Stephanie Kantis is a dichotomy of concepts. The South Florida resident is refined yet relaxed, sophisticated yet free spirited, chic yet wistful. And it’s because of her ability to embrace this inner paradox that today Kantis is the founder, owner and visionary of her own eponymous jewelry and accessory line – a successful line that can be found in both Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
And to think, Kantis discovered her talent for sculpting jewelry after saying goodbye to a 20-year career as a sought-after interior designer in Texas to move to Guanajuato, Mexico.
“About four years ago I said to my husband that I didn’t want to spend another summer in Dallas. … I needed a break,” Kantis, 45, says.
Kantis, who was a self-described “workaholic,” had quite the established career in Texas. After receiving a degree in interior design from Florida International University and completing her thesis in London, she moved to Dallas for her first job. After about a year, Kantis went on her own and started SKA Design Inc., which was an interior design business and retail store called Stephanie Anne.
Kantis found her niche back then when she realized she could forever revolutionize the juvenile furniture industry. “Back 20 years ago, cribs were just plain, light or dark wood, like little baby jails,” she says, laughing. So Kantis began designing cribs and nurseries with whimsical colors and themes. She even patented five crib designs, and according to Kantis, she was the first person to patent a crib without wheels.
Having championed the market, Kantis felt she needed to branch out. She focused more on interior design, a variety of linen collections and apparel. In 2008 she opened her flagship store in Highland Park Village, a coveted location in Dallas.
Things were moving at an overwhelmingly fast rate. And Kantis, who had been raised by a single mother of modest means, felt that she had to keep going to succeed. But after nearly two decades, she was reaching a breaking point. So for the first time in her life, Kantis did something for herself.
“My husband and I put everything in storage, packed two big suitcases, grabbed our two fats cats, and hopped on a plane to Mexico,” she says.
For two years Kantis donned sandals and tunics, and strolled the cobblestone streets of a town she describes as what Spain would have looked like in the 1700s. She stripped herself of her business-driven mentality and went back to her artistic roots. “It was where my creativity of an artist really came out,” she says.
While in a sculpture class, Kantis’ professor suggested she take a jewelry class. She soon realized she could take her tiny bronze sculptures, dip them in 24kt gold, place semi-precious stones and turn them into pendants she could hook onto her chains.
About six months into living in Mexico, Kantis went back to visit her store in Dallas. While attempting to show her staff how to sell a particular sofa to a client, the jewelry Kantis was wearing became the focal point. “She was too distracted with my jewelry to pay any mind to the sofa,” Kantis says.
“My client said, ‘I’ll write you a $3,200 check, and I’ll take everything you have on,’” Kantis exuberantly says. So Kantis went back to Mexico to make more jewelry, which became the top-selling item in her store.
Eventually Kantis connected with buyers from Neiman Marcus and that opened the door to a different world of possibilities. And even though she is completely back in the world of design, she is not letting the business side of it drown her. Having since sold the store in Dallas, Kantis is now focusing on finding a healthy balance between producing a high-quality artisan line and enjoying life. Then again, she is after all the perfect dichotomy of both regal and contemporary.