‘It is not what I do; it is who I am.’
Some self-motivational chap somewhere on the Internet whose quote – despite my skeptical dispositions – I cannot seem to shake off.
As most of you know, I have changed careers more than Kanye West said he loved himself. I think I can claim that I was always good enough at what I was doing and probably nobody would disagree with it. But I never felt I was at my best. As the founder of Another Garde and mom to 3 kids, I try every day to be that best of me. And boy, it’s a bitch.
I have said it time and time again – without becoming a mom I would have never been strong, centered and humble enough to hustle it out every day to sell a bag or a ring, let alone get out there to build the exposure I need for my business.
But I figured that once you’ve had 3 babies pulled out of your limbs in a bloodbath (thank you, emergency C-sections 1 and 2) and once you have spent years on your knees patting your kids’ bums half naked until the wee hours of the morning, well, you are probably ready for anything and surely ready to do anything.
So yeah, pride and fear have long gone since my stitched up tummy days. I have learnt patience and I am now learning – with a lot of difficulty – to appreciate little victories like having finally my three kids out of diapers or having my first client in Denmark.
However I got annoyed enough this week to ‘take the pen’ again. Not so long ago, I got frustrated by how I had been socially JEDI tricked into thinking that I would be able to walk smiling and having my shit together, 2 months post baby delivery while the reality was that I was suffocating inside spiritually and physically . That sense of betrayal created Redlipstickmama – that infuriating moment when I felt like a hot mess while I was supposed to only feel bliss.
Since then, I am more at peace with myself. But today, I felt the urge again to open my big mouth for another massive rant – just in time for Mother’s Day. Lucky DH.
It is a lame rant because ‘Duh, it is obvious girl…’ but I’ll say it anyway. The other day, I felt sickened by magazine spreads of (fashion) mom entrepreneurs living in oversized downtown apartments harboring Irving Penn’s prints on the walls, wearing designer frocks and looking with adoration at their long wavy haired only child sketching in corduroy covered notebooks (Note: details are totally BS but you get the idea).
I know that perfection is always staged because no one can have such a life or else KILL me now. But it still annoyed the hell out of me. What bothered me the most is that this type of shit used to inspire me, make me dream, live a fantasy for a few minutes but right now I just feel fucking pissed off and feel stolen of my hardship. Things are made so easy that you actually feel shit struggling. It is the post-C section ‘I am so happy’ pictures all over again. I wish there were reports of struggle and not just some ludicrous fantasy advertising ‘Get your ticket, you can be next.’ I wish there were pictures of red faced women trying to breathe in and out the stress of running a company while emptying the dishwasher.
I am very tortured about what I am writing now because I am the founder of a boutique selling quality and elegant design to inspire so shouldn’t I look and sound the part? But what is ‘that part’? Really.
Well, my truth is this one: mom entrepreneurship is ugly. For example:
– My kids wake me up because once they go to bed, I continue to work late and thus oversleep. I look like a rag and my daughter pushes me: ‘Mom, C’mon. I really don’t want to be late for school. Again. And how can you sleep with a W-E-D-G-I-E? Don’t you find it very uncomfortable?’
– I am refraining from going to Starbucks because 2 double tall skimmed cappuccinos can pay for an hour of my assistant’s time.
– My kids have started to talk to strangers on the subway – on their own initiative – to promote my company. They tell everyone their mom is ‘BOSS’. I thought of stopping them out of embarrassment but let them do it thinking ‘you never know, they may find me new clients’. Shameless.
– I don’t get free clothes. Ever. I pay for them. I only have endless temptations. Like a recovering alcoholic in Pegu bar. Meanwhile, the kids wear polo shirts with way too short sleeves because I lack the time and money for shopping.
– I have so many IOUs with my friends and family that I hope I am a true Buddhist who will go through various reincarnations to pay up my dues.
Finally and most importantly I wonder every day if my husband will end up divorcing me. Contrary to the popular belief, asking my husband to fully support my folly is not getting him to take nice shots of me wearing skinny leather pants for my Instagram feed (you should check out this video of Instagram husbands, hysterical). And it is more than being the sole income earner. The man behind the mom entrepreneur is a guy who believes so much in her that he is probably now the gayest straight man at work talking about fashion designers crafting beautiful prototypes on their kitchen tables with his female colleagues instead of commenting on the latest Yankees game. It is a guy who is accepting a tougher life to pay for the childcare and cleaning help she needs to be a full-time entrepreneur. A guy who puts his own dreams aside for hers, leaves work earlier to mind for their sick kids or has to take days off to help her set up pop ups in swanky hotels – taping japanese screens and putting IKEA furniture together when he barely knows how to use a screw driver.
It is a guy who does not think he is making her favors but rather knows that she HAS to do this.
And indeed, I have to do this now.
My ticket number to be the next best thing may never be called up. I am not going to lie about it. Who knows?
But what I know is this. With Mother’s day coming up, I do encourage everyone to celebrate their moms because they have shit days – sometimes very often. But this one mama does not need anything from her family. She has been short-changing them for a while now and is just grateful that they accept the Mom and Wife she can be and allow her to be the Woman she wants to be.
