Kathy Ireland: from supermodel to CEO

As a jet setting executive, former swimsuit model and a mom, Kathy Ireland is accustomed to multitasking. Her background, no doubt, helped hone her design sense which, in turn, leads to the home furnishings collection she launched 10 years ago. As CEO and chief designer of Los Angeles-based Kathy Ireland Worldwide, the cheerful California native has taken an idea - selling coordinated designer products to overworked mothers and their families - and turned it into a fast growing business.

Ireland, who turned 42 in March, has partnered with manufacturers from all over the home furnishings map - including lighting to window blinds to bedding - in a bid to carefully advance her brand. Notably, her company has enjoyed a seven-year relationship with Shaw Industries, resulting in popular, kid-tested/mother-approved designer rugs, ceramic tiles, laminate planks and broadloom carpets. Now, Ireland says, the partnership has produced Shaw's ClearTouch carpet with R2X stain and soil resistance technology, a collection designed for busy moms on the go.

"If a product is going to be part of our brand, it had better make a mom's day better and easier," says Ireland during a phone interview with NFT. "I think it is a heroic effort for the busy mom to even make it into the store. Myself, if I make it out of the driveway, I'm feeling pretty good."

Shaw's R2X stain resistance system aims at offering customers more flexibility in choosing a carpet by reducing the worry that their new floor covering is going to be ruined by a spill. A mother might look for a pattern that would conceal stains, but Ireland confidently assures that R2X turns those concerns into a non-issue. It lets carpet shoppers make their choice based on issues that go beyond peanut butter and jelly.

"Mothers do like colors that will hide the mess, but one of the great things about ClearTouch with R2X is it's easy to clean," Ireland explains. "She doesn't have to get a speckled brown carpet to hide the mess. She can experiment with color more."

ClearTouch's big plus for Ireland - and by extension, she hopes, for her customers - is the carpet's resistance to stains. Products in the line are designed to clean up easily without leaving any trace of the mess. She even enlisted the services of her children. She says she let them "get all of the gross things out of the refrigerator" and, with mom's okay, plop them on the floor and swish them around.

"Rather than being afraid of making a mess, I think it's important to have products that embrace the way we live," Ireland notes. "I remember when we would visit friends' and families' homes, they'd say ‘Keep the kids out of the living room!' because of the new carpet. Well, I want the kids to be able to go into any room."

Ireland, of course, is well aware that hers is not the only family-friendly carpet offering. Still, she is confident that ClearTouch carpet will gain traction. She points out that Shaw's R2X is a proprietary soil-and-stain treatment. Also, she adds that products in the ClearTouch collection carry Shaw's 5-Star product designation. As a result, the carpets come with 10-year quality assurance, stain resistance and texture retention warranties, a 30-day customer satisfaction guarantee, and SoftBac Platinum backing.

Ireland says her new carpet line is another step forward for a company that reflects her unique perspective.

"I am encouraged that women are being better served today than they have in the past, but I think we still have a long way to go," Ireland says. "Typically the woman is the CEO of the home, and they're the ones out there making the choices. We've got to serve her, and help make her home a comfortable environment."