When she isn’t traveling to exotic souks, chic beach clubs and artisan studios around the world, Heidi Kelso is most at home at her Greenport boutique Lido, surrounded by items she’s designed or sourced from
the farthest corners of the world. There are custom-designed block-printed dresses from India, carved wooden tables from Indonesia, kimonos from Japan, sandals from Italy, throw blankets from Kashmir and much, much more, all pulled together in enviable global harmony.
Every piece has a tale to tell, and on a recent afternoon Kelso was happy to give a tour.
“Our biggest surprise hit of 2020 are these long-sleeved tiered ‘St. Tropez’ dresses from India with mismatched hand-blocked prints,” she said, noting she named them after a “cool, laid-back woman” she met in India who lives in St. Tropez. Italian vintage hand-loomed, hand-embroidered linen slips and dresses from the 1920s and ‘30s are also popular. “They don’t make cotton like this anymore,” she sighed. “I have a gentleman who pulls hundreds of pieces for me and it takes us a few days to go through it all.”
From India, there are daybeds hand-carved from a single tree trunk by the Naga tribe and hammered steel fire pits that soared in popularity when people started using their homes more. Hand-embroidered Suzani blankets from Uzbekistan are created as part of a woman’s dowry when she’s born. “They are collector’s items and I love helping to carry on the tradition,” said Kelso.
Strolling through the carefully curated mix, it’s hard to believe Kelso has had no professional background in retail, design or importing. In fact, Lido is just a side hustle. Kelso’s day job is running Manhattan a media entertainment company, HK Media Group, where she’s produced some of the biggest broadcast specials in music, fashion and entertainment. Really big: Think the VH-1 Vogue Fashion Awards, NBC Christmas at Rockefeller Center and Macy’s July Fourth Fireworks Spectacular. But beneath that type-A businesswoman, she’s a down-to-earth wanderer, traveling widely through hot spots like Goa, Ibiza and Marrakesh and ultimately returning to Orient, where she has a second home.
Lido got its start in 2012 as a three-month pop-up shop and turned permanent after its initial success.
I always thought it would be fun to curate some of my favorite finds from my travels. I was spending a lot of time in Southeast Asia and stylists, associates and friends were always asking me where I got what I was wearing, even when it was just something I found at a beach shack!Heidi Kelso, Lido
She realized these were things people would want to buy. Such confidence in her taste also nudged her to design her own items, which she admits she had “no idea” how to do at first. “If I knew now what I didn’t know then, I would have been too intimidated to try it,” she said. “But I had ideas, and wanted to introduce a small capsule collection of boho-influenced beach-to-dinner dresses. It all evolved from there.”
The store was named Lido to evoke Old World European beach clubs and Venice’s laid-back Lido Island. (Long Island’s Lido Beach adds a local — albeit accidental — twist.) Lido and Lidoworld.com initially sold some other labels but now it’s all self-branded, based on Kelso’s personal aesthetic. This includes cotton and linen dresses and tops, custom-designed by her with dye masters, color masters and block masters around the world. “We spend days working on colors, color combining and prints and it takes a few trips for the whole process to be completed,” she said.
Furniture and home décor have also risen in prominence, appealing to area interior designers, locals and second-home owners, and most of all, herself. “I always fill Lido with what I like, and I’m obsessed with home furnishings now. That’s what a gut renovation will do!” Since designs are sourced directly from artisans with no middleman, prices remain relatively accessible.
Kelso said her goal is to work closely with skilled craftsmen, and -women, in each country to highlight their work and cultural heritage. But she also keeps local tastes in mind.
“Dark wood is very popular in Bali and India, but I’ll have the craftsman I work with whitewash our pieces for a lighter, beachier finish. Interestingly, such exotic pieces don’t seem out of place among the North Fork’s farmhouse chic or minimalist aesthetic. These pieces might feel so specific, but they sit comfortably well with different styles from rustic to mid-century modern,” says Kelso. “The more ornately carved items are often used as accent pieces.”
Beyond its brisk seasonal business, Lido stays open year-round, offering resort wear to customers jetting off to beach vacations, or those seeking transitional and cold-weather pieces. Standouts include wool and cashmere throw blankets, accessories like a shearling tote bag, oversized printed wraps and sterling silver jewelry with bold gemstones.
Although Kelso and her life-slash-business partner Grant Cowell spend a lot of time abroad in the countries where they manufacture, new destinations are always in flux. It all depends on what’s inspiring her lately, plus destinations tacked onto quarterly London trips for her media company.
So, where to next? Kelso has put Africa on top of her list once she resumes international travel, praising the continent’s rich heritage of skilled weavers, woodworkers and jewelers. “Africa has incredibly gifted artisans, she says. “I love Kenyan Grain Stomper wood posts, Senufo benches and stools, Kiondo baskets and all the large-print textiles. And I’m obsessed with all the wood and white.”
For the moment, however, Kelso is shelving her passport, taking the year to focus on Lido’s wholesale expansion and build up its furniture business. “With travel restricted under COVID, it’s going to be more challenging working remotely, but I think there’s a silver lining in everything,” she says. “It’s taught me to appreciate the art of slowing down.”
She also gained an even greater appreciation for the North Fork. “Orient is one of my favorite places in the world, and it always inspires me creatively,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have a store in Greenport and grateful to be part of this supportive community. Next summer will be our 10th year in business here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”