We love meeting the working mamas behind some of today’s biggest brands. During our recent rag & bone events, we had the chance to learn more about the brand and later the powerful women behind it when we visited their flagship office in NYC. During our visit we chatted with Vanessa Abreu, Vice President, Domestic Wholesale; Marissa Kraxberger, Vice President, Creative; Candice Hernstad, Director of Photo Production and Sandi D’Avella, Director of Sales, Women’s Accessories and Footwear. Read on to learn more about their life at rag & bone and how they balance it all.
Tell us about your roles at rag & bone.
Vanessa Abreu: I’ve been with rag & bone for a year as the Vice President of Domestic Wholesale, supporting a team of 20 amazing people.
Marissa Kraxberger: I am the Vice President of Creative for rag & bone. The quick answer to what I am responsible for is to bring Marcus Wainwright’s creative vision for the brand to life. The long answer is that I oversee all the overall image for rag & bone, art direction, graphic design, website and digital marketing creative, campaigns, rag & bone films, store design, window and in-store visuals and visual merchandising.
Sandi D’Avella: I am currently Director of Wholesale Sales, Footwear and Accessories at rag & bone.
Candice Hernstad: I am the Director of Photo Production at rag & bone. I manage all the photo and video projects in terms of budgets, casting talent, locations, etc.
What do you think is more difficult: being a good boss or a good mom? Do you use some of the same skills?
Sandi D’Avella: Being a good mom is harder because I have a daily and lifelong responsibility to foster and nurture good people to go out into the world and do good. I definitely use a lot of the same skills as a boss. I believe honesty, empathy, constant communication and hard work are crucial to success for my team (and my kids!).
Candice Hernstad: A good mom is totally harder! Each phase is like chartering new territory. That, coupled with always wanting to do the best for my babe, can feel like a lot of pressure at times. Yet, with each milestone and the little things you see on the daily, it is the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.
Marissa Kraxberger: I think both require work every day and I am probably never good at either all the time. Empathy is super important to be a good boss and a good mom. I also think that people (and children) need to feel ownership and responsibility. It sounds silly to say that about kids, but when they feel they are responsible they tend to step up, giving your team that level of support and leadership is important, too.
What was it like for you to head back to work post-baby?
Marissa Kraxberger: I just had round three this time so it was a bit easier, but to be honest, I was ok. I love being a mom and I love having kids, but I also love my job and what I do. I feel that I am better at both because I have both. In my first job, it was hard because I felt I had to prove that I was going to be fully-committed. I have been hired pregnant three times crazy enough. I think that so much of being able to be at peace as a working mom relates to my husband and my nanny. Both are such a tremendous support for me. I know that my kids are loved and safe and I don’t worry as much during the day. I think it has gotten a little harder now that they are older because they need more time (for homework and such) and also want more of my time. That’s still something I am adjusting to.
Sandi D’Avella: It was hard for me to come back after having both of my children. I took about 11 weeks off with both of my kids. There was a lot of bathroom crying the first week back, but I made sure to transition back slowly. I have an amazing team and boss that made the transition back so much easier. I think my biggest fear was that my babies would forget about me, but I have worked hard to ensure that I spend time with them in the mornings and evenings with bath time, bedtime rituals have become so important and fun! I made sure to create a schedule that allows me to spend quality time with Eloise and Jackson every day.
Candice Hernstad: It was tremendously emotional heading back to work but I always knew I needed that balance of work life and personal life. I feel like it makes me a better mom and I’ve really come to cherish each opportunity I spend with Edie. I was of course worried that I would miss out on a lot of really pivotal moments but I choose not to focus on that and instead look forward to each morning’s messy breakfast and each evening’s bath and bed time. I put her to sleep most nights and those twenty minutes of quiet time with just she and I are super revitalizing and special.
My boss, Marissa, is an unbelievable support system and she made the transition back one thousand times easier. She is a mom of three and obviously just gets it. Without her support, guidance and friendship, heading back to work would have been way more daunting.
Create a schedule that allows you to spend precious time together in the morning and the evenings.
What’s the one nugget of wisdom you share with your mama friends when they are heading back to work after their first baby?
Marissa Kraxberger: This is different for everyone, but for me I felt that when I went back to work it was easier for me to adjust by focusing on work during the day and not setting up FaceTime calls, phone calls, etc with my nanny. My days went faster and I was able to acclimate back to work. If my nanny needed me I answered immediately, but other than that I focused on work during the day. I was able to slide back into my routine easier and didn’t feel like I had to finish any work at night.
