February 2011


I have to be honest – I hate the word mompreneur. It takes my identity as a designer and small business owner, which in my mind is separate from my identity as an exhausted mother of three, and squishes them together. I’d rather be known as a good designer/entrepreneur without the need for additional qualifiers. But.

The truth is, mothers running businesses do have an awful lot in common. We’re all tired, for starters. We share many of the same conflicts and challenges. And we’re very, very good at learning from each other.

A new book was released this week that I can’t wait to read. It’s called Mom Inc. and it was written by two very savvy mompreneurs, Amy Ballon and Danielle Botterell, partners in a successful business. Amy and Danielle have helped mentor me since the birth of Red Thread, and both are very smart and pragmatic. I’m glad they’re finally sharing their wisdom more widely, and I know they’ll help a lot of people get started on this crazy path armed with solid advice and a wealth of knowledge.

So what does it take to be a successful mompreneur? I am fortunate to know several, and I think the unifying factor is a combination of intense creativity and tenacity. It helps to be a great problem-solver, resourceful, and calm under pressure, the same skills that make great parents. For me, one of the things that has contributed the most to the growth of Red Thread has been the support of my family, friends, and customers. The funny thing about doing it on your own, is that you rarely are truly on your own. In this proud mompreneur’s humble opinion, surrounding yourself with a circle of support, and paying all that good karma forward, may be the smartest thing a budding mompreneur can do.

I sewed up a storm last week putting the finishing touches on my Fall 2011 Collection, which is now being shown at various wholesale markets. The most fun part of this whole process, of course, is the photo shoot! I work with a great photographer, Lise Varrette (www.lisevarrette.com), and every shoot we do together is better than the last, more creative and satisfying.

Red Thread has been photographed in a variety of locations, including a formal photo studio, on the beach, in the park, even the alley behind my house, next to my neighbour’s 100-year-old garage. Last year we photographed my fall collection in my living room, in a makeshift studio. But this time around was a first for me, a testament to the ability of a great photographer to find beauty anywhere.

Spring 2010, at the beach

Spring 2009, in the alley next to my neighbour’s garage

As you can see, I love to shoot outdoors. But this is not an option in February, at least not in Toronto. Lise and I talked about what we wanted to achieve for this shoot, and decided to do it at my house. But when she showed up with less equipment than usual, I was horrified to learn that rather than setting up a little studio in my living room, she planned to achieve the effect we’d discussed by shooting around my house, in nooks and crannies, doors and windows. She’s great at this, transforming ordinary spaces using light. But my house in February, when I’m engrossed in both Spring production and Fall design, is not a pretty sight, the ordinary mess of five busy people compounded by dozens of bolts of fabric, bags of buttons and trim, not to mention the teetering piles of paperwork.

Lise transformed my kitchen into a location in a matter of minutes. At first I watched in horror as she did several shots in my large window seat, once a lovely feature but now badly in need of repair, its wooden frames weakening and window glass streaked with moisture, its seal lost long ago. She then started moving around my house, using the windows as backdrops and as sources of glowing natural light.

Lise shooting in the window seat

Seeing the photos for the first time, especially those that were shot in the window seat, I was dumbfounded. The glass, cloudy and streaked, is stunning and luminous. I feel gratitude for this gifted photographer who took the pieces I’d worked so hard to create, and presented them in such a beautiful way, while also sharing a part of my home. Thanks Lise!

Nikola in the window, Fall 2011

Normally I avoid pink when I’m choosing fabrics for a new season. It’s so overdone, so painfully gendered, more about being pretty than powerful, sweet rather than strong and playful, and more imbued with symbolism than perhaps any other colour when it comes to dressing our children. My customers often tell me that they’re on the lookout for anything other than pink!

Be My Valentine DressBut.

As the mother of three girls, there have been times when each of my daughters wanted everything to be pink. And when I’m designing, I occasionally fall in love with a print that features pink, if it’s strong and vibrant and gorgeous. There are so many amazing variations on the colour spectrum, so many interesting combinations and juxtapositions.

Last month I found myself facing some gorgeous pink fabric, a lovely eco-blend of soy and organic cotton in a deep rich shade of fuschia. It was a stunning match for a cotton hearts print I’d been saving for the perfect occasion. How could I resist? And so I made a special dress in 100% pink, in honour of Valentine’s Day, and I offer it to you in all its pinkness, proudly. Turns out I can do pink after all.

Hope your Valentine’s Day is full of love and pink. Why not?