How many times have you been out in public with a screaming babe in one arm, frantically trying to undress while maintaining some shred of decency with the other? Why hasn’t anyone designed clothes that are lust-worthy, yet made for the breastfeeding mama? That’s exactly what Peggy Economou wondered after the birth of her daughter and she decided to do something about it. Inspired by the luxe fabrics she found while living in Italy, Peggy has created a line that is both functional yet exudes such quality and style, you’ll want to wear the pieces long after your breastfeeding days are behind you. Read on…
Finally! Someone has designed super stylish, wearable and functional clothes for the breastfeeding mama. Bless you! How did the idea for your line, Teat & Cosset come to be?
My daughter Dafne was born in December 2014 in the dead of winter. None of my clothes had easy breastfeeding access, so I ordered a few tops online. When I got them, I was surprised by the poor quality, questionable functionality (buttons on the shoulder?!) and they looked tattered after a few washes. I ended up spending a lot of money on things that I didn’t even want to wear while I was nursing, let alone afterwards. Fast forward to trying to soothe my crying baby during night feedings and I felt like I couldn’t open my pyjamas fast enough and I thought, “why not use snaps instead of buttons?”. The first pieces in my line were PJ’s and a night shirt with snaps and then the line grew to a cohesive 15-piece collection. My goal was to create a collection that didn’t look or feel like nursing wear that was free of stretch jersey and looked like clothes I would want to wear when I wasn’t breastfeeding.
I ended up spending a lot of money on things that I didn’t even want to wear while I was nursing, let alone afterwards.
What is the story behind the name, Teat & Cosset?
I originally wanted to name the brand after my daughter, Dafne, but it seemed so anonymous and I felt like it would be lost in a sea of other brand names. I decided to make a list of all the names that described the brand and its values; breast, nursing, luxury, quality, pamper and then looked at synonyms for all the words. One of the words that stood out was ‘teat’. It’s a strong word that definitely caused some backlash, but you can’t make everyone happy, and I decided to stick with it. I then paired it with “cosset” as I just loved the way it looked and sounded and it means, to pamper. Our goal is to pamper moms and help them feel like themselves again while they nurse so “Teat & Cosset” was the perfect marriage.
Your pieces are so beautifully designed – we want the Vivian Shirtdress and we aren’t even breastfeeding! You don’t have a background in fashion. Did you have someone who really influenced and helped to develop you in the early days? A mentor? What was that like?
Happy to hear you want the Vivian! That was the point of the collection; to create pieces that any woman, not just a nursing mom, would wear. Although I don’t have a background in fashion, I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a child and art and design have always been my passions. I used my own experience nursing to design pieces that were beautiful and most importantly, functional. We used vertical stripes in our AW2016 collection to hide possible leakage and to create slimming lines, and zippers on a few pieces, and snaps in others, for easy access. During the early days, I showed my ideas to a friend, Virgil Sparks, a freelance fashion designer, for feedback. He helped me tweak the designs to create a high end line and has been a great sounding board and source of inspiration. He’s now part of the team and consults on styles, trends, colors and fabrics to create a cohesive line each season.
I used my own experience nursing to design pieces that were beautiful and most importantly, functional.
You manufacture your line in Italy. Tell us more about that decision.
Deciding to produce my line with small manufacturers in Italy has allowed me to have greater control over all of the pieces. I don’t need to send a tech pack and CAD drawings to a factory in China hoping they’ll get it right. By looking at a detailed sketch, my Italian manufacturers know exactly what I want and then make the first prototype with my input along the way. We work on the piece together through various fittings and adjustments until we have the final design. The creative process is so different than elsewhere when you have talented and experienced manufacturers involved in the process.
What advice do you have for mamas wanting to start a business of their own?
- Just Do It. The most important thing in starting a business is just get started. Stop talking about it, and do it.
- Think Small. I can’t emphasize enough to start small and keep startup costs low. There will always be unexpected expenses along the way and you need to be able to roll with it. Although I think our first collection is great and each and every piece is a staple of a woman’s wardrobe, it would have been easier to start with a collection half the size in terms of warehousing and initial production costs.
- Be patient. Your business will rarely be a success overnight. You probably won’t sell anything the first day or even the first couple of weeks after you launch. Set a good size budget aside for marketing – whether for trade shows, a marketing consultant or events. You can have the best product but people must know about it to buy it.
- Do not underestimate word of mouth. I didn’t realize it’s importance in the beginning, and it turns out most of our sales come this way.
Every mother’s breastfeeding journey is unique. Do you have any advice for mothers who may be struggling to make it work?
