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Made in America: Michelle Waugh On Leadership, the Perfect Dream Coat and Designing for Michelle Obama

February 24, 2017
Michelle Waugh

Every year we vow to find a new coat to update our look – something classic, chic, and will stand the test of time. And then, every year, we search high and low only to come up short. Why is finding the perfect coat so hard? Well mamas, it’s about to get a whole lot easier because Michelle Waugh has saved the day. As the Founder and Creative Director of her self-titled line of luxurious outerwear, Michelle has reimagined the classics. Her coats are on point and refreshingly hand-crafted in New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your career took a lot of twists and turns from an incredible starting job at Dior, to the finance world, before you launched your own label four years ago. Can you tell us about that journey and how it prepared you for the dream role you’re in now?

It’s true! I’ve been really lucky in my career, but my defining moments have come through travel. So far, I’ve traveled to over 60 countries, and these trips have influenced me and opened me up to a world of possibilities. I’m a very restless person, so naturally, when it was time to settle down, New York felt like the perfect place for me to call home. I enrolled in Fordham University and simultaneously accepted a full-time position at Christian Dior’s New York headquarters. It was such an invaluable experience because I was exposed to PR, wholesale, product development and branding. From here, I was offered a job at the Singaporean-based fashion brand Raoul, with the huge task of creating their first launch into the US market. It was a challenge because while Raoul was established in Southeast Asia, in New York, we were starting from scratch. I loved the startup atmosphere, and it was here that I started to think about starting my own line. Luckily, everything happened rather organically, with some strategic planning on my end. I saw that in order to become stronger in business, I needed a deeper understanding of finance. So, I left my fashion career behind and joined Phoenix Partners Group to learn everything I could, knowing that it was merely a stepping stone to round out my skills. It was here, upon realizing that the men I worked with had little time to shop for a wardrobe that matched their lifestyles that I started my own business. Over the next three years, my business partner Amy Johnson and I, created a highly curated collection of clothing from the best designers around the world to make online shopping easier for men. We would frequently take trips overseas to find the perfect menswear, and I noticed that women looked incredible in a man’s borrowed coat, and my own label was born. I reimagined outerwear for the modern woman.  

Your commitment to designing and manufacturing your coats in New York is admirable to say the least. Why is this important to you and do you hope other companies would rethink their own manufacturing practices?

Thank you! We have accessibility to such incredible craftsmanship and expertise in the United States and I will do everything on my end to support and create opportunities locally. To think about wearing a garment that was made explicitly to be inexpensive to the consumer, but yet the person who made it was ill-treated in the process, is inconceivable to me. It saddens me that when people ask me where my coats are made, and I tell them New York, they are surprised. I have found ways as a small business to not only support local manufacturing processes, but actually make it beneficial for my business. For example, being made in New York allows me to fulfill my orders while maintaining a much leaner inventory because I can produce quickly. In addition, the speed at which I can manufacture in New York is ten times quicker than partnering with an overseas supply chain. And remember, when you support small local businesses an actual person does a happy dance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After working with so many other companies what was your biggest takeaway from becoming your own boss? What does being a good boss mean to you?

I hate the word “boss”. For me, it conveys such unenthusiastic associations. Having worked for several companies within the finance and fashion industries, I would always end up dividing my superiors into two groups; the bosses and the leaders. The bosses were micromanagers; colorless when it came to instigate or activate people’s talents and abilities – their “secret sauce”. Bosses think about output and operate with a rewards vs. punishment mentality. Leaders on the other hand, not only think about output, but they spotlight the importance of input. Leaders have the ability to read people’s emotions accurately and I believe it is the single most important, and rarest, quality of a strong leader. Leaders think of management as mentorship, support, guidance and motivation. It’s a priority for me to act like a leader, and not like a boss. Thankfully, I am intuitive, empathetic and sensitive, which I think helps people on my team to succeed. In return, my team feels empowered which inspires them to work from their place of genius. When I hire new people or partner with vendors, I try to assess if the person is a “giver” or a “taker”. This, for me, determines their values and their intentions towards others. When you eliminate takers from your team, and you are left with givers, you create an environment where constructive criticism and hard-hitting conversations aren’t threatening but rather productive, and fruitful.

Michelle Waugh

What is your most popular piece from the Michelle Waugh collection? Why do you think it so popular?

Our clients’ current obsession is the Chloe duster coat – we can’t keep it in stock! This is the forever piece that is easy and effortless, yet has enough star power to make you feel special. Personally, it has been a game changer in my Fall/Winter wardrobe. The duster has no hardware and no closure so you can wear it informally over your active wear, and feel so well suited, or you can truly dress it up for maximum impact. The coat also compliments my more muted wardrobe staples. Living in New York I walk everywhere, therefore layering is so important. This coat offers an effortless approach to layering.

Coats are definitely an investment piece. What are some ways that we can style your favorite coat to maximize our wardrobe?

Just like my clients, my favorite coat is also the Chloe duster. I’m a mother of two, and I will throw on the duster over boyfriend jeans and a tee to head to the park, making me feel effortlessly elegant. It looks so great over active wear and runners as well if you are headed to the gym and running around town doing errands. On the other hand, I can also throw the same coat over a slip dress and a pair of heels, and I feel like I own this town!

Some people question the impact for a brand on social media. How has social media helped your brand grow? Do you think that it’s been really impactful?

I was initially doubtful about devoting time and resources to social media. I didn’t appreciate the power these platforms would have when it came to selling a luxury product. Eva Chen, the head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, invited me to attend a Master Class at their headquarters in New York. I met dozens of influencers and designers, and we brainstormed how everyone was utilizing their social media platforms. The experience was such an education, and I began to organically work with influencers and it generated a buzz around my brand. To my pleasant surprise, the impact enhanced overall growth of my label and followers became clients. It still surprises me to hear stores sell coats to clients who found us on Instagram. I see the influencers I work with as incredibly smart businesswomen, a brand in their own right, and vital to companies like mine. Social media has furthermore given me the chance to work with remarkable buyers and stylists globally that I otherwise would not have been able to connect with.

Any fashion pinch me moment when someone major was wearing your coat? Who was it and where were you when you saw it?

My fashion pinch me moment was having Meredith Koop (stylist to Michelle Obama) reach out to me to customize a coat for Mrs. Obama herself. I made her the Chloe duster in black. I’ve also had the amazing opportunity to work with stylist Erin Walsh on fittings for Uma Thurman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kerry Washington. Those are all “pinch me” moments for sure.

Michelle Waugh

How many coats do you think a woman should own?

Ha! You are talking to the coat lady! In my book, you can never own too many coats and I see them as investment pieces, the way shoes and bags are. If I were to curate what the necessities are, I would say at a minimum, you need four coats. Use one coat to pull together the color palettes you gravitate towards in your wardrobe which acts as a neutral. The Vienne is the most wearable coat and will elevate any outfit, in black or putty cashmere. Second, you need that statement piece coat. This coat is playful, fun and can be loud to bring out the spirited side of you. For me this is our Chloe duster coatThe dramatic back slit can make it incredibly sexy and noticeable. Your third piece should be a killer leather bomber, and last, everyone needs the good ol’ puffer jacket to save us from all these polar vortexes!

Do you have plans to expand your line beyond outerwear? What can we look forward to next Fall?

I love outerwear and it will always play an important role in my collections. Inspired by my love for travel, eventually I plan to expand the line to be able to create a collection of a dozen impactful pieces that the smart, modern woman could pack into her suitcase and be set for any occasion. The assorted pieces would have distinctive textures, shades and silhouettes, while complimenting each other and can be effortlessly paired and layered. Next fall, we are sticking to our classic pieces but introducing some fun staples that I am really excited about. I can’t give away too much, but stay tuned!

You have a 2 year old and a 4 month old, congratulations! How has motherhood changed your approach to your career?

For me, it is not so much motherhood that has changed me, but it’s simply caring for children. Being around these joy crazed, wide-eyed, wobbly-footed creatures shows you the grace of love and forgiveness. If you follow their lead, you catch yourself thinking bigger, creating a better self and learning to never touch anything with half of your heart.  Motherhood has taught me that every new day is filled with wonder and curiosity and within every obstacle is the opportunity to improve you. There is always a lesson; learn them, implement them and keep your feet moving, girl!

What are your 3 pearls of motherhood wisdom?

Self-care, self-care and self-care! I can’t say it enough. I hear you on the mom guilt, but know that it is not selfish to think about you. In fact, it is necessary. Self-care for me, is as necessary for my health as food and exercise. My dad once told me that there is a reason that on the airplane they tell you that if the oxygen masks were to drop from the ceiling, place the mask on yourself first before assisting your child. My life as a mother is so rewarding, but rewards worth having come with great challenges. By allowing myself some self-care, I don’t lose myself while mothering and it makes me a happier person, wife and mother. I become the best version of me, and truly feel I’m setting a valuable example for my girls. Trust me, everyone loves a happy, rested, fulfilled mama, because if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Find time to celebrate you no matter how small the act, and make it a priority. It takes planning, but you are worth this sacred time of recharging so you can get back to a whole lot of mothering!

