. It’s crazy. But there’s nothing out there to help us actually manage our stuff [in our closet].
As women, we will spend more money on our clothing than our education. These aren’t just fashion-loving women, either; these are just average women who need to get dressed for work and need to get dressed for their kids’ graduation. We spend so much money and time of these things, but there’s nothing out there to help us manage it.
Whitney brilliantly looked at other technology out there, like Slice and Mint, that were using similar technology that we do for saving money. We started testing it.
We’re not coders, so we partnered with someone [Gillis Baxter] who had an app. He had run a business. He knew how to code. I think that’s the biggest piece of advice to anyone who has a great idea but doesn’t know how to turn it into something: you can have a good idea and not know how to execute, but if you can find someone who does, there could be a really good partnership there.
Let’s say we’re planning a weekend getaway. Exactly how does Finery help relieve any packing stress?
If you talk to any person, let alone a woman, about packing for a trip, it’s always a daunting task because you’re sitting in your closet and you’re rummaging through your stuff. You want to make sure you’re not packing too much. Do you have everything that you need?
First of all, when you sign in, we show you all of your inventory. That’s our patented technology — we get your online purchases and hold them in an online wardrobe for you. If you’re a big online shopper like me, and most of your items are in your wardrobe, [it’s a great fit]. But if you’re not a big online shopper, if you shop mostly in [brick-and-mortar] stores, you can easily add items to your browser extension. Your clothing will go into an online wardrobe, so it’s in your pocket.
From there, if you’re actually packing for a trip, you can be able to see what you have in your closet. We can create a few looks and you can add them to a trip. We have “trip.” We have “work.” We have “vacation.” We have “brunch.” We have “date night.” We have all these different categories in looks, so women can start organizing their closet based on looks.
Instead of spending that two and a half hours a week they do getting dressed, they go to their phone, they see a look, they go to their closest, they grab it and they go.
The same thing goes for packing. You see the stuff, you add them to your trip file and that’s what you use to pack. It’s just really easy instead of having to be in your closet doing it.
I do it while I’m in line waiting for coffee. I do it while I’m in the waiting room at the doctor’s office with my kid. I’ll do it when I’m on my way to pick my son up from school. There’s just all this down time that you have, where you’re typically scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, that you can actually use productively and pack from afar.
Aside from Finery, what are a few travel hacks that you’ve applied to your life?
Everything that I pack has to serve double duty. This might sound super lazy, but it’s true. There are these Everlane cashmere sweats. They’re so indulgent and so cozy for a flight. It’s a gray sweatpant and sweatshirt. I have thrown on a pair of heels and a blazer and have walked from the airplane to a business meeting, and it looks perfectly appropriate.
I just believe everything you pack should do double duty. I believe in investing in those nice things because you’re packing less and not having to pack those extra pairs of pajamas or plane clothes. It can all kind of work as one.
There’s this brand called Lunya, and they make silk pajamas. Again, you can wear them on a flight, to bed or to a business meeting. That sounds kind of gross, so shower so your clothes don’t smell too bad. But I’m a believer that everything you pack has two or three purposes so you can pack as little as possible.
I also love Away luggage. You can plug your phone up [to the charger]. They have luggage for a lower price point. It’s awesome.
Everything I have has to work as a business outfit or a pajama. That’s asking a lot from a piece of clothing, let’s be honest. But they’re out there and they’re beneficial to everyone to find them.
In terms of traveling your children, what things have you learned?
They need to be kept busy with snacks. One of my favorite purchases for travel is a Yeti travel mug. I use it for everything, from storing soup for my son on a flight so he can have a good meal to — and this is too much information — chilling my breast milk on a flight. For a nursing mom, that is crucial, when you’re flying back, that your milk is the appropriate temperature for travel. The Yeti mug has been a total game-changer for me. Everything must have multiple uses.
For a person who co-founded a tech company, you’d think I’d be super techie, but I’m not. I don’t really want my kid to have a lot of screen time. But when we’re on a flight, you better believe that I have an iPad stocked with Paw Patrol, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and whatever else I can find.
Once they’re two and a half or three, they can actually watch something for a couple of hours. It keeps them contained on a flight, so I’m shameless when it comes to technology on flights. Anything goes.
I know you consider Austin home now. For the person who’s experiencing the city for the first time, what are a few essential stops around town?
You have to go to Uchiko, which is a sushi restaurant in Austin. No one associates sushi with Texas, obviously. But I’ve been fortunate enough to try sushi everywhere from New York to California to Japan, and the sushi at Uchiko tops almost any of them. Not to be hyperbolic, but it’s really some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s always a nice surprise to people. They’re like, “Wait, what?” It’s always a really delicious meal.
This is very touristy, but it’s an Austin must — the largest bat dwelling in North America is under the Congress Avenue Bridge. It sounds crazy, but people go there at sunset and, I think, 2 million bats fly from up under the bridge.
Everyone is drinking and having a good time and then all of these bats come out. No one knows why they’re there. Why have they chosen this urban bridge? You’d think they’d want somewhere in nature and in the woods, but they don’t.
What’s cool is that you can also walk down Congress, go to June’s and grab a drink or go to Torchy’s Tacos for amazing street tacos. It’s where [Barack] Obama came to town to get tacos when he was in Austin. Allens Boots is there. [The area is] really cool and all of the Austin staples are there.
You mention traveling to places like New York and Japan. Where would you say your fondest vacation memory happened?
This is sort of off the map, but I did a backpacking trip with my brother [Jordan] in the Arctic Circle in Alaska. I think it was six years ago. We had no cell phone service. We cooked our own food. We went to the bathroom in a hole in the ground — again, TMI, but that’s how I roll. It was just one of those trips where there was just nothing there. We would just hang out and observe the wilderness. It was a really nice reset.
I’ve been able to go to some incredible cities, and my job has afforded me great opportunities for travel, but that one was so minimalist and so scaled down that it felt really special. It’s also not a place that a lot of people go so it felt, quite literally, untouched. It felt like one of those truly wild places left in the world.
Is it safe to say you’re more of a nature girl?
Yes, very much so. Very perceptive. I love to be where there’s no cell phone service. I like being with nature and hiking and the water. I feel like I belong in the woods, for sure.
Are there any outdoorsy places that you’d love to go but haven’t yet?
So many. I want to go to New Zealand for obvious reasons. I would love to go to Glacier National Park in Montana. I want to go to Banff, Canada, and Zion National Park [in Utah]. Those are big ones on my list that I’d love to explore at some point.
Maybe when the kids are older. You know those parents who do road trips in the RVs and all the kids want to do is go to New York? You’re telling them to hike in the woods, and it’s their worst nightmare. I’m going to be that mom, I think.