My biggest advice is for a little later. One day when my daughter was three years old she looked at me and said that she wished I didn’t have to work and I could stay home with her. My first reaction was to agree, but instead I explained to her that mommy loved her very much and loved being at home, but that mommy also likes to work and that it was a part of who mommy is. She smiled and said she understood and she never asked that question again. To this day, that moment always means a lot to me because she understands that it is ok to do both and to love both.
Sandi D’Avella: It’s funny, my best friend went back to work today. My advice was to take the time to ease back in gradually and remember that your baby loves you unconditionally, no matter what. Create a schedule that allows you to spend precious time together in the morning and the evenings. Remember that you are working to make a better life for your children. It’s all for them now!
Candice Hernstad: My two best friends are due in December and they are already worried about going back to work. I would just tell them that balance is possible. Honestly, the reaction Edie has each time I walk into the apartment each night is so rewarding; it feels as if I never left. I’m sure they’ll feel the same way.
What gets you up in the morning and motivates you in your work?
Marissa Kraxberger: That is easy, I love what I do. I am thankful to do the kind of work that I do at a brand that I love.
Sandi D’Avella: Honestly, I work hard to provide a good life for my kids and family. I totally understand my parents more now after having children. My kids and my husband make me want to be a better person and working hard is meaningful to me as I want my kids to have a similar value system.
Candice Hernstad: As cliché as it may sound, I just want to be able to provide her with whatever she needs. My parents have always been very hard workers (they’re in their late 60s and still work six days a week!) and raised my brother and I to really appreciate the value of hard work and cherish the experiences they were able to provide us with. My husband and I intend to do the same for our family.
How has motherhood impacted your career?
Vanessa Abreu: It has made me much more efficient. I no longer have the luxury of time. I leverage digital tools to manage business outside of the office so I can be home to eat dinner with my family. I’ve also become extremely empathetic as a person. I know what life is like pre and post kids and understand the importance of a work and life balance, regardless if anyone has children or not.
Marissa Kraxberger: I am far more efficient. I also have less tolerance for nonsense. I want to do my job and do it well and then go home and be with my family. I adore my job, but I also know it is just a job and that family comes first.
Sandi D’Avella: It has made me much more efficient. I don’t take a lunch break and I work hard from the minute I get to my desk until I walk out the door (and post kids bedtime☺). Some days feel a bit foggy at the end of the day, but I am never bored which I love!
I love being a mom and I love having kids, but I also love my job and what I do.
What is the company culture like for working mamas at rag & bone?
Vanessa Abreu: It’s entrepreneurial. The world is yours for the taking. Regardless of what role you play, we all roll up our sleeves and pitch in to get the job done.
Marissa Kraxberger: It is great actually. Marcus is a very dedicated husband and father and he sets a really good example. He is a 9:00am-6:30pm guy and doesn’t really email at night or on the weekends–ever–so it is easy for me to follow suit. I really appreciate that about him. I feel I can do kid and family stuff as needed, it is really probably the best work life balance I could ask for.
Sandi D’Avella: The company culture is incredible at rag & bone and the team has been so supportive. I had two children during my four-year tenure and I must say, they’ve been very good to me. Everyone at rag & bone works super hard and are motivated by passion for the brand so it’s really inspiring to come to work everyday. It’s also amazing to have a CEO who takes so much pride in his family. He sets an incredible example of how to balance work and family. My boss also has three children. She is so inspiring in showing me that you can have it all.
Candice Hernstad: The company culture at rag & bone is nothing short of amazing, and tremendously supportive of working mamas. I think this stems from the fact that Marcus is a dad of three and the balance of work and family life trickles down to us all. As mentioned, my boss, Marissa, is also a mom of three and sets a really great example of the work/life balance that I hope to follow.
How do you make sure that your voice is heard in a such a large company?
Vanessa Abreu: It’s not that hard. Call a meeting, share your goal, opinion or idea and Marcus will listen.
Marissa Kraxberger: I’m pretty loud and talk a lot so that is easy. ☺ All kidding aside, I think the best way to have your voice heard is to be a good leader and to establish strong partnerships with other teams.
Sandi D’Avella: I try to ensure I have as much analytical back up to support my strategic initiatives so that I can speak intelligently. I find that data is key when assessing problems and determining solutions.
Candice Hernstad: I think demonstrating respect for your colleagues earns you that respect in return, and assures your voice will be heard.
What would surprise us about working at rag & bone?
Vanessa Abreu: There is one lift and you need to manage your meeting time accordingly if you plan on taking it. Otherwise, get ready to walk up six flights of stairs.
Sandi D’Avella: The people at rag & bone are so nice and friendly! I knew I loved the vibe from the time I interviewed here back in 2013. It hasn’t changed. There is such a lovely kind culture that spans across every department.
