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Rumson resident creates decorative pillows from designer scarves

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Over the past year we asked Asbury Park Press readers to help three local families. They did, and then some. Here's how their stories turned out. Brian Johnston

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There are those who won’t leave the house without a dozen rings stacked neatly on their fingers. Others need to have a hat nestled on their head. But for Kari Hershey, her go-to accessory has always been a scarf. 

“When I first worked in the city or went on interviews, I was always wearing a scarf,” Hershey said. “I have so many scarves. I don’t even want to guess how many there are.”

Twenty years of traveling and collecting scarves along the way left Hershey with too many scarves to count and not enough space in the closet. So the New York School of Interior Design graduate got creative.

Hershey turned her scarves into pillows and decorated her home with these beautiful, bold prints. Then, she turned it into a business. 

In April, Hershey launched Kari Elizabeth. The upscale lifestyle brand specializes in decorative pillows made from designer scarves. 

Most of the scarves are silk. Some are cotton. All are made by top-name fashion brands, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior.

“The good thing about the pillow is that sometimes when you wear a scarf, you roll it or you tie it, so you can’t see the design,” Hershey said. “But when it’s on the pillow, you can really see the print.”

Hershey’s own home is teeming with such specialty throw pillows.

A vibrant blue pillow with a Mercedes Benz design lies on the white couch in her living room. Next to it is a plaid Burberry pillow and a whimsical blue and gold Rolex pillow.

“It’s a creative way to decorate your house and make your room look more interesting and luxurious and beautiful,” Hershey said. “It’s a statement piece and it can be a conversational piece.”

The pillows are hand-crafted from vintage scarves, including Hershey’s own collection. Customers also can have a pillow custom-made using an antique or sentimental scarf of their own.

“I like the idea of using a product that is already there and making it into something beautiful,” Hershey said. “Incorporating vintage with upcycling and making a luxurious product that people can use is very relevant to what people are doing today.” 

The scarves can be transformed into square or lumbar throw pillows, which are filled with a goose-feather and down blend. The sizing options are limitless, according to Hershey.

Pillows can be purchased through the Kari Elizabeth website. Select pieces are also available in boutique stores, such as Ink.Papery in Fair Haven, and Stella Flame in Sag Harbor, New York. Prices vary from $280 to $990, depending on the value of the scarf.

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“They’re one-of-a-kind so if you buy a pillow, then that pillow is gone,” Hershey said. “I think that’s what makes them so unique … nobody is going to have the same pillow.”

Hershey designs the pillows herself. For each piece, she selects how much of the scarf to use, what size would be best and which fabric complements the design and should be used on the backside of the pillow. The final step is to select a matching zipper that will fit in seamlessly. 

Hershey works with a local seamstress to bring her designs to life. The entire process takes between two and three weeks.

“I design them all and the person that I work with executes,” Hershey said. “It’s a real craft to work with fine silk and fine cotton … It’s not as easy as you would think.”

According to Hershey, the pillows reflect her own eclectic style. While no two pillows are alike, each offers a dazzling design sure to spice up any room.

New York City resident Elan Barish purchased a Kari Elizabeth pillow at a trunk show in Sag Harbor this summer. 

“I just fell in love with it. It’s so over the top and unexpected,” Barish said of the light blue Cartier pillow.

When Barish’s mother saw the pillow, she too fell in love with the piece and bought a pillow of her own.

In a way, it should come as no surprise that Hershey is such a skilled designer. In addition to studying textiles at the New York School of Interior Design, Hershey received lessons in design at home. 

Hershey cites her mother, who has worked as an interior designer for over 40 years, as an undeniable source of inspiration. Growing up in a home where art was appreciated and visits to galleries and antique stores were frequent helped cultivate Hershey’s strong sense of style.

“It’s about having confidence in your own taste and your own ability,” Hershey said. “You have to really own what you’re designing and what you think is beautiful. It takes many years to build that. I think that’s why I started this new business.”

Hershey hopes to later expand the business beyond pillows. 

“I see building on this in terms of a home-décor online store,” Hershey said. “I see a future of maybe making more products of out scarves. There’s so many things you can do.”

For more information, call 732-741-1263 or visit www.karielizabethllc.com.