Michelle Waugh

Business, Fashion

Margherita Missoni Maccapani Amos Is Building Her Own Empire And It’s All About The Kids

February 21, 2017
EmptyName 332

When we grow up, we want to be Margherita Missoni Maccapani Amos. Nobody is as effortlessly chic and conscious of her family and the way in which she wants to live her day to day. After spending almost an hour on the phone with her, we couldn’t believe how charming, down to earth and honest she was in what she needs to create a calm and happy lifestyle and we want to be a part of it. Lucky for us, she’s launched her own adorable line of children’s wear, Margherita Kids which sells at major retailers like Nordstrom and Macy’s,  and now has a new collaboration with Pottery Barn Kids. The furniture and bedding line is available in stores nationwide. Now, if only we were hopping in the car with her to explore the Italian countryside. A girl can dream…

You spent five years learning your family business before starting your own line, Margherita Kids  in 2015. What has that experience been like and what are your plans for your brand?

The reason why I left Missoni was because I wanted to have a different rhythm and schedule. I wanted to have less people depending on me and I wanted to be able to take care of my kids more. When you are in a corporate environment it’s always difficult, even if it’s your family’s company. My life fits my needs much better right now.

Margherita Kids is a license with an American company and I have two employees working for me in Italy. We work in a very modern way with FedEx packages and conference calls, so I work a lot less than I used to and I have a lot more satisfaction as a result.

My friend who works with me also has kids and my nanny will look after all of them together and we can move our work schedule around the kids. I think that’s something really great about today and this new way of working. It’s much closer to women’s needs.

You travel a lot for work, how do you manage that with your family?

The good thing about traveling nowadays is that it’s so much easier than it used to be. I’m extremely well located where I live, 20 minutes from Malpensa Airport which gets me anywhere in the world on a direct flight and I’m 40 minutes outside of Milan. I can go to London for the day and be home by dinner, or I could go to London for dinner and be home the next day. I go to New York, Paris, usually for just a few days at a time but I do quite a few trips throughout the year.

Do you have a company mantra or set of ideals that mean something to you? What do you value in your company culture?

It’s really important to me, and those that work with me, to believe in the project. If you feel it, whether you are managing design or communication, whatever your role, it makes the company more successful. I think it creates an effortless culture that carries over to those you work with outside of the company as well.

Also, taking responsibility for your work and understanding that it’s a choice that you made, and not something that was forced upon you. I’m good at delegating, and I want people to really feel a part of a project, rather than just working for it.

And of course, not taking your work too seriously. I like to see the lightness in it all. At the end of the day we’re not changing the world and we always have to keep that in mind.

“And of course, not taking your work too seriously. I like to see the lightness in it all. At the end of the day we’re not changing the world and we always have to keep that in mind.”

How has becoming a mother to your two sons changed your outlook on your career? What advice would you give to mamas trying to balance work and family life?

Giving yourself a general schedule so you know what hours you have to work, and which are those you devote to kids is necessary. You don’t want them to overlap too much. Having a good nanny is also very important! I’d be lost without her. And most importantly, always have a Plan B. When something doesn’t go as planned, like a kid get’s sick, one should be able to detach from the original plan and embrace what comes your way.

Your family is fashion royalty, with your grandparents starting the legendary Missoni label in the 50s. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from them?

The good and bad thing about working for your family’s company is that your job never ends at the end of the day and it’s not confined to specific area. You overlook the company as if it’s your own business which was beneficial and I was able to get a real sense of the “whole” even if it wasn’t my side of the business. Take sales for example, I’ve done the meetings, I’ve dealt with the retailers… I know how it all works. It’s helpful when you are setting up your own business as you can evaluate whether people are the right fit for the job you are hiring for.

I always think, whatever you do might be completely pointless if it’s not done at the right time. Missoni came out when pret-a-porter was being born and they were doing something that nobody else was doing. My grandparents used knitwear in a new way and it made sense at that time. At the same time, you need to have a vision. If not, you just go with whatever is already happening in the marketplace and that never works. Having a vision for what is the next thing will help drive your success.

I saw what my grandparents did and when thinking about my own career, I got into children’s clothing because I had two babies and I realized there was space in the market for this line and the offerings were still a lot less than in normal adult fashion. There was space, it made sense for my life, so here I am!

You just launched a collection with Pottery Barn Kids this Spring which we are SO excited for. What was the creative process like and what item is your favorite from the line?

It was great experience working with them. They are truly professional and they know what they can, and can’t, do. I’m a creative person who happens to listen to the production and distribution side – I’m not just interested in the design, so it was a great collaboration. My favorite piece from the line is definitely the Daisy chair.

Margherita Missoni

“Always have a Plan B. When something doesn’t go as planned, like a kid get’s sick, one should be able to detach from the original plan and embrace what comes your way.”

Do you have plans to open a shop for your children’s line?

I don’t have any plans now, but I would certainly like that. Ideally I would like to have a whole children’s world – the clothing, the furniture, the pictures, the garland – and then it makes sense to open a store. But I need to have more products than I have now.

You spent time living in New York in your 20s. How do you think raising a family in the US differs from raising one in Italy?

I lived in New York for five years. I’m not sure about the difference from New York to Italy but I can talk about big city vs small village. The difference is that I really want my kids to experience the provincial life, outside of the city. Especially considering the fashion world I live in – I would have never brought up my kids in New York. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad for them, it’s just far from what I know. Personally, I need to escape the country and get infused by the energy of a place like New York, but I love that my 6 year old can go out on the street by himself and go to the local shop to buy a loaf of bread.

You have over 100K followers on Instagram. How do you think social media influences your style/your brand and do you have any favorite feeds to find inspiration?

Social media is a great source for research. I have a knowledge in childrenswear, of which I knew nothing until four years ago, which is all due to social media. I now think I know just as much about childrenswear as I do about womenswear, which is pretty remarkable. I come across amazing children’s brands and children’s magazines that are constantly teaching and inspiring me. I also use Pinterest for research all the time. It’s become very useful as for every project we have, we create mood boards.

Some of my favorite feeds are:

@smudgetikka@danceypantsdisco@thegracetales@notsomumsy@jetsetmama@ameliafullarton@mimithor@bonjour_diary , @alexanderandalice @piperandpoppies

Margherita Missoni

“I always think, whatever you do might be completely pointless if it’s not done at the right time.”

How would your best friend describe you?

Bossy, caring and curious.

What does your perfect weekend look like? With Kids? Without?

I love to travel somewhere I haven’t been to. It’s always fun to just get in the car and drive to city here in Italy that we haven’t discovered yet. As for a weekend without the kids? Just last weekend my husband and I left the kids with my in-laws. At 3pm we booked a flight to Athens and we left at 5pm. We spent the whole weekend away and got back on Sunday afternoon.

What are you reading right now?

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Your travels have been well documented and featured in the pages of Vogue. We’re always looking for the next travel destination. What is on your list for 2017?

I want to go to Kyoto for the cherry blossoms. Bhutan is always on the top of my list. I also want to go to Georgia.

Where do you stay/eat/play/shop while visiting New York?

STAY: Home

EAT: I love Sugar Fish and Omen Azen. People always try to take me out for Italian food but I don’t eat Italian food when I’m in New York. I also love the chocolate chip smoothie from Juice Press and the chia seed parfait and raw chocolate balls at Organic Avenue. And of course, you can eat morning, noon and night at Pietro Nolita.

PLAY: The Top of the Standard (formerly known as the Boom Boom Room) at the Standard Hotel is a great spot for a drink.

SHOP: For children, I love Sweet William and for me, I love FD Gallery and Manolo Blahnik – we don’t have stand alone shops in Europe.

What are your Three Pearls of Motherhood Wisdom?

  1. The best advice I give to new mothers, and also something I’ve had to learn myself, is to go with the flow, you can’t control everything.
  2. Everyone needs to read, The Good Enough Parent by Bruno Bettelheim. I think it’s something important to understand and accept.
  3. Follow your gut.

Shop Margherita Kids below:

Margherita KidsMargherita Kids Margherita KidsMargherita Kids Margherita KidsMargherita Kids

Business, Fashion, Give Back

Mama of Five Marie Tillman Turned Grief Into a $15 Million Foundation and Simultaneously Started a Business

February 7, 2017
Marie Tillman

To say that Marie Tillman, founder of Mac & Mia, a curated children’s clothing service, and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, a nonprofit that provides academic scholarships for veterans and their spouses, is a force, is an understatement. After the loss of her husband in Afghanistan, Marie started her foundation which has invested more than $15 million in educational support to individuals committed to a life of service both in and out of uniform. Then, inspired by her own experience as a working mother of five (yes, five!), Marie launched Mac & Mia, a clothing service that curates stylish looks for kids age newborn to six years old.

Marie Tillman

“I spent hours, weeks, months thinking about the concept and one day my husband said, “Just do it or someone else will and you’ll kick yourself.” And so I did!”

Marie, you are a true inspiration. How has your background led you to starting your children’s clothing service, Mac & Mia?

Mac & Mia is a result of my own experience as a working mom. We have five kids, so things can get a little crazy! When my now five year old was born, I started looking for ways to simplify my life and outsource little things so I could spend more quality time with the kids. Trips to the mall, or spending hours online shopping was something I knew I could live without, and I quickly realized other mothers feel the same way. At Mac & Mia, we take care of the shopping so parents can get a little more time back in their lives.

