As you might expect of a New York fashion maven, Belinda Bank is creating work-life balance in a style that’s uniquely her own. After toughing out a twin pregnancy in the trenches of Vogue, she ventured into startup culture and then broke out to start an in-demand fashion-consulting biz. Now a partner at Launch Collective, a business solutions company for emerging fashion and lifestyle brands, Bank talked with heymama about charting a personalized path, building her mom tribe, and being a role model for her 8-year-old sons by courageously confronting the ghosts of her own difficult childhood.
You’re a partner and the EVP of marketing at Launch Collective. Can you share a bit more about what your team does, exactly?
We like to think of ourselves as a one-stop shop for emerging fashion and lifestyle brands. We support small brands across business strategy and planning, marketing, production and operations, creating bespoke business solutions that anticipate demand, encourage differentiation and mobilize growth.
Wow, OK. So “everything,” in other words. How did you end up on that career path?
During my six years in the promotions department at Vogue, I had the opportunity to craft partnerships and collaborations with a host of young, talented designers. It was eye-opening to see the struggle—there were so many gifted designers with passion and drive, but their lack of business acumen put them at a huge disadvantage. Ultimately, many of them crashed and burned.
I was a new mom at the time, and while I wanted to help, I had professional challenges of my own. I left Vogue for a startup, then moved to the brand side with a stint at J.Crew. By then, though, a big, corporate environment no longer appealed to me. I took a risk and started consulting.
My first client was a small statement-jewelry brand called Dannijo; I loved every minute of my time working with the founders and their incredible team. I was able to get involved in e-commerce, digital marketing, social media, PR—there were so many areas where I could lend my expertise and learn something new.
Did having a family directly shape your decision to begin consulting?
Absolutely. I was pregnant with my twins while working at Vogue. Morning sickness plagued me for six months, but I was so determined not to let it get to me. I also had sciatica, which I powered through in 6-inch heels. Despite all the obvious signs that I needed to take stock and take care of myself, I didn’t feel I could. It wasn’t an environment where you wanted to show any sign of weakness.
Once my boys were born—two months premature—I had an awakening. I was spending day and night in the NICU, completely tuning out of my career and into my family. It totally realigned my priorities. I suddenly realized I didn’t need to be defined by my career anymore; I needed to move beyond fear and take risks to get the life I really wanted.
I needed to move beyond fear and take risks to get the life I really wanted.
What differences did you notice personally when you switched to consulting and nurturing smaller companies?
During my corporate days, being a mom felt like a disadvantage. Isn’t it awful that they call maternity leave “disability”? The only people I felt comfortable confiding in were other mothers or my closest coworkers. I like to think the corporate climate has changed, but it’s not my world anymore. Collaborating with women at small brands—where I have the freedom to be authentic—is so much more rewarding.
You’ve mentioned that you had a tough childhood. What were those experiences like?
I didn’t have a stable support network growing up. Mental illness is rampant among the women in my family, and I often had to put my own needs aside to manage the challenges in my day to-day-life—such as my relationship with my sister. I always craved the company of strong, inspiring women. The idea was such a stark contrast to everything I knew.
How did that shape your values today?
I’m still coming to terms with it. It took me a very long time to realize that I often tolerated unhealthy and somewhat abusive relationships because I had been conditioned to accept them. I endured bad boyfriends, fake friends and terrible bosses. After becoming a mom, I wanted to be a better role model for my boys. I confronted those old patterns, started standing up more, and began addressing the issues instead of ignoring them and hoping they would go away.
What are some strategies you’ve used to build your support network as an adult?
When I left home for college I made a conscious decision to engage with people who exemplified qualities and traits I admired. It wasn’t easy at first; I was hesitant to trust anyone or get too close. But when a romantic situation at school turned toxic, a friend came through to pull me out of my downward spiral and support me. That helped me begin to understand and appreciate what it was like to have reciprocal relationships.
Today, I’m surrounded by an ever-evolving group of kick-ass friends whom I consider family. Together we navigate the trials and triumphs of building and evolving our careers, raising mindful children and being responsible about our part in a complicated world. I am so grateful for the time I get to spend with them—be it a three-day conversation over text, a weekend together with our families, a late-night dinner or a quick lunch during a busy workday.
What are some of your non-negotiables as a working mom?
I don’t take early-morning meetings. I like to drop my boys off at school every day because that’s my chance to see my kids interact with their friends, talk to other parents and be part of the school community. I don’t miss bedtime more than once a week—if at all—and am usually home for dinner. My boys are very big talkers, and I love hearing about their day and all the crazy things they do. In order to make that all work, I have to prioritize, which can be tricky when I’m balancing clients and kids all at once.
What do you do to decompress at the end of the day?
Honestly, I don’t. In order to keep my schedule—and my non-negotiables—I usually get back on my laptop after my kids go to sleep. Whenever I can, I meditate before bed. I’m a big fan of the Headspace app. Even 10 minutes of mindfulness can make such a difference.
3 pearls of wisdom
Talk the talk. I do my best to engage my boys in discussions about the world and encourage them to stand up for the things they believe in. They had plenty of questions after the 2016 Presidential election and wanted to know why they kept hearing phrases like "the future is female" and "Black Lives Matter." They also questioned why they had to have lockdown drills at school and proudly marched with me in the March For Our Lives. These conversations aren't always easy—and they're usually ongoing—but I want to make sure my boys know they can always ask me anything.
Put music on! With the exception of reading and homework time, music is always playing in my home. Singing and dancing are such good forms of creative expression, and we encourage our boys to belt it out or shake it up whenever the music moves them.
Give them a break every once in a while. Between school, homework, sports and after-school activities, my boys are often overloaded and over-planned. Every once in a while we break out of our schedule and do something special, like a 7:00 p.m. screening of the new Star Wars movie on a school night!