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Countess of Couture

Gretchen Scott’s bright and playful designs delight shoppers from New York City to Jupiter to South America.

Gretchen Scott laughs a lot. The New York designer with a passion for palm trees aspires to say yes more than no. Rarely does a dinner outing end without the spunky stylemaker ordering dessert.

“Laugh more, gripe less, ignore critics, say yes, order dessert, love life,” has become Scott’s daily affirmation and whimsical world view.

“Those words are sewn on every label of everything we sell,” she says. “We really try to live the mantra.”

The carefree catchphrase appears below the Gretchen Scott Designs logo that brands the company’s timeless tunics, silk scarves and darling dresses.

“I’m not a poet,” Scott says. “I’m not a great painter. I’m not going to really leave anything behind. But read the words, and it makes you smile and feel different. We’re all selling lifestyles, and lifestyle includes your state-of-mind.”

She owns and operates four boutiques – the first of which opened 13 years ago on Indiantown Road in Jupiter.

“It was successful immediately,” Scott says. “Florida’s like, to me – living in New York, where I’m looking at snow right now – woo-hoo, vacation every day. We have a huge business any place where the sun shines and it’s warm.”

Since 2002, she has branched out to Nantucket, Massachusetts, Southampton, New York, and, as of January, Naples, Florida. She treats the Jupiter store like her first-born, even though her daughter arrived years before it.

“I try to make it not normal,” Scott says. “I like to always have surprises in the store. I’d like to think that we make people happy.”

With names like Hula Hoop City, Neptune’s Playground, Whirligig and Zany Zebra ascribed to her playful patterns, she has succeeded. Her couture hangs from the racks of more than 1,000 retailers throughout the United States, Caribbean and South America.

“The names are hilarious,” Scott says. “We have a blast coming up with them.”

One of her newest patterns, In the Sea of Love, earned its title from the Fleetwood Mac song “Sara.”

“Drowning…in the sea of love…where everyone…would love to drown,” Scott sings.

She admits she didn’t set her sights on becoming a designer after graduating from Saint Lawrence University in Canton, New York, with degrees in English and sociology. After a cacophony of careers ranging from interior decorator to market researcher, she ended up as an advertising-account manager for Condé Nast, where her co-workers took a particular penchant to – of all things – her handmade, flower-festooned purse.

“Everyone went nuts in New York over it,” Scott says.

It prompted her to make a batch of bags and try to sell them.

“I didn’t start out to be a big-time designer,” Scott says.

Her ready-to-wear line of hand-finished hauteness offers a decorum of dress for all occasions, including “beach,” “chill” and “resort,” as well as her famous flowered baskets.

Scott’s classic clothing also contributes to the community. All proceeds from her Turtle Traffic tunics benefit Loggerhead Marinelife Center. She also supports the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation through the CouTOURe Club – a group of female volunteers decked out in her designs who serve as hostesses during The Honda Classic.

“I am madly in love with Jack Nicklaus,” she says. “Seriously, the gift is in the giving.”