What was the first thing you did to get your business started?

I spent hours, weeks, months thinking about the concept and one day my husband said, “Just do it or someone else will and you’ll kick yourself.” And so I did! I pulled together a little money for inventory and a website. I moved the cars out into the driveway and set up the garage to pack and ship boxes from my house. It all sort of snowballed from there.

How did you take your business from a start up to today? Can you tell us 3 things that were integral to scaling your business?

Growing can be really exciting but also super challenging. Some of the key things that helped us scale are:

1. Hiring a great team- you can’t do it all by yourself!

2. Learning to let go and trust other people- as a business grows it’s impossible to manage every little detail. Find great people and trust them to execute on your vision.

3. Focus- It’s easy to get distracted but keeping an eye on the core of your business helps focus resources.

Marie Tillman

“Learn to let go and trust other people- as a business grows it’s impossible to manage every little detail. Find great people and trust them to execute on your vision.”

What does being a good boss mean to you?

I’ve been fortunate to know some great leaders and constantly look to them for inspiration and guidance. I think being a good boss means listening first, it’s important to understand where people are coming from so you can meet them where they are.

There are several subscription services for children’s clothing but few have items as high-quality as those brands you include. How do you differentiate yourself from the other companies out there?

Quality means a lot to us. I hate when I buy something for my kids and it falls apart or fades after one wash. Our team works hard to find pieces from both established and emerging brands to offer our customers unique items they’ll love. For us it’s all about delivering discovery and delight!

We love your Instagram! How have you seen social media impact your business? Any successful marketing strategies you can share?

We’re in a digital world and people love to share; social media has been big for us. It’s an outlet that works well with our business and provides a unique, genuine way of interacting, not only with our customers, but influencers, bloggers and vendors, too. Kids naturally bring so much joy and playfulness and that’s what we want to convey.

As for strategies, be authentic and build meaningful connections with your customer and community. It’s important to use these channels to engage and build a loyal customer – not just advertise to them.

You have turned the tragedy of losing your husband in Afghanistan into triumph for others when the Foundation you created has invested more than $15 million in educational support to date. What has been the most rewarding moment through this difficult experience?

There have been so many positive things that have come from my experience with the Foundation but meeting the scholars we support and hearing about how we’ve changed their lives is one of the most rewarding things.

Marie Tillman

On April 22th, you have organized Pat’s Run. What is it and how can people get involved?

Pat’s Run is a 4.2 mile run/walk held each April to celebrate Pat’s legacy of leadership and service. On April 22, 2017, over 30,000 participants, volunteers and spectators will unite in Tempe, Arizona and at Tillman Honor Runs nationwide to honor Pat and raise scholarship funds for the Pat Tillman Foundation’s Tillman Scholars program. Proceeds from the race directly support scholarships for Tillman Scholars who embody Pat’s commitment to service, learning and action. People interested in participating, but unable to make it to Tempe may sign up for one of 30 Tillman Honor Runs nationwide or register as a Remote Runner in their local community at www.patsrun.com

Your memoir, The Letter was published a few years ago. What was that experience like and what advice would you give to people wanting to share their own stories?

I started journaling when Pat was deployed and continued to write after his death. It was a form of therapy for me and so helpful as I sorted through some really complicated times. I never thought those ramblings would end up in a book but as time went on and I met more people working through loss, I realized my experience could be helpful to others. There is something so comforting in knowing you are not alone in your experience. I always encourage people to share their stories; it helps us all realize we are more similar than we are different.

What kept you going during those early dark days? What words of support and encouragement can you offer to women facing this hard situation of losing a husband?

My first husband had an amazing spirit, and really lived life to the fullest. I knew the best way to honor him was to keep living, as difficult as that was in the early days, I kept coming back to that notion time and time again. Losing a spouse was one of the most difficult things I’ve faced and such a personal journey, but some of the best advice I got along the way was to do what works for you. There’s no right way to mourn or live.

Marie Tillman

“Losing a spouse was one of the most difficult things I’ve faced and such a personal journey, but some of the best advice I got along the way was to do what works for you. There’s no right way to mourn or live.”

You are the mama to four boys and one little girl. What are the secrets to your sanity? Do you have any non-negotiables that keep you centered?

I think the secret is to be flexible and have a good team. No day is ever the same and with kids ranging in ages from 15 years to 3 years, things rarely go as planned – so flexibility is key!

When I’m home with the kids, I try to focus just on them and not check email or take work calls. They are my number one priority always, and I want them to feel that.

Do you have any time-saving hacks that you’ve incorporated into your daily life?

Sunday afternoon is my time for planning and organizing. Spending an hour or so before the week starts saves me a ton of time in the long run. Also I love Amazon, Instacart and Bake 425 pizza!

Your home is stunning! Do we spy a disco-ball back splash? Where do you get your design ideas? Any go-to resources we should know about?

I love home design and spend probably way too many hours at night searching Pinterest for ideas. My friend Julia Buckingham is an amazingly talented designer and has helped turn all those Pinterest boards into a reality.

What are your 3 pearls of motherhood wisdom?

1. Savor the good and don’t worry too much about the bad. One thing is certain, everything changes.

2. People offer so much advice and input from the second you get pregnant, but do what works for you and your family.

3. A dance party puts everyone in a good mood.

Marie Tillman

“Savor the good and don’t worry too much about the bad. One thing is certain, everything changes.”

Business, Fashion

A Sit Down With… Iva Pawling, Founder of Richer Poorer

January 25, 2017
Iva Pawling

We have a special place in our hearts for anyone who is a self-described Chief Fire-Put-ter Out-ter. Amen mama. Iva Pawling is the co-founder and CEO of Richer Poorer, a line of innerwear that includes socks, the perfect T’s and the newly launched, bralette, that has the attention of the editors at Racked. Only 5 years after her initial launch, Iva’s company was acquired. This California mama didn’t sail off into the sunset after her sale, instead she launched another company, Pointe Studio. Bravo!

Iva Pawling

We live in loungewear and love what you’ve done with your line, Richer Poorer. What do you think has been the secret to your success?

There’s no secret! Lot’s and lot’s of hard work. My co-founder Tim and I have been really methodical about how we’ve grown Richer Poorer. What started as an idea for a sock brand and really developed into this idea of “Innerwear” over the course of a few years of listening to our customers and understanding what it was they wanted next from us. Our decision to move into new products very much comes from them, along with what is it that we’re all wearing around the office that we want more of. Understanding what exists in the market and what we can make better has been essential to our growth.

What was your background in prior to starting your company and how did it influence you?

I’ve been in fashion since college. I started my career as an assistant at Kate Spade in New York. At the time, they had a great program for newbies where you would spend your first few months jumping from department to department for a few weeks to really understand how the machine operates as a whole. From there, you determine what spot suits you and the company best. It was such an in incredible first job experience. After that, I moved to Hawaii and I worked in PR, focused on (as best as you can on the islands!) fashion for a small firm. I then moved to California to work for my sister who has the jewelry brand, Gorjana. That’s really where I cut my teeth in the world of a new brand and what it took to grow it. I got bit by the entrepreneur bug there and left after about four years to start Richer Poorer.

When you launched your women’s t-shirts, they sold out in a day (wow!). How did you market these shirts and what surprised you the most about those incredible sales?

It was so exciting! Our product development team worked their tails off on our t-shirts and muscle tanks to make sure we were releasing a great product into the market. We mimicked our men’s “In My Tee” campaign that everyone loved, where we featured friends of the brand, young and old, and told little bitty stories about who they are and what they do. It made it really relatable while still feeling aspirational. It also helped that women were tired of spending $100 on a cotton tee-shirt and our $30 price point made it a simple purchase. Oh, press from Vogue and Who What Wear didn’t hurt!

Iva Pawling

You went from startup to getting acquired. What did you learn during that process and would you do anything differently?

Anyone that has gone through the acquisition process will tell you just how arduous it is. My best advice is to be loose with expectations. No matter what side of the deal you are on, buying or being bought, It takes a lot of effort and commitment to get through it, and it often times isn’t a simple and smooth process. I, like many women, want to keep people happy and it’s hard to do during an acquisition. We were lucky to have a really good group on the other end that tried to make it as painless as they could, but it’s just tough. And most importantly, have a great attorney.

Do you have a company mantra or set of ideals that mean something to you? If so what are they?

I have two! Honest Hustle and Elevate Everyday.

Honest Hustle speaks to our humble beginnings and how we operate as people and as a company. Tim and I started Richer Poorer with littler more than a few dollars and determination. There was no seed round to hire great talent. We had to be really scrappy with how we did things and had to get as much as we could out of very little. While we now have almost 30 employees and departments and budgets, we still expect everyone to operate with that mentality.

Elevate Everyday speaks to not only what we hope our products do for our customers, but how we want people to think of Richer Poorer. We have a – no asshole – policy. We don’t hire them and we won’t work with them. Elevating each other up on a daily basis is so important to a healthy office culture and what we hope to pass on to our audience. We are happy to come to work everyday and hope to make our customers happy daily.

Iva Pawling

“We have a – no asshole – policy. We don’t hire them and we won’t work with them.”

We often hear that the best advice is to follow your gut. When have you gone against the grain and done something just because you felt it was the right thing to do? Did it work out?

