She’s the founder and designer of the fantastic kids’ line, Tea Collection, and a mother of two, and although she has every minute of the day jam-packed, she took some time out to tell us how she manages it.
What are your kids’ names and how old are they?
Clement, 4 – cracks himself up; Georgia 2 – cracks us up!
When and how did you start your business? And what did you see as the hole in the marketplace?
I was designing the little girls’ collection for Esprit when my niece was born in Brussels; I realized my own kids would have an early global awareness just by playing around with their cousins. I wanted the celebration of world cultures in a fashion and lifestyle brand. Tea, the drink, is something shared by all cultures – it evokes the values (warmth, wisdom, timelessness) I want for the collection.
We live for the details of how women juggle all-consuming small kids and all-consuming small businesses! What does an average day look like for you?
6:30am. Wake up. Get dressed. Why does it take me so long to figure out what to wear?
7:30am. Juice & frozen organic waffles for the kids. Yogurt & green tea for me (and maybe a bite of their waffles if I’m lucky.)
8:30am. Out the door. Call my mom or my sister for a chat from the car.
9:30am. At the office. Have a brief and potent conversation with my business partner.
10:30am. Answer emails and do research online.
11:30am. Design meeting: review print samples for the upcoming season
12 noon. Lunch w/ head of merchandising, discuss strategies.
1:30pm. Fitting with model to see just how a dress drapes and to be sure it is easy for kids to wear
2:30pm. Get the status on the e-commerce business.
3:30pm. Select images for the upcoming catalog.
4:30pm. More emails or reading online …
5:30pm. Drive home, listening to classical or jazz music to decompress.
7:00pm. Light dinnerish-snack while doing puzzles with kids.
Read books to the kids and lights out by 8:30pm.
9:30pm. Watch a bit of tv curled up with my husband on the sofa with a glass of wine. (Mad Men is our favorite!)
Asleep by 10:30.
I imagine when you have your own business, it never ends. Do you work into the night after kids go down? Do you cut it off at a certain point?
I do think about work all of the time, but I have to cut off the actual “work” to be present with my family. Whenever I have to do both – there is no email or text. I call to be very efficient with my conversation. The key members of my team are on speed dial – I also call them from the car on my drive home.
Do you cook? If yes, what is a go-to weekday family meal? What are, if any, your strategies for getting breakfast, lunch, dinner going?
My kids are growing up knowing the Daddy is the [good] cook for our family. Our standard is grilled chicken or steak on stovetop grill. I usually make the veggies – roasted or steamed. Kids love tofu and pasta. And lots of healthy snacks: fruit, cheese, organic granola bars. Clement even informed me last weekend, “Mommy, did you know that there are some mommies who cook?” When I asked what do I cook, he replied, “lettuce.”
Do you have any time for yourself?
Does my commute count? Weekends are sacred family time – but when we need it, my husband and take turns watching the kids to give each other a little time alone. Within an hour or so, I’ll manage a mani pedi or a massage. Other spare moments that I steal are spent with magazines, or obsessive moments with Pinterest on my iphone.
Do you make a concerted effort to make time for the marriage? If yes, does this take the form of date night or something else? I know this is a hard one for most of us!
We have the occasional date night to Village Pub in Woodside, CA. If, by a miracle, we get the kids down early, we eat dinner at the dining table together and pretend it’s a date night. Just sitting together reminds us how much we love each other – crafting our children’s (and our own) experience of family.
What is the division of labor with you and your husband?
1. Daddy does the cooking – I’m the sous-chef. I always make the veggies for the meal. I like cleaning up – it’s meditative for me. Actually, I think the cooking is meditative for him too – so I think we’re pretty lucky.
2. I’m intuitive. I manage our lifestyle, all details from the household to activities. Hilton is strategic. He manages the finances and long term planning.
Is there anything you’ve held onto since having kids that seems inconvenient/impractical/ludicrous, but it’s just the last bastion of your former pre-kid self? Like a white couch? A two-seater car?
1. I spend sporadic amounts of time thinking, planning, designing interiors and landscaping – collecting images and magazines, reading articles, researching online. It’s another creative outlet for me, separate from work.
2. I have a few precious vintage pieces in my wardrobe that I refused to let go of throughout the baby-making years – I’m thrilled they fit again!
You have such lovely style. Do you have a go-to look for day/night? What is your weekday “uniform”?
For day – slim cargo pants and a fabulous blouse, sometimes with a cardigan. I have always loved sweaters for being those relaxed, luxurious pieces you can live in. And always a scarf! For night, I add lipstick, high heels, and a great coat.
What are the things you always try to make sure you do with your kids, ie., reading time before bed, bath time (unless you have an event or whatever)?
We always have breakfast together. It’s such a foundation for my day – connecting with them before the busy-ness begins. And 3 books before bed is always quality snuggle time.
What is an ideal day/afternoon/chunk of time with your kids/family?
My husband and I have townie bikes with seats on the back for the kids – we love riding around Palo Alto, visiting the Cantor Art Museum at Stanford or going to nearby parks. Sometimes my husband brings his guitar out to the backyard, strumming while the kids do water play (in the warm weather). Outdoor time is paramount.
Are you crafty?
I sewed my first outfit at 6 years old! I have managed to have ‘a sewing room’ for most of my adult life – however, it is getting the least visibility now. When they are ready, I cannot wait to start teaching the kids how to sew! But I do make sure art and crafts are easily accessible for them – the basement is an art workshop: roller painting on the walls; sequin gluing on the table; cardboard creations nearby.
Do you have a beauty routine? (I don’t, other than washing face and slathering it with whatever organic cream I have from the giveaway table at work) What are you favorite beauty products if any? Are you all organic?
I have always had an extremely natural style. I use Kiehl’s cleanser and moisturizer. Laura Mercier for eyeliner and more coverage.
Who are your favorite designers for adults?
Sophie D’Hoore from Belgium for great silhouettes; Dries Van Noten and Marni for prints. I love mixing designer pieces with J Crew and Madewell. I have to mix texture and print or pattern together. Scarves are the perfect accessory – almost like jewelry for me.
Who do you like (apart from your own) for kids?
I buy the occasional European-made blouse for Georgia and have some favorite Japanese graphic t-shirts for Clement. I always look for local designer pieces or fun shoes when I’m on inspiration trips. And I love discovering new ways to style up Tea for their daily lives, mixing between collections and color palettes.