Before Dara Caponigro took on the challenge of reviving the storied F. Schumacher fabric house, she was a magazine editor for more than 30 years. What she thought was her swan song, being editor-in-chief of Veranda magazine, turned into a reinvention of both herself and the legendary fabric house. “The job came to me out of nowhere,” she says. “I thought I was going to retire after I quit Veranda.” But a chance lunch and a natural gift for visual storytelling landed Caponigro the job of Schumacher’s creative director in 2013.
For almost four years now, Caponigro and CEO Timur Yumusaklar have been making surprising and welcome changes. They’ve reinvigorated the showrooms and have embraced all things digital. “As I see it, Schumacher has an incredible legacy; it’s a household name. It just needed a little dusting off. And I love a project.”
Between balancing her personal life and carefully reinvigorating a brand that’s graced everything from The White House to the Waldorf-Astoria, Caponigro takes it all in stride because, well, she’s a natural. We know, because we recently spent a day with her and took notes.
[5:15 am] The alarm goes off and Caponigro makes a beeline to the coffeepot. It’s already percolating because her husband, publisher David Steinberger, has been up for an hour. “I cherish my time before work,” Caponigro says. “It’s the only time I can actually get anything done.” Operating out of her dreamy solarium, she pays bills and focuses on “anything that requires a lot of thought. And if I have the time, I like to look at my books for color inspiration and photo research.”
[7:30 am] Caponigro runs up the stairs of her rambling 1920s Georgian Revival, takes a shower, and wakes her teenage son, Stefan, for school. “I’m very quick in the morning. I throw on a dress because they’re so easy and put on mascara—that’s it. I’m super woman in the morning!” After her painless beauty regimen, Caponigro takes the dogs, Vicky and Sasha, out for a brisk walk around her historic Riverdale neighborhood. “Frederick Law Olmsted was involved in the planning—it’s the best-kept secret in the Bronx.”
[8:20 am] Caponigro and her husband and son pile into the car. First stop, the subway. Caponigro hops out of the car and onto the subway. She arrives at Schumacher’s midtown offices by 9:20. “The office is already humming by the time I get there.”
[9:35 am] Along with Creative Services Director Tori Jones, she dives right into finessing the language for Schumacher’s biannual mailer. Caponigro leans on her background in publishing to deftly navigate the waters. “I don’t approach the bulletin like a catalog, but instead, I view it like a magazine.
I might include some stories that have nothing to do with fabric at all—a travel story or maybe even a gift guide. The goal is to get people excited about design.” In addition to the unexpected nuggets, the bulletin often announces collection launches from big-name designers such as past notables Miles Redd, Mark D. Sikes, and Veere Grenney.
[11:30 am] Caponigro heads to a meeting with senior designer Allison Block to discuss upcoming collaborations. “We have a Frank Lloyd Wright collection coming out in May, and we partnered with Vogue on a collection that’s launching in August.” She and Block pore over colorways and painstakingly whittle down the selection.
“Our designers are artists and scientists at the same time. They can paint, draw, and create patterns from scratch, but they also understand the weaving process. It’s a real craft.”
[1:00 pm] Caponigro is always looking to kill two birds with one stone, so she meets with her publicist, Elizabeth Blitzer, for a quick bite and to talk strategy. Along with the team she’s put in place, CEO Timur Yumusaklar and President Benni Frowein have played an integral role in helping to reshape the brand. “I work with unbelievable people. I certainly don’t do it alone.”
[3:15 pm] Caponigro heads to the showroom to remerchandise the space. She has set out to reinvent the trade fabric business and knows exactly which rules need bending, if not breaking. “We’ve completely overhauled the way we launch fabrics.
Historically, collections were launched twice a year, but we’re rolling out four collections a month on average. Now we can produce things we’re passionate about and bring them to market quickly, which allows us to be much more on trend.”
[5:25 pm] Typically, Caponigro would head back to the office for a meeting, but today she needs some visual inspiration. She stops at the Van Cortlandt House Museum in the Bronx on her way home. Built in 1748 and made part of a New York City public park in 1889, this stunning example of high Georgian style is an inspiration for color and pattern lovers alike.
[6:45 pm] After a quick spin around the museum, Caponigro makes it home just in time for dinner, where daughter Sofia surprises her as an impromptu dinner guest. Before she lovingly sends her daughter back to the city and her son to bed, they all take in a rerun of I Love Lucy. “We always watch something fun and quirky.”
And she doesn’t circle back to work. “I don’t put my phone next to my bed. I reach a point where I am done for the day.”
Photography: Francesco Lagnese