My goodness, yes! Starting Richer Poorer was a massive leap of faith. Six years ago when we started the company, socks were not something you started a brand with. Everyone thought my business partner and I were insane. My gut told me that we were going to be early to a trend that was going to be something of value, so I listened to it. I think what’s most important though, is knowing that sometimes your instinct will be wrong, and even when it is, there is a learning lesson within the experience that sometimes may be more valuable to you than had you gotten it right.

We love to collaborate with people here at heymama and it seems that you guys do too. Can you tell us more about these partnerships?

Collaborations are great. We try and work on partnerships as much as we can, whether that be on actual product, content or trips. From a marketing perspective, obviously getting the other brand / companies audience to know our brand is really valuable. From a personal perspective, some of my closest friendships I’ve made from this industry were born from collaborations.

We want to snuggle up in the pages of your Instagram feed! Do you manage this internally or do you work with an agency? What has been the most important aspect in growing your following?

We handle it internally. We hired an agency to do it and they fired US after two weeks! We’re really picky with what we want on our social channels, what is on brand for us, and what our audience wants to see from us. Knowing who we are as a brand and being consistent with that has been the most important part of growing our following.

Iva Pawling

“I think what’s most important though, is knowing that sometimes your instinct will be wrong, and even when it is, there is a learning lesson within the experience that sometimes may be more valuable to you than had you gotten it right.”

Who do you look to for inspiration on Instagram?

I’ve tried to back away from the perfectly manicured feeds lately, and really pay attention to the ones that have something valuable to say, like @words_of_women and @be.the.love.today, or make me laugh, @womenirl and @prattprattpratt. Chris Pratt is seriously the best.

What do you see as the next big trend in innerwear and how do you stay on top of industry trends?

Bralettes! We just launched ours last month and they’ve mostly sold out over the holiday season. Racked featured them, and we’ve gotten so much great feedback on them. I think the generation under my old, 30-something self, has all but burned underwire bras. I think we’ve hit a nerve with customers because ours are not lace. They are made of an incredibly soft modal cotton and are really cozy. Comfort is the name of innerwear trends and we try and suss out what the next item is that we can design better, make more affordable, and fits seamlessly in the world of Richer Poorer.  

We love your philosophy that you need to take care of yourself to be a better mother and wife for your family. If you had a full day with nothing pre-scheduled, how would you spend it?

With no child, I would workout, get a massage and take a nap by a pool. No devices, and a book in hand.

With a child, I’d spend the day at home and go on a stroll to the park. Our life is pretty busy, so I love nothing more than our days at home being lazy and playing.

Iva Pawling

Running a business and being a wife and mother is busy. Do you have any time-saving hacks that you’ve incorporated into your daily life?

Less sleep! I wake up really early to get my workouts squeezed in before the house is awake which is the only way for me to fit it in my schedule without taking time away from everyone else. And this past year, Amazon Fresh. Not having to go to the grocery store anymore has saved us a few hours during the weekend which is time back for me with Ford.

We know you love beauty products almost as much as we do. Do you have any beauty rituals that you can’t live without?

I have become an absolute cult follower of Glossier. I do not have time to spend 20 minutes doing my makeup in the morning, so taking care of my skin is most important, and having a fast makeup routine is second. Their products are my fav – cleanser, moisturizer, concealer, brow gel, highlighter – all of it!

What 3 things would you tell a mama with a dream who wants to build her own business?

1. Things aren’t what they seem. It’s really easy to look at all these moms on Instagram that are juggling it all and feel like you should be doing the same, on your own. What you don’t see on Instagram are the nannies, family members and close friends who are picking our kids up from school and helping us keep our heads on straight.

2. Shoot for the stars, but judge yourself fairly. It takes a long time to build a business. Our society has gotten really good at holding up the instant success story. That is the absolute exception, not the norm. It takes a lot of years, tears and hustling hard to get a business started and to grow it.

3. It’s okay to pick work sometimes. I had a really hard time with this one as I would be absolutely guilt ridden when I had to prioritize time at work or travel sometimes, over Ford. I firmly believe Ford will be totally fine if I have to be gone at times that he wants me home. Ford knows he is the most important thing in my life, but that doesn’t mean that he is the most important thing in every minute of every day. If he really needs me, I without a question drop everything, however missing a school performance for the most important meeting of the year is simply necessary sometimes.  

Iva Pawling

“Things aren’t what they seem. It’s really easy to look at all these moms on Instagram that are juggling it all and feel like you should be doing the same, on your own. What you don’t see on Instagram are the nannies, family members and close friends who are picking our kids up from school and helping us keep our heads on straight.”

Heymama Iva Pawling is giving all of our readers a special treat: use code HEYMAMA to get 20% off your purchase 

Fashion

MEMBER PROFILE: Heather Stachowiak Brown

January 20, 2017
Heather Stachowiak

Name: Heather Stachowiak Brown

Company: ODE TO HRS

Title: Fashion and lifestyle blogger

Website: www.odetohrs.com

Instagram accounts: @odetohrs

Kids: 1

Heather Stachowiak

After years teaching in both public and private schools, new mama Heather Stachowiak Brown turned her sights to a career in copywriting and advertising. Having only scratched the surface of her desire to create, Heather started Ode to Hrs and blogs about fashion and life with a little in the country. We love this mama’s bold style and knack for baby-naming. I mean, could the name Fox be any cuter?

Words you live by: Acceptance and empathy are the greatest gifts you can give anyone.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?: Lean into discomfort

Congratulations on your baby boy, Fox! What has surprised you most about becoming a mama?

I think what’s most surprised me is the range of emotions I feel and the depth of each one. At any given moment I feel extreme terror, joy, guilt, love… every feeling magnified and raw and honest. Motherhood in itself is a surprise, just because nothing anyone could have ever told me would have helped me to understand what it feels like. I’m not sure how it feels to be a mother can accurately be translated into words, but I guess we can try, right?

We love that you have followed your passion for creative writing into a career that is fulfilling. What advice would you give to a mama looking to start her own blog? Any dos or don’ts you’ve learned along the way?

1. Just start. Try your best not to get too bogged down with all the pieces of advice that are out there. It’s like reading a million self help books and never really living. I think people get a bit paralyzed by the thought of putting their writing and themselves out there for all to see. And I completely understand that fear, but the reality is you’re always going to be your harshest critic, so just put yourself out there and learn as you go.

2. Never stop evaluating your happiness. If blogging begins to feel like a chore, re-evaluate what you’re doing–have you made a mental shift along the way? Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? Are you setting unrealistic expectations for your blog? Check in with yourself. How you go about blogging is not set in stone. You can always modify so that blogging suits you, your process, and your life.

3. Whatever you do, don’t inundate your social platforms with women and mothers who seem to have the most perfect bodies, wardrobes, and lives. Unless this a source of POSITIVE inspiration for you (in other words, you feel positively motivated by the images and not pressured to compete) leave them off the follow list. Your blog and Instagram feed are your story and you should fill your life with things that inspire that story and don’t take away from it.

Heather Stachowiak

You’ve got such great style. How has your style changed as a new mama? What’s your go-to look for out with little Fox and what’s you go to for going out with the girls?

Thank you! Well, fortunately I’m lucky enough to be able to breastfeed my little bub, no complaints there, but in my naivete I failed to foresee just how much breastfeeding would impact what I wear. Especially because I’m not interested in wearing one of those feeding covers if I don’t have to. So… I’ve been embracing v-necks and button downs which weren’t generally my go-to top style, but I think the fun in style is being able to try things you may not have originally gravitated to. Style is (at times) going out of your comfort zone and seeing what you come up with. Being a breastfeeding mama has certainly sparked my interest in breastfeeding styles and how to provide these options for those mamas who want to feed their babes without sacrificing their style identities…   

As for my go-to look when out with Fox, it’s been so cold, so I throw on a pair of jeans, a maternity tank, a loose-fitting fun sweater (either a cardigan or a pull-on) and an oversized winter coat, and sneakers. I wear fox wherever I go so the oversized coat is a must so I can tuck him into my coat and we can share body heat 🙂 On most days I look like a mama kangaroo with a little baby joey in tow! I just love having him close to me.

And full disclosure… I haven’t had a chance to go on a girls night, nor do I think I’d be able to handle being away from him just yet. I suffer from serious Fox FOMO! But, when the time comes, I will absolutely be taking advantage of some of my more fitted mini dresses. Even if I have to wear pants underneath! They will be worn!!

Do you have a fave clothing item you can’t live without this winter?

My super chunky pom pom hats from Asos and my oversized faux shearling collared coat by Puffa. No matter what crazy thrown together outfit I have on, I always feel cool when I have them on.

What are your 3 pearls of mama wisdom?

  1. Go with your gut
  2. Go with your gut
  3. Go with your gut

I really do believe that once you become a mother, your purpose in life is to protect your baby no matter the cost. If it means offending your mother, mother-in-law, whomever– so be it! You are programmed to know and do what’s best for your babe. Trust yourself–mama really does know best!