Yes! Don’t be afraid to seek support and professional help. Breastfeeding should not be painful after the first couple of weeks and if it still is, there may be a problem with the baby’s latch. A lactation consultant can help you through the process. Sometimes, no matter how much help you get however, it still may not work. If that’s the case, I would tell mothers to be easy on themselves and to give themselves a break. Pumping exclusively may be an option or formula is always an option too!
Have you discovered any new or favorite products for mamas who are breastfeeding?
Ever since we launched my line, I’ve discovered a ton of new brands to help breastfeeding moms. I love Oat Mama, which are granola bars, jam-packed with ingredients that are milk producing. I also love the beautiful lace bras from The Dairy Fairy. I wish I had known about them while I was nursing! And of course, I love the Naya pump, which I will save up for if I have another baby. It uses a new technology that is supposed to make pumping a lot more comfortable.
We love your story so much. You left your banking career behind to travel the world and fell in love along the way. You now live in Tuscany with your husband and baby girl and are kicking butt in your career. What has been your biggest surprise and learning so far?
My story sounds like a sappy movie sometimes! I did leave my career, travel and fall in love but there were definitely bumps along the way too. I remember when I started my travels the movie Eat, Pray, Love had just come out and I got that reference a lot, which I wasn’t very keen on!
My biggest surprise was how easy it was to leave everything behind. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled working in banking and letting everything go, from my apartment, to my job, to my stuff and my lifestyle in general, it felt very liberating. I needed and wanted a change. Although I was often lonely while traveling, I found that the most illuminating and special moments I experienced happened during that time.
What I’ve learned is how much better a simpler life is. I’ve also learned that what you do for work doesn’t define you. When I was working in NYC, I remember the first thing people asked me was what I did for a living. In Siena, I’ve known people for years and I still don’t know what their job is! It’s nice to talk about things other than work.
What I’ve learned is how much better a simpler life is. I’ve also learned that what you do for work doesn’t define you.
How do you feel motherhood differs in Italy compared to your mama friends back home in the US?
All moms are different and I don’t want to generalize too much. But what I can see is that Italian moms, and maybe European moms in general, are a bit more lax about certain things and aren’t so busy. I don’t know any Italian mothers who take their babies to music or language class either. In fact, I don’t think they even offer anything for children under the age of 2 here! I think a lot of it has to do with the simplicity and slower pace of life in Italy. There isn’t this enormous sense of competition either. I can tell you that applying for pre-school was an absolute breeze here. NYC moms, please don’t kill me!
The area where Italian mothers aren’t relaxed however is with layers and they tend to overdress their kids for the weather. The last time we went to the park it was a unseasonably warm day and most of the kids had jackets, scarves and a few even wore hats. You can spot the American kid a mile away wearing shorts, a tee and sandals. Every time I pick my daughter up from her grandparents house she has a handkerchief wrapped around her neck so she doesn’t get a sore throat. If it were up to them she’d be wearing a turtleneck all year round.
You must be surrounded by constant inspiration living in Italy. Who are your mama muses?
I still pinch myself when I walk around Siena’s historical center. Everything is art. Most of the city’s ‘palazzi’ were built in the 1200’s and the fact that these buildings still stand, perfectly preserved, is awe-inspiring. It is a wonder to think about the time and effort it took to make such works of art; works that we can still appreciate hundreds of years later. It makes me sad to think that the newer, cheaper things we build and make today won’t last very long. It is also what I think about when we make the clothes in our collection. Will this piece last for the next 10 years?
I don’t really have any one mama muse per se. I admire all moms because I now know how much effort it takes to raise a child. Since becoming a mother, I can say that I have a greater appreciation for stay at home moms because staying at home all day with a small child is probably the hardest job ever.
You are a big believer in self care (Amen!). What is your favorite way to recharge?
My go-to place to recharge is a beautiful spa called San Giovanni Terme, which is (luckily!) a 15 minute drive from my home. My husband and I try to go as often as we can and make a day of it. We soak in the thermal pools in the morning, and then have a healthy lunch at their beautiful restaurant overlooking the Tuscan hills in the afternoon. The natural minerals (sulphur and calcium bicarbonate) found in the water, help me feel reenergized and my skin feels amazing afterwards. Plus, the alone time with my husband is essential. For those wanting to do a cleansing, detox bath at home, I love Pursoma.
3 pearls of wisdom
Keep setting and writing down your goals (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc) and when you reach them set new ones
Be grateful for what you have. I find myself feeling much happier when I remind myself of all the good things in my life. I try to do this at night and in the morning when I wake up.
Concentrate on one task at a time, in all aspects of your life - family, work, hobbies. I find I stay more present that way and do better work.