Below my journey as an entrepreneur in selfies but with clothes 🙂
Or the day when redlipstickmama became Soumountha
When I started this blog, I can say this now: I was not well. I was a little lonely not because I had no friends but it was a weird loneliness. I was lonely because I was freaking lost. Too many thoughts, very few outlets, no clairvoyance. The blog started like an extended Facebook like rant, turned into a full self-administered therapy and somewhat transformed into the release of something strange and beautiful: the courage to explore things I had no idea were buried deep inside of me.
Things like writing because I just have to do it, entrepreneurial cravings, the boldness to say things the way I just want to say them and the hope that I can somehow touch other women out there.
This would have not been possible without being inspired, supported and sometimes challenged (I dare you to do it) by some amazing women I met through blogging. It was just easier to come out with strangers first like it was always easier for me to be naked in front of strangers than my own sisters – note:I still don’t really do it very often #anotherreasonIDONOTgotothegym
Anyway, more than two years later, these women are still galvanizing me. I am beyond flattered to be interviewed by uber stylish and atta mom-creative-blogger Kate from Maison Bentley about the launch of Another Garde. Her questions were so insightful that it actually made me think hard about what I do and why I do it. You can read the full interview Another Garde by Maison Bentley. I also for the first time say it here: my name is Soumountha 🙂
I hope you will like it and do check out Kate’s blog on a regular basis. She has an amazing eye for elegant and relatable and yet ‘you have never seen it quite like this before’ pieces.
Love you Kate xoxo
#feelinghumbledthismorning #love #determination #womenbehindwomen
Photography by Kate Bentley
It is weird that I never did a MOTD post on color combos because I have been obsessed with color blocking since I was 6 year-old. Of course back then, my classmates thought it was color blindness not color blocking…. Idiots.
This morning, I was in a rather happy mood and decided to go for a daring combo of petrol green and red which may well lead to a ‘hello, Mrs Christmas troll’ reaction but hey who cares? It is #NYFW after all and everybody has moved to Lincoln Center and whereabouts to watch some eye candy and fashionistas strutting around with much swag (yeah!) and self-awareness (yikes!). I read somewhere that (stylish) peeps get paid for just walking in the street (and no, they are not hookers) in the hope to catch street fashion photographers. So I am basically safe and sound here up in Harlem.
Anyways, here’s the result:
– Petrol green faux leather leggings from Caribbean Queen which I thought I would never ever buy from because 1- I cannot help feeling like an idiot/fraud wearing anything called Caribbean Queen (I mean, seriously only Rihanna should be called that), 2- I am way too old to wear their stuff, 3- their aesthetic is so not mine (floral prints, nope, nope, nope)…but as I always say, one should never hold a prejudice (especially when the stuff is on sale) ….Well, after 2 weeks of trial the verdict is ‘I LOVE these fucking leggings!!!!’: my legs almost look like pre-kids legs! I still should not bend but I will take any small victory 🙂
– a navy turtle neck wool dress by Theory, which is one of my ‘grown up’ go to outfits
– a red GANT corduroy jacket
– a hand beaded sans cuffs leather bracelet that has a very place in my heart. I always feel so humbled when I wear it because it was designed and made by my cousin 30 years ago. The bracelet was her final project for her embroidery and fashion techniques qualification. A year before she had dropped her accounting studies much to her parents’ dismay because she sat down in the Parisian metro near a woman who was hand weaving and told her to check out her Fashion institute. Followed her heart and passion. After her graduation, she went on working for Maison Lesage …and Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Nicolas Ghesquieres etc. #mostinspiringjourneyEVER
– and because it is ‘brain freeze’ cold season in New York, a white wool hat purchased during summer on a Philipp island off the coast of Australia. My shopping habits are so random.
Happy Fashion Week! A little gift too, the new Rag & Bone menswear F/W 2015 with Baryshnikov and Lil Buck (L-O-V-E)
I haven’t done any of these MOTD posts in a while because we swapped rooms with the kids and I de facto lost my ‘photo shoot studio’. Yes, after 3 years of hearing G plead for a bigger bed, we gave in, upgraded them from their cribs and surrendered the master bedroom to G, P and L. The war is done and lost. How do I feel about it?
People have been telling us things like:‘you are such amazing parents’, ‘you are better parents than we are etc.’ And I just smile in silence because the reality is ‘I feel Shit’. I MISS my big room!!!! Every night, I now bump my shin against the AC unit when I stumble out of bed as P wakes me up screaming ‘Pipi PIPI!!!!’ while standing in the dark like a freaking ghost. Every morning, I have to run naked from my bathroom to my new room where my underwear drawer is. I always try to do this very quickly but G often manages to intercept me to pull my belly fat…which just cracks him up to no end. Petit con.
I did keep 1/5 of my old room for my clothing/fashion craft closets (very Carrie Bradshaw with no Manolo Blahniks and more GAP sweatpants) as one of the terms and conditions of the peace agreement. But I eventually caught L playing with my leather hole punch…Not cool. You can pee on me in the middle of the night but MY tools belt is OFF limit.