Heather Stachowiak

Business, Fashion

13 Moms Who Crushed It In 2016

December 30, 2016
moms of 2016

For many, 2016 was a rough one. Perhaps Mercury was in Retrograde for a little too long, or real life was looking a little too much like a bad reality TV show. But, for these 13 ladies, 2016 was pretty darn rad. Before we say so-long to 2016, let’s take a moment to marinate in all the good that these mamas did in the world.

  1. Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO and Co-Founder, FEED

We’ve long admired FEED CEO and co-founder, Lauren Bush. Inspired by her own travels around the world and witnessing the effects of hunger worldwide led Lauren to starting her business that gives back to break the cycle of poverty. We had the pleasure of working with Lauren this past year to help support her mission to feed kids in need worldwide. 9 years, and 90 million meals later, this mama is the definition of beauty both inside and out.

Follow: @laurenblauren

moms of 2016

  1. Alli Webb, Founder of Drybar, Author

Not only did this mama take her side-business of doing her friends hair into nearly a $100 million dollar business, she wrote a tell-all book, Drybar: The Guide to Good Hair for All, to share her tips and tricks with anyone wanting to master their mane. Thank goodness for our blowouts!

Follow: @Alliwebb

moms of 2016

  1. Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President of Apple Retail

Recognized as one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, Angela Ahrendts, formerly of Burberry, has traded in fashion for tech and is revamping retail at Apple. Ahrendts believes that community is key and by the end of this year, she will have redesigned 95 Apple stores so they feel more like town squares. She has introduced “Teacher Tuesdays” to help teachers incorporate technology into their classrooms and will be introducing coding classes for children in 2017.

moms of 2016

  1. Daphne Oz, NYTimes Best-Selling Author and Co-Host of ABC’s The Chew

Our list of New Year’s Resolutions include picking up a copy of Daphne Oz’s new cookbook,The Happy Cook: 125 Recipes for Eating Every Day Like It’s the Weekend stat. Anyone who can make preparing meals both healthy and easy is a woman after our own hearts.

Follow: @daphneoz

moms of 2016

  1. & 6. Katia Beauchamp and Rebecca Minkoff, Fashion & Beauty Superstars and TV Hosts

We love when mamas collaborate and we can’t get enough of the new show that features some of our favorite mamas, Katia Beauchamp (Birchbox) and Rebecca Minkoff (Fashion Designer). Project Runway: Fashion Startup is like the original Project Runway, The Apprentice and Shark Tank had a baby and brings together aspiring beauty and fashion entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges to score start-up funding.

Follow:

@katiawb

moms of 2016

@rebeccaminkoff

moms of 2016

  1. Joy Cho, Founder and Creative Director of Oh Joy

This mama has had such a stellar 2016 that she ended it with a move to a bigger space! Joy Cho is an inspiration with her whimsical designs, delightful daily posts and colorful outlook on life. You may recognize her designs on your kids’ band-aids, gorgeous wallpapers or her latest uber exciting collaboration with Target. Her latest collection is inspired by rainbows and clouds (swoon!) and we have a lot more to share in our upcoming interview.

Follow: @ohjoy

moms of 2016

  1. Dana Walden, CEO of Fox Television Group and Chair for Alliance For Children’s Rights

Dana Walden has spent her career bringing shows like “Family Guy” and “Fuller House” to families around the globe, but she knows life isn’t as always perfectly scripted. Walden spends her free time giving back to the foster care system and in 2016, was honored with the National Champions for Children Award at the 24th annual Alliance for Children’s Rights dinner. The dinner alone raised $1.5M to improve the lives of young people in the foster care system. A dedicated mother to her own two children, we need more people like Walden to give back to those in need.

moms of 2016

  1. Randi Zuckerberg, NYTimes Bestselling Author, Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media and Editor in Chief of Dot Complicated

There truly isn’t anything this mama of two can’t do and to say that she is an expert in managing the ever evolving landscape of our digital lives is an understatement. Post managing marketing for Facebook, Randi became a NYTimes Bestselling author, won an Emmy, started a media company and in 2016, created and executive produced her own tv show called Dot, which airs on Sprout. Having Randi leading our littles in the wild west of their new online realities is a mama’s dream come true.

Follow: @randizuckerberg

moms of 2016

  1. Queen Rania of Jordan

Queen Rania of Jordan has become one of the world’s most vocal advocates on behalf of Syrian refugees. Recognizing that every 7th person in her country is a Syrian refugee, she is taking a stand and imploring the world to take notice. Queen Rania shares she believes in conviction, courage, compassion and creativity and trusts that everyone can do their bit to change the world for the better. If you are looking for a cause to support in 2017 and want to join Queen Rania’s efforts in this global crisis, visit Global Citizen to learn more.

Follow: @queenrania

moms of 2016

  1. Jenni Fleiss, Co-Founder of Rent the Runway

We can’t count the times we’ve been complimented on our latest outfit, only to exclaim, “It’s Rent the Runway Unlimited!” (If you don’t know about this monthly service, you need to sign up stat.) and we have Jenni Fleiss to thank for that. And now, the Rent the Runway Foundation has partnered with UBS for the second year of Project Entrepreneur. Women entrepreneurs are invited to apply in the competition and educational program to compete to win $10,000 and a spot in a five-week accelerator program to scale and create high impact businesses. Women supporting women? We love it!

Follow: @jennycarterfleiss

moms of 2016

  1. & 13. Paige Appel and Kelly Harris, Co-Founders of Bash,Please

When Paige Appel and Kelly Harris brought their two companies together and formed Bash, Please, we couldn’t wait to join their party. The duo lends their creative expertise to clients to create the events of their dreams and has won the hearts of people like Martha Stewart. In 2016, the two turned their sights on opening their first brick & mortar shop, Midland, in Culver City, CA. Chances are, if these two style mavens love it, we will too.

Follow:

@paigeappel

moms of 2016

@kellyharris

moms of 2016

Fashion

A Sit Down With LA Ladyboss and Darling Designer Clare Vivier

December 22, 2016
Clare Vivier

If we had to pick one handbag designer to be loyal to for the rest of our days, it might just be Clare Vivier. Classic, modern and infused with just a little bit of French charm, this brand has us coveting pretty much everything that pops up online and in stores (the Simple Tote is our all time fave). We’ve often thought about opening a little shop with beautifully curated must-haves in a charming neighborhood but Clare has already done just that, and continues to do so, expanding her stores nationwide. Read on to find out the next lucky city to get their very own shop and what Clare is enamored with, it might surprise you.

Clare Vivier

Clare, you have the most impeccable style and genius eye, how did you develop this passion? Were you always interested in fashion from a young age?

I’ve always been interested in fashion, starting as a little girl wearing my mom’s clothes. I remember wearing a slip skirt like a dress, and convincing myself that others believed it was a gown. This continued in grade school, I begged my mom to buy me Gloria Vanderbilt jeans when they first came out, and then in junior high school, I was the first person with Guess Jeans. I was also obsessed with Esprit. I thought it was a chicest and most cosmopolitan brand around at the time. Anyway, suffice it to say that even through college as an English major, I would write papers deconstructing fashion.

We know you were a journalist before becoming a designer. How do you think your background has influenced your career?

I think every job I worked along the way helped me in some way get to where I am now. Being a journalist helped me appreciate the process of honing my inspiration and translating it in a way that other people can relate to and love just as much as I do.

Did you have a mentor that helped you in the early days? What were your biggest mistakes? Successes?

I didn’t have a mentor in the early days. My first mentor was Steven Alan, a relationship that developed organically about a year after I started selling my bags at his stores.

I honestly cannot even recall the biggest mistakes in my career, because I don’t look at things that way. Anything that didn’t turn out the way I anticipated, we just moved on from. I have a mantra that I try to follow when things get tough, which is: “everything is going to be ok.” I try to repeat that to myself when times are rough—surprisingly, it helps. I think having a wonderful support network of friends and especially my family, is how I know that no matter what, it’ll be ok.

My biggest successes are my stores. I can’t believe that we have 6 of them (hopefully soon there will be 7, if a space we have our eye on in San Francisco works out), where we get to tell our story and bring a little joy into our customers’ lives.

Clare Vivier

“I have a mantra that I try to follow when things get tough, which is: “everything is going to be ok.” I try to repeat that to myself when times are rough—surprisingly, it helps.”

You are based in Los Angeles but also have retail stores in New York. What is your company culture like and what qualities do you look for when hiring new employees?

We have a pretty relaxed studio, and I try to instill friendliness as the number one quality after you’ve been hired. We are all stressed in our jobs, and so to have cattiness on top of that is just unacceptable.  It brings me joy to see the deep friendships made between employees. When hiring, I’m attracted to someone who is driven and smart – and not just book smart, but hopefully also has a tiny bit of street smarts as well. Then I hope to find someone who will meld well with the culture we’ve created.

What has been your biggest lesson in running your six stores?

You must be able to delegate and get a good retail operations manager!

What 3 tips would you offer young designers starting their careers?

Keep your blinders on, and focus on our own goals. Build authentic relationships. Always stay curious and open to necessary changes.

How would you describe your personal style? What designers are you most influenced or inspired by?

My personal style changes with time, mood, weather and city. I would say I love distinct aspects of both femininity and masculinity. I’m always attracted to a bold color and mixing textures and fabrics. Right now I’m loving Celine, Prada and Frame.

As entrepreneurs, we are constantly on the go. What is the perfect carry-all to get us through the day?

