Jane Scott Hodges embraced an antique needle art, resurrected a dying industry and became extremely successful. Plus she did what so many mothers have been unable to do — she got people to make their beds. She admits it was all serendipity, not a business plan.
Hodges is the owner of Leontine Linens (www.leontinelinens.com) a bespoke linen line — one where everything is handmade to order. The products are exquisite — and the reason to make your bed. Their quality is reflected in their price; starter bed linens at Leontine are usually $1,500 a set, less for individual pieces, with an eight- to 12-week wait for delivery. They are not an impulse buy.
That is because everything — everything — is handmade for each customer. From the design of a monogram to the colors of the thread and the style of the border, all products are individually designed, and sewn by hand. This is an old-style selfie, where the embroidered initials on items in a wedding trousseau were a woman’s personal signature. Now, knowing acronyms are de rigueur, monograms are trendy as well as historical.
Hodges will be in Fort Worth as the keynote speaker at Design Inspirations, the annual fundraiser that takes tabletop designs to new heights, often literally. The 24th event, presented by Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi, includes a preview party March 1 and a luncheon March 2. Proceeds will benefit Child Study Center and Gill Children’s Services.
The monograms Hodges uses are works of art. Many are riffs on antique monograms, but most of them are newly worked designs by Hodges’ staff that are made to appeal to the owner’s design sense. They can be as simple as a single letter emblazoned like a letterman’s jacket on the center of a sham, or multiple letters intertwined in a graphic dance.
She says she came to the monogram game when she found her great-grandmother’s sheets and handkerchiefs. Their beauty and quality of workmanship impressed her. Since she was newly engaged at the time, she says, she imagined her own monogram on luxury fabrics that could withstand the test of laundry and families.
But she couldn’t find anything in contemporary designs or colors. Monograms were no longer in vogue and what was available was very old-fashioned — three small letters sewn on the corner of white napkins. Nowhere could she find the bright colors and large-scale initials she envisioned.
There was, however, a custom linen manufacturer in Hardinsburg, Ky. — the Eleanor Beard Studio. Hodges says she worked with the studio’s seamstresses to create her vision, and soon friends were asking for her help in creating their own monogrammed linens. She set up a business in the guest room of her house on Leontine Street in New Orleans. The year was 1996.
Last year, Hodges celebrated the 20th anniversary of Leontine Linens. She has a single store, on Magazine Street in New Orleans, where she sells bed, bath and table linens, as well as monogrammed gifts. It is her only retail location. For her clients, Hodges or one of her staff will make house calls to major cities across the South, including Dallas-Fort Worth. It’s a deeply personal business.
Along the way, Hodges’ linen sense was noticed by Martha Stewart and included in a segment on the domestic doyenne’s television show; it gave Hodges an entry into glossy home magazines. In 2002, she purchased the Eleanor Beard Studio, saving the jobs of seamstresses and needle workers who still work on old black Singer sewing machines. It is where all of the Leontine linens are produced, much as linens were a century ago.
In 2003, Hodges partnered with Bergdorf Goodman, and Leontine Linens became the exclusive linen line for the Manhattan store, although that partnership lasted only a few years. Within 10 years, her company’s list of accolades included the covers of “Architectural Digest” and “House Beautiful,” and numerous stories in regional magazines. One of her small round caches was designated a “favorite thing” by Oprah, and in 2014, her linens were one of Neiman Marcus’ “Christmas Book” fantasy gifts. That same year she authored “Linens: For Every Room and Occasion,” published by Rizzoli ($55).
She also has a fearless design sense and creates bold room settings that usually feature a large monogram as a dominating element.
“I had no idea it would have the momentum it’s had,” Hodges says of her success. “I’ve been incredibly lucky.”
24TH ANNUAL DESIGN INSPIRATIONS
Preview party: 7-9 p.m. March 1; tickets, $100. Luncheon: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 2; tickets, $150. Ridglea Country Club, 3700 Bernie Anderson Ave., Fort Worth, www.desig