“In the early days, our challenges included Con Edison waiting outside to collect my late electricity payment, having the check for my first shipment of handbags canceled, and having our first overseas bags come back with Kate Spade hardware. Thank god those types of situations don’t happen now, but we definitely have a new set of challenges. All you can do is tackle each obstacle as it happens, and say: ‘What are the steps I need to take to get through this?’
I think anything worth building takes blood, sweat, tears and time. If success could be achieved overnight, it wouldn’t be something any of us wanted. Overcoming huge barriers is when you feel that joy—when you’ve pulled something off that seemed impossible. That’s when you’re like—that was awesome. My relationship with fear is like, ‘That sounds like a terrible idea, lets do it.’ You might fail, and if you do you’ll learn a great lesson. You have nothing to lose by leaning into fear and free falling.
Whenever you take your own path you always win.
In the beginning I wanted to say yes to everything. My brother, our co-founder, was like, ‘No.’ And I would be like, ‘But they’re going to give us money, and we can pay our bills, and it will be great.’ But he was was much better at saying ‘They’re not the right fit.’ Now I’m the one saying no, because I’m able to be focused on the long term. A great example is: I have children, and I really want to sell diaper bags, but our customer could give a shit. So as much as I want to say yes to diaper bag collaborations, my core consumer is not having babies yet. It’s easy to get excited at at the prospect of new business opportunities, but you have to ask the question:
Is this going to grow you in the right direction and to the right audience?
I think at the start of any venture, you have that fantasy where 10 years down the road you’ll be able to go on that cruise ship and not answer your emails for a week. I used to see designers take long vacations after their fashion show and I would be like—I can’t wait for that point in my life. Then I would realize—but wait, I’m in market, I’m selling! As you get bigger, so does your team and workload. It’s fun and thrilling, and by no means am I complaining, but it’s not this relaxed situation that you imagine you might arrive at. It is a constant fight of vigilance—there’s no resting on your laurels. You cannot check out. Period. There’s no cruise ship for you to go on, or the option to put your phone away for a couple months. People are starting new handbag lines every day, and if you’re not as hungry as your competition, they will beat you.
When it comes to kids and career, I think you have to be aware that when you’re building a business you have to put your whole soul into it. No one is ever going to care about your brand as much as you do unless they own a piece of it. You are the fire, you have to grow and nurture it. I think you can do both, but that really depends on having a partner and team to rely on. You need that support. I had my first child at 31, so I had a good 6 year run where my husband and I were building our careers. It was 9am—11pm every day, overnight, weekends, holidays. But both of us were OK with that. That came to a halt when I had my son, and I wanted to be home at 6pm. By that time, the business was big enough that I had staff to rely on. When I came back from maternity leave, the least important thing to me was work. I was thinking about my kid constantly. That fogginess takes you out of the game a little bit. At least for most moms. Some moms come back and they’re tigers! But for me, I was like, ‘Why does this matter? I just want to be home.’ I was very lucky to have my brother who kept the business going, especially through that time when I wasn’t sleeping at all. I think trying to do both kids and business by myself would have been far more challenging. Now that I have two kids, I’ve definitely pushed boundaries both with feeling like I’m not seeing them enough, and times when I’ll take a morning off to be with them, and all I’ll think about is work. I now know where my boundaries are, but I still have FOMO! What I’ve learned is that it’s better to have FOMO than to have guilt.
Lately I have been putting my phone in my bag when I get home and leaving it there until the kids are asleep, which can give me major anxiety. But I’m also like—let me just focus on these humans who are going to be awake for two hours. Let me just deal with the fact that all of the other shit happening is not going to turn off for me. I have to force myself to do that, because those moments with my kids are just too precious. I could probable have the whole balance thing down better, but we have to think about what it’s like for women who don’t have the privilege of balance at all. We at least get to talk about having the option, whereas some women have to focus on making sure their child is going to survive.
I’m trying to be more positive about the lack of balance, and instead try and find the pockets where it exists. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK.
With my daughter—I was raised with this tough love mentality where I had to work for everything. I definitely apply that with her. My mom taught me to fight back because she was worried about my older brother being a bully. So I never had that whole, ‘Be pretty, be polite, be a delicate flower.’ So I’m raising my daughter to be a fighter. She’s going to be tough.
You know, something happened when I had children where I began to connect with more mothers in the fashion space. It was this realization that we are all working our asses off, and we are all doing these two really important jobs. The support I’ve experienced since then has been huge. It shouldn’t just be between mom’s though—when you’re in a position of leadership and management, how can you foster the women below you?
We all have to support each other instead of competing with one another.
The best advice I can give for someone who wants to achieve their dream is that you have to persist through being told no. You are going to be told no far more than you are told yes. You will continue to be told no even as you grow—we are told no every day. And it’s what you do with that that matters. How can you go around it? Something I see more and more with young people—with everything being so easy, accessible and instant—that this sense that success should happen overnight. It took me a really long time to get here—I didn’t start off with some crazy inheritance or my parents funding me. It’s so important to know that success is worth working hard for, and that it’s earned, never given.”