Sandrine. She’s a large tote that is a perfect carry-all for a working woman, like myself.

clare vivier

“Keep your blinders on, and focus on our own goals. Build authentic relationships. Always stay curious and open to necessary changes.”

Often our work day continues into nighttime events, dinners and parties. What is an easy way to go from day to night?

I always like to have a pair of heels either at my office or in my car – I feel like you can transform any outfit to evening with heels. This is LA after all, where things are pretty casual. Then I’ll usually grab my Frankie – the perfect evening clutch.

Clare Vivier

What is one bag that you think every woman should have in their wardrobe?

Fabienne, the most beautiful everyday bag that can be equally casual and elegant. It’s lovely in cuoio vachetta, a leather that wears beautifully over time.

Clare Vivier

What would our readers be surprised to learn about you? Any hidden talents?

Not really, although I’m oddly obsessed with hopscotch and am constantly finding the pattern in everything I’m looking at. Bet you didn’t think that was coming!

Your clutches are the perfect gifts and I always feel like such a hero when I find the perfect color combo for my friends.  What are a few items on your wish list this holiday season?

Hmmm…

1. I’d be happy with lovely cards from people.
2. I also like the idea of art books.
3. A donation to one of my favorite charities/organizations, such as Every Mother Counts or Planned Parenthood.

Running your own business can be all consuming.  What do you do to escape it all?

I love when I get to stay close to home on the weekends. I’ll go on a hike through Elysian Park with my son, Oscar and dog, Paco. I also love to just relax in my bedroom, my favorite room in our house, with the balcony doors open reading a book.

What is the first thing you do in the morning?  Last thing you do at night?

I go into my son’s room and wake him up by giving him a snuggle. Then I make coffee and usually his lunch. At night, I’m usually in bed with my laptop catching up on last emails, then I put it down and try to read a bit to get out of my own head.

What are your 3 Pearls of Motherhood Wisdom?

1. Don’t get tunnel vision – all the tough parenting times end, don’t despair.

2. Don’t be a helicopter parent – teach them the dangers of falling off the deck, for example, then let them be (as much as you can bare!). They’re smarter than you think.

3. As much as possible, don’t do things for them, teach them to do it, then ask them if they need help if they’re struggling, but try not to just do it for them.

Clare Vivier

“Don’t get tunnel vision – all the tough parenting times end, don’t despair.”

Fashion

A Sit Down With Ladyboss and Designer Christine Alcalay

December 16, 2016
Christine Alcalay

We have a special place in our hearts for mamas who love to create. Meet Christine Alcalay, the Brooklyn-based fashion designer and boutique owner who is lucky enough to call Karlie Kloss, Rose Byrne and Emma Roberts as clients. Not only did Christine create her own line, she didn’t want to sit back and wait for retailers to buy it, so she opened her own store. Gaining inspiration and strength from her own mother (the family immigrated to the US from Vietnam when Christine was only 3), Christine is passionate about her craft and her community.

Christine Alcalay

It’s so nice to meet you Christine! We’ve been long time fans of your store in Park Slope. You have such an interesting story, can you tell us more about your childhood experience and how it got you where you are today? 

I owe so much to my experience as a child and without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I came to the United States with my mom at the age of 3 when we escaped Vietnam in the middle of the night on a boat promising freedom and opportunity. We were the lucky ones because many people never made it to see land. We had nothing and she came to NYC with a bag of dreams and the will to survive. She worked in factories and I tagged along, cutting threads and helping her out wherever she was. With younger sisters to support, she worked day and night. Growing up and witnessing my mother’s strong work ethic and drive to survive most definitely influenced me. When a seamstress sews and speaks the language to her child, it is only natural that the child speaks that language fluently. She planted a seed in me that included ingredients such as grit, hard work, tenacity and stamina. The passion for design and clothing that I have doesn’t come from fashion magazines, movie stars or the glamorous light that fashion tends to be portrayed in. My love for clothing and fashion came from seeing that with hard work, what you can imagine can be designed and created with your own hands with some paper, pencil, fabric, needle and thread. It wasn’t just sewing though: if she was cleaning she taught me how to clean; if she was cooking, she taught me how to cook. It taught me that I had a very important role to help as little or as young as I was. I learned very early on that life is what you make of it; it’s a personal hustle.

Christine Alcalay

Christine Alcalay f/w ’16

“The passion for design and clothing that I have doesn’t come from fashion magazines, movie stars or the glamorous light that fashion tends to be portrayed in. My love for clothing and fashion came from seeing that with hard work, what you can imagine can be designed and created with your own hands with some paper, pencil, fabric, needle and thread.”

Your mother sounds like an incredible woman. What lesson do you value most about your childhood? 

The struggle is what I value most about my childhood. With my parents always working, my brother and I had a lot of independent play in the yard and on the streets of our neighborhood. When I wasn’t helping my mom with her heaps of clothing, I spent the day outside playing in the dirt with my brother. The days would come and go as we made up games and acted out stories to stay entertained. We made mud pies and dug up dirt. I wasn’t surrounded by toys growing up. We played with wrapped up towels, toothpaste caps and planks of wood. Anything that we can get our hands on was used for imagination. The time to get lost in the yard fed my imagination. The struggle and hard work I witnessed made me very resourceful and taught me how to make the best out of whatever I am given. I’m the girl who makes lemonade out of lemons.

You made your first item of clothing at the age of 4! WOW!! Do you have a vivid memory of this piece? Can you describe it for us? 

I was given a Barbie doll at some point. I remember her so clearly because she was a hand me down and her hair was a tangled mess. I sat by my mom as she sewed garments and the scraps she had, I collected into a pile beside me. I remember tracing out the doll’s body, giving enough seam allowance cutting out the pieces and sewing them together. It took several tries because I didn’t account for three dimensionality and the no stretch factor of the fabrics. After some time I made my doll her very first pair of black velvet leggings. The waistband had a bow that tied in the front. It was almost impossible to pull them on the doll because of the texture of the doll. Once I made those, and they fit, the rest, is history. 

Christine Alcalay

Christine Alcalay f/w 16

Do you still have any pieces of clothing that you made before having your own label? If so, what’s your favorite. 

I do! At Parsons, for a final project, I knitted an entire dress from thick and thin virgin wool. I imagined it was a wedding dress for someone who was getting married in a very icy, cold place, like Greenland or Alaska. It took me weeks to knit a floor length gown, lined in silk. I have it in a closet upstairs and every once in awhile, I pull it out and it reminds me of how crazy that all was.

Parsons was lucky to have you! You enrolled in the design school to further develop your skills. What is the most important thing you think you learned there? 

Parsons is pretty hard core. It’s filled with students who have so much talent and drive. The most important part of Parsons to me was when I studied abroad in Paris. It was wonderful to learn in such an openly creative environment, surrounded by people from all walks of life and cultures. I traveled to Paris with $400 in my pocket, scared that I wouldn’t last one week much less a year. Again, the resourcefulness I learned taught me how to survive when I had nothing. It pushed me to learn French, find a job, an internship, an apartment and ace all of my classes. I remember one day, I had a true Scarlett O’ Hara moment when a black curtain hanging in my French class was calling my name. Fabric was expensive and I really needed to make a dress for a friend. Needless to say, after class, I pulled down that curtain and it became a black shift dress. That one-year abroad in Parsons Paris taught me about my limitations or more accurately, the lack of it.

Christine Alcalay

Christine Alcalay s/s ’17

“The struggle and hard work I witnessed made me very resourceful and taught me how to make the best out of whatever I am given. I’m the girl who makes lemonade out of lemons.”

You won the “Parsons golden thimble” while studying there. Did winning such a prestigious award open any doors for you? If so, what opportunities were given to you because of it? 

I graduated in July of 2001. It was an honor to be mentored by Michael Volbract and I Iearned so much from him. Unfortunately, graduating a few months before 9/11 was very challenging. When 9/11 happened, the job market changed, the economy changed and our lives changed. I had to go back into survival mode as well- we all did.

Did you have a mentor or anyone that really helped you when starting out? How important do you think having a mentor was as you tried to break into the fashion world? 

Hands down it was my mother. She taught everything I needed to know. I would not be doing this if it weren’t for her.

Post graduation, you decided to work retail instead of working for a fashion house or start your own label. What made you go that route? 

I love retail. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I used to make and sell customizable scrunchies in Elementary school and I got such a kick out of it! I felt it was important for me to learn the retail side and also to learn the social skills needed in working with customers and clients. I may seem outgoing but a large part of what I learned about talking to people comes from working retail. It’s work that requires knowledge of product and customer service. It scared me to death, but I knew I had to conquer my fear. It turns out, I love retail and it balances out the designer in me. Now with my stores, I’ve fulfilled the different kinds of creativity needed to run a successful retail store while working on my collection. 

Christine Alcalay

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received? 

My husband always says, “Don’t be guided by money but by your heart and gut.”

How did having kids influence your career? 

