Like many moms, Heidi Lieberman and Gudrun Kosloff became friends when their kids became friends. While their sons played together in preschool, Heidi (above left), a celebrity fashion stylist, and Gudrun, a celebrity makeup artist, found easy rapport in chatting about their glam careers. The moms also bonded over a shared frustration: their difficulty finding stylish boys’ clothing that didn’t break the bank.
The two women realized their friendship had business potential when they joined forces to throw a birthday party for their boys—and discovered they had similar working styles. In 2017, they teamed to launch Grey and Ray, a line of California-cool street-style duds for little dudes. Here, Heidi and Gudrun talk to heymama about the ways friendship fuels success—and how much creative control they give their kids.
Congrats on the launch of Grey and Ray! Tell us a bit more about how this collaboration came to be.
Gudrun: Our boys, Benjamin and Oskar, met when they were 2 and started preschool together. They were insta friends—and just like that, we were, too. As the boys grew, we noticed that we were both having a hard time finding cool, comfortable, high-quality clothing for them. There are so many more options for girls than there are for boys, so we hatched up the idea of a West Coast-inspired kids clothing line that focused on boys. The name Grey and Ray comes from the boys’ middle names, Benjamin Grey and Oskar Ray.
At what point did you realize your friendship had an entrepreneurial spark? How did you make that leap into business mode?
Heidi: Funny enough, we found out we were a good team after we threw the boys’ third birthday party together! We worked really well together and also worked similarly. I think because we both come from “set” life, we really pay attention to every specific detail.
What’s been the biggest surprise in running your business?
Gudrun: Ha! Nothing goes as planned. That’s been one of the biggest challenges we’ve had to face. We had a holiday shirt this year that didn’t come out right, and we ended up donating all of them to charity. It was a disappointing setback, but there was nothing we could do about it.
You’ve said your boys are involved in every step of the business, from product development and design to testing. How much say do you allow them?
Gudrun: The boys have been really helpful in the creative process of the business. We’ll have ideas we think are awesome that then get immediately vetoed. They let us know what feels good to wear and what doesn’t. For example, they both hate tags in their clothes—we were always cutting them out—so we opted for a tagless label.
As for the design, the paint-splattering process is the most fun for them. Benjamin and Oskar studied Jackson Pollack together in preschool, and they taught us. That’s how we ended up with the paint-splattered look on some of our custom pieces.
Designing clothing from the boys’ perspective also helps us create an end product we feel confident selling because we know the kids feel good wearing it. It’s kid-tested and kid-approved. Every item in our line is stitched with two red Xs to mark their seal of approval.
What’s your favorite item in the line right now?
Heidi: We just added the Rip Off Crew, inspired by ’70s street skaters. Back in the day, if you were hot, you would just cut the arms off your shirt. The styles are unique; some have paint splatter, some are worn in, and some are plain. We had a lot of fun designing these.
Oskar (left) and Benjamin prepare to customize a Grey and Ray tee.
Tell us more about how your strengths differ and how this benefits your business.
Heidi: Gudrun is a whiz at the tech stuff and great at doing computer-related tasks where I am not at all! Danish people as a whole are more direct and straight to the point which is very helpful when we are negotiating.
Gudrun: Heidi is Southern; she’s great at dealing with people. She also keeps us organized with her endless lists!
What are some of the advantages of launching a company with a close friend?
Gudrun: Having a partner is so valuable because we hold each other accountable. We make a commitment and follow through. It is also so helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off and not just be stuck in your own head.
Running your own business and being a mother is all-consuming. How do you manage your time between work and family?
Heidi: We both believe family comes first, and that takes precedent. Because we are our own bosses, I’m pleased to say we are able to follow that guideline. Sometimes we’re busy at work with Nerf guns being shot over our heads by our boys, or the dogs are jumping on the samples, but we love it and have learned to embrace the chaos!
Heidi, you were a celebrity stylist before launching Grey and Ray. What three items are you coveting for spring?
I am about to head to Tulum on a girls trip, so my picks of the moment suit that vibe. I love anything effortless but still cool, like this dress that I just ordered from Doen. I also love a good hat, especially the Grey and Ray lightning bolt trucker. For when I need a little more coverage in the sun, I am eyeing this beauty. And last, but not least, I love to pair a dress with a great sneaker.
Gudrun, you’re still working as a makeup artist in the fashion industry. What are your beauty must-haves right now?
I love everything beauty, but right now I am loving the mascara by the Japanese brand Fairy Drops. It’s a must-have for spicing up your lashes for spring. For me, sunscreen is a non-negotiable; my current favorite is Oil Free Control Corrective. It’s great for sensitive skin and won’t cause breakouts. To add a little plumpness, moisture, and color to your lip, my go-tos are the Clinique Chubby Sticks.
Your brand is a tribute to California. What are your favorite things to do on the weekend with the family? With girlfriends?
Heidi: The great thing about L.A. is you have the beach, downtown and everything in between. On Sundays, we love to go with the family to brunch at the Malibu Cafe which is tucked into the Malibu mountains. The kids like to play with their giant chess set and take rides on the pedal boats.
Another favorite is to grab a coffee from Demitasse and then explore the art district in downtown L.A.
When we need a break from the kids, we love the new Nomad hotel downtown. The renovated Italian bank is awesome for custom cocktails.
I am also obsessed with the Limo Salttado at the Peruvian spot Rosalie in West Hollywood.
3 pearls of wisdom
Be a good friend.
Life is short, so make it fun.
Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth.