Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Houston?
Donae: I am originally from Houston and I’ve lived here almost my entire life. I was raised by my Italian father and Irish mother. Their roots really influenced who I am today. I grew up with a passion for fashion and have always loved luxury, Italian designers. After receiving my Bachelors of Science in Journalism degree from Texas A&M University, I returned to Houston and worked at our family business for several years before joining forces with my husband Rob to create The Vintage Contessa & Times Past.
Child(ren) and Age(s)?
My husband Rob and I have a daughter named Bella. She’s 10 years old and a 5th grader at River Oaks Baptist School.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
People who follow our Instagram @thevintagecontessa know we travel the world in search of the most unusual and fabulous pieces. Last year we traveled to Miami, New York, LA, Vail/Beaver Creek, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Munich, Florence, Forte Dei Marmi, Naples and Capri Italy. I think people are surprised to find out I love old country music and grew up hunting and fishing with my dad as a young girl. I am a true Texan at heart. When I sit on our back porch of our family home in Rockport, drinking a glass of wine, watching the sun go down over Little Bay, listening to Willie, George, Merle and Waylon I feel as at home as I do on the front row of a runway show in Milan. I think it’s important to keep going back to my roots. It keeps me grounded.
Favorite local things to do in Houston?
Shop! Houston has some of the best shopping. My daughter Bella and I always love to find new, locally-owned boutiques including Tootsies and Katia. My favorite designer is Dolce & Gabbana, not just because of the clothes but because their brand is aligned with what is important to me: family, luxury and La Dolce Vita. It all stems from my Italian roots. Houston is also such a food-centric city so I enjoy trying new restaurants with my family or friends on the weekends. No matter how busy I am with our business or with Bella, I find time to give back to the community and co-chair or attend events for charities I am passionate about such as KNOWAutism, The Women’s Home and Crime Stoppers.
Funniest shortcut/routine for helping you through parenthood?
Being in the fashion industry, my daughter attends fashion events and is constantly in the midst of the most amazing accessories and pieces of jewelry, both vintage and new. I decided to give her a shopping budget so she wasn’t constantly coming to me asking for things, making me be the bad guy if I said no. So now she saves for what she wants and plans ahead. Bella also loves my favorite designer, Dolce & Gabbana. As I mentioned earlier, we travel internationally for business. This summer we spent a few weeks in Italy on a buying trip/family vacation for The Vintage Contessa & Times Past. Bella saved several months of her budget to be able to buy her first Dolce & Gabbana dress. I think if you have to work for things, it is more meaningful than just being given what you want when you want it. My parents made me work hard for everything they gave me. I believe that helped instill a strong work ethic in me.
Are you involved in a business venture, local organization, a creative endeavor, or in the corporate world? Please share!
I’ve been in the luxury retail business for over twenty years. My family and friends coined me as “The Vintage Contessa” because of my absolute love for luxury fashion and vintage pieces. My husband Rob has over twenty years of experience as a numismatist, watch purveyor, estate jeweler and GIA diamond specialist. Combining his international buying expertise with my marketing background, we created The Vintage Contessa & Times Past, an internationally respected showroom based in Houston with a website catering to global collectors of estate jewelry, fine watches, designer handbags and accessories, GIA diamonds, rare coins, and antiquities.
Aside from our business venture, I am very involved with select Houston-area nonprofits. I was named one of Crime Stoppers 2017 Leading Women for Public Safety and in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we donated supplies and resources to The Women’s Home. In addition to co-chairing the KNOWAutism Gala this upcoming February, I am celebrating my 50th birthday at the beginning of January and am asking my guests to consider donating to KNOWAutism in lieu of gifts.
How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
A big part of who we are is how we give back and the charity work we do. Our business has enabled us to make connections with influential people. We are lucky to have these opportunities to connect with philanthropists all over Houston. I am always so grateful to be in the position I am in today where the community supports our business so we can turn around and support the community.