Having my kids has made me work harder, strive more and has cut out all of the extraneous nonsense I don’t have time for. When I’m not working, I’m with my family. I teach by example and try to be the best version of myself not only more myself but also for them. As parents, we influence our children just by who we are and how we live. I have that weighing on my heart everyday. The time that I’m not with them is a time where I focus all of my energy on my passion and drive for my businesses, so when I’m with my husband and children, I can be there for them.  The balance is something I really struggle with. I feel that all moms struggle with it. What straightens me out is always a question I ask myself- “Will this matter in 5 years?”  Having children has made me work on being a better person, being kinder to myself and knowing that the time I spend away from them is precious, so I better be making the most of it. Having my children has propelled me because my cause is no longer singular, it’s plural.

It’s crazy how our kids can be so like us or so different! Do any of your kids have the same passion/gift you had for sewing as a child? Or are they into totally different things?

My kids are completely different. growing up around stores, my studio and fabrics surrounding them, they can appreciate my love for what I do. I believe being around this energy has made them passionate about finding what they love. My eldest loves school and dance, my younger daughter loves Tae kwon Do and sports, and my youngest’s passions are yet to be seen, he’s two. I enjoy watching them bloom and finding what makes them complete.

You started making custom pieces and then moved to ready-to-wear. What made you change direction?

I loved making custom pieces but knew that it limited me to a small geographical area. In order to have the focused but large outreach that I wanted for my clothes, I needed to work differently. There is nothing like seeing my clothes worn by someone in Kuwait or Japan. Fashion has no boundaries and I love what I do because I love dressing people.

Christine Alcalay

Fashion, Living

Mamas Who Inspire: Tigisti Weldeab

December 12, 2016
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Scrolling through this California mama’s colorful Insta-feed just makes us smile. Meet Tigisti, a lifestyle blogger and transformational coach who is on a mission to show other working mama’s like herself how to create a healthy and beautiful life on their own terms. Motivated by her own mother and the birth of her daughter, Tigisti left her career in corporate America to follow her passions.

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On Motherhood: I actually refer to myself as the “accidental mother and wife” because I never imagined myself married or running around with a bunch of kids. I was raised by a single mother who had an arranged marriage when she was 14-years-old. Unfortunately, she never had the opportunity to get an education or explore the world. Despite this, she overcame poverty and unimaginable hardships to start, and run, a successful business. Her motherhood mission became that her daughters get the highest form of education and live life on their own terms, and that is exactly what I focused on. I became the first in my family to get a college degree and hold a professional career. I got a few more degrees, traveled the world and climbed the corporate ladder. Never once did I think about getting married or having kids. But, that all changed when I met the most amazing man 9 years ago and I found myself wanting to do it all – marriage, kids, house, everything! I married that man almost 5 years ago, and now we have a little girl named Bella Fiori (beautiful flower in Italian) and we lead a quiet, but full life in Northern California.

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On Career: I had a successful corporate career in my 20’s, but I eventually burned out because I wasn’t living an authentic, purposeful life. Luckily for me, my husband pushed me to find my true calling. After we got married and had our daughter, suddenly everything became clear. I wanted to be able to tell my daughter that she could do anything, like my own mother did, and to go after her dreams. I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur and started Bella Diva Lifestyle, a transformational coaching service to help women find their true passions.

Favorite Quote: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”, Norman Vincent Peale

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Fashion, Living

14 Toys For Your Big Boys

December 6, 2016
mens gift guide

Three weeks before Christmas and you still don’t know what to get bae? We’ve scavenged the internet to find you the best of the best, and not just the best-sellers. Who wants to be mainstream anyway? Here are 14 gifts that your man will want to unwrap this holiday season. Besides you that is 😉

1. For the Adventurer:
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GoPro Hero 5 Black, $399.00

Okay, this one’s not under the radar, but who wouldn’t want one of these?

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LifeStraw Steel*, $54.95

Whether you go camping, travel a lot or are waiting for the apocalypse, this is pretty handy for everyone.

*For every LifeStraw product sold, a child in a developing country receives clean, safe drinking water for an entire school year.

2. For the Bartender:mens gift guide

Bespoke Post Gold Flask, $36.00 

Flashy and pocket sized, your man will take the edge off at any dull future gathering. I mean there will probably be alcohol there, but it’s way more fun to have your own secret stash.

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BoxFox Drink//Sip, $107.00

This one is more for you, because who doesn’t want a bae to make amazing cocktails whenever you want?

3. For the Eco-Conscious Cook:

mens gift guide

UNICEF Market Artisan Wood Cutting Board*, $39.99

Chopping for a cause.

*This purchase can provide 27 doses of measles vaccine to protect children from this deadly disease.

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Living The Farm Sanctuary Life By Gene Baur*, $20.82

Anything that says we’re going to live longer and feel better everyday, sign us up! Unless it’s a cult, we won’t sign up for that.

*Available on Amazon Prime

4. For the humanitarian: 
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Conscious Step Socks, $44.95

Saving the world, one sock at a time.

5. For the trendy lad: 

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Miansai Harbour Rucksack, $545.00

Backpacks are the new briefcases in our book, especially when they are as sleek and sexy as this one.

6. For any man with a smartphone:

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DENTS Shaftesbury Touchscreen Cashmere-Lined Leather Gloves, $160

Your man will never have the excuse of not texting you back in below freezing weather again. He’ll be thankful we won’t have to answer a phone call with his tongue this Winter. Wait, is that just me?

7. For the well-kept man:

Moroccan Neroli Shaving Duet, $80.00

Not all guys care about investing in the good stuff. The thing is, when you do it for them the first time, they will never be able to go back to musky Old Spice again. Score.

8. For the Californian:

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California Surfing And Climbing in the Fifties by Yvon Chouinard, $32.99

Vintage pictures that let you smell the salt in the air and the sun on your skin. Perfect for any Californian at heart.

*Available on Amazon Prime

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Tosam x Salemtown Board Co., $150.00

Perfect gift to start some father-son (or daughter!) bonding time, like as soon as they open it.

9. For the lounger:

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Grana Cashmere Joggers, $149.00

And the days he doesn’t use them (which is probably never), you’ll want to slide them on yourself.

10. For the guy who’s had the same wallet since you met: 

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Dries Van Noten Webbing-Trimmed Pebble-Grain Leather Billfold Wallet, $205

And he’ll have this one until you decide to buy him another one tbh. Guy’s ALWAYS need a wallet.

Want more options? Go see our Amazon Prime Gift Guide here.

Fashion

Professional Gifter Simone LeBlanc Says Ditch The Bottle Of Wine, Here Are 5 Gifts The Hostess Will Actually Enjoy

November 18, 2016
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Photo by Morgan Pansing

Have you ever been given a gift that is just so perfect it brings tears to your eyes, but are left dumbfounded and lost when trying to do the same for a loved one or friend? Finding the perfect gift is a true art form and making an impression beyond a token bottle of wine is not as easy as it seems. Thankfully, there are people like LA-based Simone LeBlanc who are gifted at the art of gifting and can be called upon to create the most refined gifts that leave an emotional impact. Since forming her company in 2011, Simone has artfully created the perfect gifts for celebrities, philanthropists and everyone in between and specializes in carefully curating the perfect selection of items together in the most refined and luxurious package. For those of us who are staring into the upcoming holiday season like a (rein)deer in headlights, read on to discover how Simone has grown her business from a passion to a profession.

Simone, you’ve been called a “Professional Gifter” and the “go-to” resource for finding refined gifts. Were you always the one friends called on when they needed advice on the perfect gift?

I have been known to be a bit of a ‘secret source’! I deeply care about gifting and how we can use objects to convey emotion; how do we create connection and messaging through gifting? I have always designed, fabricated, explored, created…if  my hands aren’t building or shaping in sync with my ideas, I am not truly in my element.

How did you transform your talent for gifting into a business?

As a former personal life-stylist, I created objects and gifts that resonated with my clients and their networks. I noticed a huge gap in the gifting space – no one was creating gifts in the tone that felt right for my needs. I needed a company that could provide me with fresh, personal and unique gifts in a volume capacity at a moment’s notice. I knew that if my clients needed this, others would as well.

The personal touch, the value of human connection and streamlined function are the core of my business as it is today – the source that makes tasteful, quality gifting easy. We work with businesses large and small, event planners, private clients and everyday customers. It’s something I enjoy tremendously.

“Great entrepreneurs get out of their comfort zone. I like to take calculated risks and push beyond the edge of what you thought possible. If you’re excited about what you’re up to, others will follow your lead.”

Did you have someone who really influenced and helped to develop your ideas in the early days? A mentor? What was that like?

I’ve had a few mentors and influencers, each contributing to where I am today. My first most significant was a teacher that I had in college while studying fashion in Paris – he guided me in the value of exploring ideas to their fullest, but the importance of working within real world deadlines and being able to communicate your vision to an audience succinctly. The next was my first philosophical and spiritual teacher who facilitated a deep understanding of transformation, intention, and a perspective on the human journey and now motherhood; all teachings that are a foundation of my everyday. Currently, I have a select group that I work with as my business grows into new territories. These current relationships have been cultivated over time. I’ve found that your mentor comes to you when you’re ready for them.

It appears that you can find the perfect gift for anyone for any occasion. How do you go about sourcing all of your products? Do you do it alone or do you work with a team?

I’m pretty much always ‘on’, so sourcing for me is really about editing and deciding what works best where. An object may catch my eye and inevitably, if it doesn’t make sense now, it will at some point down the road.  At this point, my sources run deep…I lead this sourcing, but always welcome the point of view of my team. If they see something that feels right – I want to know, and I want to assess!