Candice Hernstad: Often with big companies the founder or CEO tends to become less involved in the day-to-day operations and that is definitely not the case with Marcus. Every time I leave a meeting in his office, I have a list of films, artists and photographers to reference. It’s clear that he is very passionate about what he has created and I find that super inspiring.
What did you find to be the most challenging thing or the biggest adjustment when you first came to work for such a large scale company? How did you meet those challenges?
Vanessa Abreu: It’s a very cross functional group. Everyone knows everything. In my past, different groups champion their scope of work. Here, everyone has done a little bit of everything. Listening has been the key for me, personally. I tried very hard to stay mum for the first six months to understand every person and the role they play.
Marissa Kraxberger: I have worked for other companies of this size, but probably the biggest challenge is that some things are just hard to fix quickly. I am pretty scrappy and crafty if I need to be and it is easy to be as a creative and especially in digital, but not all parts of a big retail company are quick fixes. Sometimes it feels like trying to change the course of the titanic!
Sandi D’Avella: I came in during massive growth period for the company across every division. I had to dive right in, learn the business and ensure that I was working strategically with the team to ensure success both immediately and in the long term.
What is the hardest thing about being a working mama?
Vanessa Abreu: Staying on top of the “mom” stuff like school projects, homework, teacher calls, doctor appointments, etc. I recommend the COZI app, it’s a shared calendar that the nanny and my husband access so we know what is due or who has dance or soccer practice and when.
Marissa Kraxberger: I never ever have time for myself. That is currently my biggest struggle that I am dealing with.
Sandi D’Avella: I would say it would have to be missing some of the smaller special moments in my kid’s day. Something as simple as dropping my daughter, Eloise, at school or seeing my son, Jackson, wake up cheery from his morning nap. I definitely miss those moments and cherish my weekends with Eloise and Jack.
Candice Hernstad: Finding time to take care of basic life needs like grocery shopping, cooking, general errands, etc. I don’t want to spend my weekends doing anything other than hanging out with her and my husband. Kudos to the moms who find time to exercise!
Have you found any life hacks that help you achieve your work/life balance?
Vanessa Abreu: Shower at night. This is a major game changer for new moms returning to work. It only gets harder in the morning so adding a shower to the mix is a pain.
Marissa Kraxberger: Yes. Amazon Prime/Fresh. Period. I order everything, literally. I do not go into stores. I am not sure I could survive otherwise!
Sandi D’Avella: I like to say “just go” and don’t think too much about all of the details. I don’t try to think too much as every day brings something new and sometimes crazy, so I like to take it all as it comes. I have found that my strong relationship with my husband has helped me to achieve balance in my life and work.
Candice Hernstad: Once I leave the apartment, put on a podcast and walk to the subway, it’s like I switch on “work life”. I think of the day ahead and it sort of becomes like autopilot. I try and give that 100% and then, getting off the subway and walking home at night, shifting back to my “life side” I try and give that 100%. Edie currently goes to bed super duper early (is that normal?!) so I rush to savor those moments with her.
What do you do to unplug from the office?
Vanessa Abreu: It depends on what you mean by “unplug.” With email being so easy to access, I like to stay ahead of what’s to come. Being a working mom, I leave the office at five and because of this, I will hop back online on weeknights to catch up on anything I may have missed. I also allot an hour for my husband. He needs some quality time, too!
Marissa Kraxberger: That varies for me, but I like to run, do yoga and watch movies… a lot of movies! I also love to travel whenever possible.
Candice Hernstad: Cooking and a good glass of wine are so therapeutic at the end of the day. More wine, please!
Photos by Stevi Sesin
Shower at night.
Sleep on the train.
Depend on your husband or significant other. You are one person and need to take care of you too.
The days are long, but the years are short.
Plan adventures. I believe in creating memories over buying things. We travel a lot as a family. Travel is what I am most passionate about so I want to instill that in their lives as well.
Date nights! I think taking time away with your partner makes everything better. The kids don’t love it, but they understand when you tell them mommy and daddy need time to tell each other how much they love each other.
Always nurture your relationship with your spouse as I have found that this is the foundation for a strong and happy family dynamic. My husband, Anthony, is my rock and he motivates me to be the best I can be every day. I try to do the same for him.
Take time to create a schedule that enables you to get the most out of every day with the kids. You can get a lot out of the mornings and the evenings and a schedule is so important to maintain.
Plan fun weekend activities with the kids so that you always have something exciting to look forward to.
Everyone said it, but who actually did it?! “Sleep when the baby sleeps."
Mornings and evenings are sacred times of day in our house and I think creating little rituals that you and babe can look forward to are key.
Stop asking: “Is that normal?!” Oh, and Amazon. Prime. Seriously.