We’ve got two daddy’s girls in our home. The kind who run out to meet him at his car when he gets home from work to show him the project they’ve been working on all day.
They’re his color consultants for wardrobe choices, sous chefs in the kitchen for his famous Saturday morning breakfast tacos, and his soundtrack aficionados for road trips. The three of them are in a mutual admiration society, and it’s one that I absolutely love to witness. So when I found out I’d be interviewing the dynamic father-daughter duo John and Riley, creators of Gunner & Lux, I knew the assignment was one that would tug at my heartstrings, and I wasn’t wrong.
In 2015, John Petersen and his daughter Riley Kinnane-Petersen (who was five at the time) created their collaborative concept, Gunner & Lux while sitting around their kitchen table. Mixing and matching pom-poms, vintage treasures from an old jewelry box and brightly colored yarn, the pair stumbled onto a brilliant concept: jewelry for girls. And not just any jewelry. They were quirky, personality-plus concoctions that spoke to Riley’s innate, high-spirited sense of style, and celebrated the imagination that only a child could authentically bring. The brand skyrocketed to instant stardom status. Riley’s awesomely eclectic Insta-style, adored by fangirls everywhere, even caught the eye of J. Crew execs that landed this unstoppable team an exclusive collaboration. Shortly after, high-end retailers like Maisonette and Barneys started carrying their line.
In celebration of Father’s Day, we caught up with John and Riley at their home in Atlanta and chatted fashion, their cure for mid-workday blahs and how Riley plans on celebrating her two loving dads this year for the occasion.
John, tell us what you’ve learned about working alongside Riley?
That I am so very lucky. I get to spend time with the coolest person I know. She makes me smile and laugh everyday. She challenges me with her ideas to think from a child’s perspective, in ways I would not have thought of. She has helped me to see that sometimes when things don’t work out like we expected, all will be alright. That it isn’t the end of the world… that somehow it just morphed into something else and that is okay, as well.
What’s most challenging about operating a business with your daughter?
We both like to be heard, so when one of us has an idea, we want to make sure that the other feels like we have really heard it through. Riley and I have at times bumped heads regarding budgets and how much things should cost. But, we love each other and always get there in the end.
Tell us about your design studio.
We have officially taken over the entire upstairs of our home! Of course, we have your typical desks and common space for supplies and packaging. But most importantly, our studio space features a ping-pong table and dance area. Play is such an important aspect of work for both Riley and me.
When things get tense, we stop what we’re doing and play a round of ping pong or commit to a much-needed dance break. Keeping fun on rotation during work has been essential for us.
Your My Dad is a Feminist tee: we adore it and want to know more!
We know that there is a special bond between daughters and dads. (Riley has 2 dads!) In our house, Riley has always been encouraged to reach for her dreams and let nothing stop her.
We knew that we needed to create a tee that showed all fathers everywhere, who are raising their kids with knowledge and strength, to promote a feminist future. And that our kids ARE the future.
Do you have a favorite way to relax in your home?
For me, it’s the end of the night when work is put away. When work time fades into family time at the dinner table – just the three of us talking about our day. The good and the bad. Just being present as best we can.
John, how does your personal style differ from Riley’s?
Riley will always have me beat with her style. I probably used to have more style when I was younger, but now it’s like: give me a cool pair of shoes, a great pair of pants, and classic black sweatshirt.
Fill in the blank: A father shows love to his child by ______.
Treating her with respect. Letting her fall and get up again. Being a good listener. Allowing her to grow into who and what she wants to be. Holding her hand even when they are probably embarrassed by you.
How do you plan on celebrating Father’s Day this year?
Order a pizza + movie night on the back deck. Just enjoy the fact that we are so unbelievably lucky to have a daughter like Riley.
Who are your dream house guests?
Donald Robertson, Iris Apfel, Tracy Chapman, my grandfather, Hillary Clinton, my husband William, and Riley.
Name your 5 favorite spots in Atlanta.
@dixon_rye: everything in this shop is something you want for your home
@kmmandco: handmade leather goods like no other
@seedfactory: the only spot where we buy gifts for kids
@eastforkpottery: best ceramic cups ever
@sidmashburn: records, candles, ties and shoes, something for every guy!
And now ladies and gents, the other unstoppable force behind Gunner and Lux, Riley Kinnane-Petersen…
Riley, what’s it like working with your dad?
He is really funny. He likes to make jokes a lot, and I have to keep him on track! He also likes to be on his phone, when we are supposed to be working… So, I have to tell him to turn it off.
Tell us about your Father’s Day plans!
I have been cooking a lot, so I am going to make a cake! I’ve created a coupon sheet with fun things I made them like “Free Neck Rub” and “Free 30 Minute Nap” I am going to give them!!!!
How do you and your dad decide what ends up on your website?
I have lots of ideas that we talk about, and we look ahead to future collections and seasons. Then we take one idea and make a sketch of it. From there it goes through lots of different versions, and we try different materials, and I try different colors until we get it to something we think could really be awesome.
What sparks design inspiration for you?
Tell us about Gunner & Lux’s All My Heroes Are Women tee!
For International Day Of The Girl, we wanted to create a t-shirt that celebrated female heroes… from moms, to women superheroes, women astronauts, women teachers, and so many more!
My dad has always said that if women ran the world it would be a more kind and gentler place for all of us.
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