With the holidays right around the corner, we’ve been thinking about the perfect hostess gifts to bring this season. Can suggest five gifts so good we’ll be invited back every time?

 

Shop Ila’s decadent and completely useful Wildflower Honey: available in our Fine Soirée giftbox:

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Heather Taylor Home kitchen towel sets – a great go-to hostess gift : available in our Joyful Morning giftbox:

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Valerie Confections x Commune Good Mix Bar: available in our Modern Holiday giftbox, perfectly bold and full of seasonal ingredients for Fall + Winter:

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Maison Louis Marie candles in my favorite woodsy scent, No. 04, Bois De Balancourt. Available in our Relaxation giftbox:

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Herbivore’s Coconut Bath Milk Soak – perfect to help soothe that tired hostess! Available in our Relaxation giftbox:

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One thing that sets you apart is your beautiful packaging. How have you approached branding and what are some things that you’ve learned along the way?

Thank you! I do spend a lot of time thinking about packaging and details. As far as branding overall, it’s about balance. Our brand voices is a combination of my instinct and personal point of view mixed with my respect and appreciation for my audience and customers. How can I say what needs to be said in a way that will connect, resonate, inspire and feel true? I deeply trust my instincts, but I do rely on sounding boards. I need second opinions, and this is where collaboration comes into play as well.

You’ve created gifts for everyone from celebrities to philanthropists. How did you market yourself in the early days and get so many influential clients?

I honestly have to say it’s been word of mouth mixed with old school entrepreneurial hustle. I do this for the love of it and the fact that it’s smart business, and people need it. True passion, an open ear to the feedback of your customers mixed with resiliency and hustle will get you anywhere you need to go. Because if there’s no path, you find a way to create it. As far as marketing specifically, I did not have any experience in this area before starting my business. I just knew that I had something that people would want and would solve their problem, so that allowed me to be open about sharing it.

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Photo via Joie

“True passion, an open ear to the feedback of your customers mixed with resiliency and hustle will get you anywhere you need to go.”

What is the most memorable gift you have ever been given? Why was it to special?

A handmade miniature ceramic boot with grosgrain ribbon from 1890’s France. It’s the first gift my husband gave to me, after our first date. He was compelled to bring it to me against the advice of the shopkeeper and everyone around him; let’s just say it was not your typical ‘I’ve been thinking about you after our first date…’ type of gift. When I opened the box, I was shocked at how apropos the gift was. Unbeknownst to him, I collected miniature shoes and 1890’s France is an era that I love. I knew then that my life was about to take an entirely different direction, and it quickly did.

We often think the perfect gift would be the gift of time. If you had one day completely to yourself, how would you spend it?

An early am wake up and a walk in the woods with my daughter Lillian. (Preferably the redwoods of Northern California). Making breakfast as a family, taking a simple trip to the farmers market and then a few hours to just play. Currently, that play is about making clay objects. Lillian and I are creating miniature tea sets. I’d love to wrap up the afternoon at the Korean Spa by myself, and then have a couple of friends over for dinner at my house.

“How can I say what needs to be said in a way that will connect, resonate, inspire and feel true? I deeply trust my instincts, but I do rely on sounding boards. I need second opinions, and this is where collaboration comes into play as well.”

Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions that you look forward to?

Yes! We host Thanksgiving at our home, which I love. We stay in pajamas as long as possible, and Lillian (who is 2) has taken up our family tradition of setting the table with flowers and foliage from the garden along with a mix of our favorite flatware (brass, from my parent’s wedding) and place settings. We fold the linen napkins together, which is something that she is working very diligently on learning! We give thanks around the table – which of course always makes me a bit teary eyed. Then it’s games, rest and general laziness and a stop in from friends here and there. The morning after, we pull out my Grandmother’s Gumbo Pot and make a delicious turkey soup with the leftovers. It’s a cozy time of year around here!

Can you share 3 Pearl Of Wisdom on career and motherhood?

1. For Motherhood, I welcome and rely on the tried and true saying that “It takes a village.” This is a foundational point of view that I love – it calls up the importance of community, compassion, leadership and humility. It’s a constant reminder to me that I don’t have all of the answers, and that’s okay, and that’s how it’s always been in the lineage of parenting. Motherhood is a journey into an unseen territory, and you can call on the wisdom of a trusted community all the while bringing your voice and intuition to the conversation.

2. In business, knowing your strengths is essential. Bringing in the right team is paramount and knowing when to jump in and when to get out of their way is key.

3. Great entrepreneurs get out of their comfort zone. I like to take calculated risks and push beyond the edge of what you thought possible. If you’re excited about what you’re up to, others will follow your lead.

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Photo by Morgan Pansing

#LADYBOSS, Fashion, Fashion, Interviews, Look Good

#LadyBoss: Meet Molly Guy Of Stone Fox Bride

August 18, 2015
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How did Stone Fox Bride come to be?
After I got engaged in 2010, I spent eight months planning my wedding  and discovered that all the wedding dress shops felt really fancy and sort of uptight. I couldn’t find a mellow boutique with a beautiful selection of high-fashion breathable bohemian dresses that felt true to my vibe. A few weeks after my wedding, I patched together a business plan, and SFB was born shortly after.
Are you a big believer in fate? If you’d come back to New York and found a dream  job your life may have been so different.
I believe that there is a plan much bigger and more meaningful than my teeny, ego-centered narrow mind can possibly fathom. When I am operating from a place of faith (not fear), I am able to show up for my life and let the magic unfold. Short answer: YES!
What is you most cherished possession?
My children. Predictable answer, but truer than true.
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How has surrounding yourself with creativity been important to you?
Yes. Creativity is my religion. It’s my jam. I LIVE to be creative!!! BUT, I’ve learned that too much creativity is really not a good thing for me, unless it’s tempered by equal parts business savvy and practicality. I can get way too caught up in the clouds, very Piscean, and unless I’m forced into some sort of rigorous, rigid action, I will just float around dreaming and talking about my feelings forever. It’s all about discipline, baby!

Creativity is my religion. It’s my jam. I LIVE to be creative!!! BUT, I’ve learned that too much creativity is really not a good thing for me, unless it’s tempered by equal parts business savvy and practicality

Being an entrepreneur and mama can be really hectic, what’s your favorite way to make time for your gorgeous girls?
Weekends! We do lots of hanging in Brooklyn. Farmers markets, ferry rides, jumping in piles of pillows, reading on our patio, eating donuts, napping, laughing, cooking, chilling out. This past Saturday, my husband was out of town, and the girls and I had an epic “Little Mermaid” “Frozen” “Bambi” Disney movie marathon complete with cuddling and bags of green licorice. It was NOT a Waldorf moment, but it was definitely a good time.
How do you unwind?
I love hanging out with my hot husband Mike. We’re homebodies, so we do alot of lounging and reading and movie watching and cooking. I’m also a big fan of hot baths, pilates, meditation and epic gossip sessions with girlfriends.
What are you the most proud of with Stone Fox Bride?
Making it happen. I have no background in business or fashion — am just a useless Liberal Arts major with a degree in Creative Writing who could never even get it together to balance a checkbook. Breathing life into the World Of The Foxy Lady has been amazing.
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What do you do for yourself to feel centered and calm?
I believe in the power of gratitude, sorry to sound so Tony Robbins. I keep a daily gratitude list with a bunch of girlfriends where I can get in touch with all the small good things I have going on in my life — anything from having the perfect cup of coffee to my parents’ health, I can easily get all victim-y and whiney and blame my husband for ruining my life if I don’t constantly come back to the source. The truth is, I am lucky as shit.

I believe in the power of gratitude, sorry to sound so Tony Robbins.

We love your dreamy boho goddess vibe, has this always been apart of your style? 
HA! I am flattered to be called a dreamy boho goddess, but most days feel like a grizzled middle-aged Marge Simpson.
Lately, my style icon is my three year old daughter Sunny — she has really been working her clothing mojo recently. This morning’s outfit included a pink piggie backpack, tiger t-shirt, purple tutu and sparkly hairbow.
What do you love most about what you do?
Truthfully, everything, Even though today, as I am writing this, I am beyond overwhelmed and feel completely incompetent.
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How has motherhood changed you as person and as you see life and what you want to achieve?
Motherhood has forced me to do all sorts of things I could never do before, as small as getting up with my alarm clock, as epic as putting other people’s needs before my own. It’s been deep and wild and dreamy.

Motherhood has forced me to do all sorts of things I could never do before, as small as getting up with my alarm clock, as epic as putting other people’s needs before my own. It’s been deep and wild and dreamy.

What do you want to teach your kids about life?
Endless optimism, eternal curiosity and belly laughter can get you through just about anything.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Advice: I don’t give it, and I don’t take it. Rarely has anything good come from either.
There are endless possibilities and ways you can grow your brand how do you focus?
I don’t, that’s part of the problem. I constantly have a hundred things going on all times.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Finishing up the Stone Fox Bride book, learning how to roast the perfect chicken and working toward World Peace should get me through the end of 2015.

Photography by Amy Frances. Florals by Rose Red & Lavander.  Molly’s dress is LoveShackFancy.