What I Wear to Work: Jayma Cardoso

The Montauk hotelier dishes on her laid-back style that's ever-evolving.

Jayma lounging in a chair at Surf Lodge
(Image credit: Jayma Cardoso)

The Surf Lodge, celebrating its 15th anniversary this summer, is a testament to the "if you build it, they will come" mindset that guided Brazilian-born Jayma Cardoso throughout much of her career in hospitality—starting at the coat check. After getting a foot in the door at the coatroom at a buzzy Manhattan restaurant, Cardoso began to rise the ranks through the front of the house, clocking hours as a hostess and bartender. She quickly fell in love with the dynamic world of hospitality, learning everything she could about the restaurant business.

"I've worked every position [in restaurants and bars] except for the kitchen and the DJ booth," Cardoso laughs. With a hunger for more, and a side of some healthy naïveté, Cardoso and her co-bartender Jamie took an entrepreneurial leap of faith by opening up their own bar in the dog-eat-dog world of New York City hospitality. They rented a small garage in the Chelsea neighborhood that would serve as the home for CAIN, their safari-themed club on 27th Street. Following that success, the eager restauranteur went on to open another New York City hotspot, Gold Bar on Broome Street. 

With a few successful nightlife ventures under her belt, Cardoso contacted her go-to real estate broker about her next big idea, opening up a hotel property. "He thought I was a bit delusional," recalls Cardoso. "He's like, this is not how it works. You can't raise a hundred million dollars to start a hotel in NYC." But Cardoso's fiery drive stayed in his mind, and one year later, he came back to her with a new business proposal—a hotel property in the laid-back surfer town of Montauk, located at the very tip of Long Island. With a skeleton crew staff (Cardoso often cleaned the rooms herself at the beginning) and a short six-week window to prep the property, Cardoso and her team opened the Surf Lodge on Memorial Day 2008. "We definitely needed more time, but we had bookings and no other choice." Now, with a whole lot more experience under her belt, "but never enough time," Cardoso quips, the hotelier is celebrating her Surf Lodge's 15th year in business. Her approach to her work-life balance, her daily routine, and what she wears to get it all done is evolving as she does. 

Ahead, we chatted with Cardoso about dressing for the beach, her pull-it-together piece, and the one accessory she can't live without. 

On Morning Routines:

Sometimes I'll wake up and go to the beach with John—I like to spend the mornings with my son. A lot happens on the property in the morning between wellness and brunch offerings. Sometimes, I'll try to do a quick Pilates, and then I come back, grab him and head to Surf Lodge. He loves talking to people and running around, and the staff brings him treats and toys—they spoil him. On a Saturday or Sunday, we'll have brunch on the property, and at about 1 p.m., I'll head back home, put myself together, and get back to the property by 3 to check the setup for our weekend live performances and welcome our sunset team, who arrives around that time. Mondays will look different. We are recapping everything that worked out and focusing on maintenance around the property.

Jayma in a wicker chair at Surf Lodge

(Image credit: Jayma Cardoso)

On Getting Dressed:

I love dresses because you don't have to consider putting together separates. I love Zimmermann and Cult Gaia, and I'm really into this French brand I discovered recently in Miami called Casablanca—I just bought these great sunglasses from them, and hopefully, I don't lose them. The brand is fun and a bit boyish. I'm usually a bit more girly, but my style is evolving. I've been wearing a T-shirt and jeans a lot, and I'll throw on a Veronica Beard blazer for a meeting— it just makes you look a bit chic and pulled together. I'm always in flip-flops because of the sand at Surf Lodge. I used to wear an outfit throughout a ten- or eleven-hour day, but that's changed as I've gotten older. Now I'll go home and adjust as needed.

Jayma on an outdoor deck at Surf Lodge

(Image credit: Jayma Cardoso)

On Go-To Accessories:

I'm a hat person. I feel like I can hide behind them a bit—and I am terrible at doing my hair. I never leave the house without one. I love the hat designers Nick Fouquet and Teressa Foglia. I was just in Miami and almost forgot my hat in the airplane's overhead bin. The flight attendant noticed I was deboarding the plane without it — and I was panicked! I ran back and got it. I keep an extra hat in my office just in case.

Sara Holzman
Style Director

Sara Holzman is the Style Director at Marie Claire, covering runway trends and tracking down the latest finds to buy and wear. When she’s not writing about fashion, she pens about the best places to jet-off to. Over her six years with Marie Claire, Sara has reported on the ever-evolving world of fashion— covering both established and emerging designers within the industry. Sara has held fashion positions at Lucky and SELF Magazine and was a regular contributor to Equinox’s Furthermore website, where she wrote across their style, wellness, and travel verticals. She holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and currently resides in Manhattan. Follow her along at @sarajonewyork.