Anyway, I was saying, I can hardly move in my room without knocking down a dirty laundry basket or bumping into the printer so I thought MOTD posts are O-V-E-R. And then DH said: ‘Why did you stop this? That was kind of cool..’ So here’s a trial. Apologies for the over saturated pics #smallandbrightroom 🙂
Top: battered denim men’s shirt , previously owned by DH
Bottoms: battered GAP jeans
Jacket: fake denim jacket with a handmade scottish plaid bow on a black safety pin; this tiny stupid red thing always makes me happy because I am imagining the spirit of kick ass Dame Westwood watching over me…ha.
Warby Parker sunglasses
PS: I also recently decided to have the collar up every time I wear a men’s shirt or men’s jacket as ‘my thing’/’vague attempt at a signature look’. Awesome or Get A Life woman?
I had a working session today with a Fashion entrepreneur/Fashion designer. I love meeting with creative people because they are often extremely good looking and being near them is like eating La Duree macarons while listening to Bach. They have an air about them, an halo: is it the fitted cashmere coat, the biweekly facials or the lighting of the places where we meet? Who knows but I often find myself longing after their freshly pressed silk blouses (90% of what I own has never been ironed) or the neat stitching of their cuffs: all evidence of wealth, savvy shopping or at the very least general good taste.
I am enchanted and inspired; their glow touches my face. When I get home, I want to eat Quinoa, I promise I shall remove my make up every day before going to bed to have better skin, and I am adamant about tidying up the book case in my living room which generally looks like trash compactor units piled on top of each other. I am so random, I know. But after 1 hour, I realize that I am truly starving because I had only a faro soup (which really was a broth with some spinach leaves and few faro grains) in a 5 hours meeting when really I wanted to order the burger. I thus end up sandwiching some cheese in between 2 home made cookies baked by Thor…That’s when I know the spell has been broken. Oh well.
Anyway, when I meet with fashion people I tend to be overly self-conscious about what I wear because I know that their professional eye and brain will notice and know everything about my outfit: how many times they saw me with the same pair of boots, what fabric my jacket is made of, which brand it is, etc. It gets worse when these people are women because I am a woman who loves to dress to impress women rather than men. I get stage fright. I thus decided today to play the ‘comfort’ card. If you cannot look nice, look like you are comfortable. People will always envy that 🙂
In the end the whole outfit was kind of meh: partly comfortable, kind of ‘unfinished’, a tad too safe..So bland that even an attempt of a Bowie inspired hair do failed to spice it up. I guess you can’t always get it right.
Cardigan from Joie, Gap body black dress, golden brooch found in a crazy Antiques barn in Barryville (I pinned it on simple canvas tote bag), a golden belt, a faux fur russian hat which ended up not working out (either the hat got smaller -unlikely – or my head got bigger -worrisome) and Celine boots.
There is ice and iced water everywhere in Harlem. On Wednesday, DH came back 5 minutes after leaving the house and said: ‘I cannot take L to the day care, it’s like a freaking ice rink out there’. So I had to do a work video conference call with Europe while L was smashing everything in the background and I had to throw breakfast food to L & P while they were watching TV. At this point, it is not multi-tasking. It is insanity.
Yesterday I had to push L’s stroller over mountains of icy snow; the poor chap felt like riding a Winterland roller coaster. Some people were looking at me ready to call Child Protection Services and I was like:‘I am SO going over this block of ice, I am. Watch me’. I am so sick of the snow, I am so OVER it.
Today to cheer me up, I took out from my ‘magic’ box, aka my accessories drawer, 2 things I love to complement a GAP little black dress and my MK rainboots:
– a feather ornament I made with 2 shoulder pads cut out from a 192os flapper dress and an old sparkling brooch. The pads used to belong this woman whose grandmother was a tap dancer and I got them for $10 via Ebay. Just love the idea of having the spirit of a dancer watching over me 🙂 I bet she kicked ass too.
– a golden thin stretch belt with a lion’s head as a clasp found in a stall at an Harlem flee market for $20. Snow: I am ROARING at you roaaaaaarrrrrrrrr
Two months ago I went with BFF Natasha to see ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’ exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The genius and talent made me shiver; it almost made me sick to the stomach. I swear my heart beat faster than when I saw Matt Bomer/Neal Caffrey’s abs in the first season of White Collar. Natasha and I could not help caressing with the tips of our fingers one of the dresses and got (rightfully) scolded by the security guard who then followed us during our entire visit. True schoolgirls in a candy shop or at a boys band’s concert
I have been meaning to share this experience with my readers who cannot go to see the exhibit themselves so we can all sigh together in awe and pleasure. I’ll shut up now and let you enjoy. Apologies for some of the lousy shots and my inability to short list among these wonderful works of art!
As soon as Fall has arrived and until cherry blossom explodes on the streets of New York, I usually enter into my Feathers and (faux) Fur mood creatively. You might have already noticed this tendency from my last winter’s mood of the day posts.
This year, I also have to be resourceful to fulfill my appetite for new clothing because I still haven’t found a full-time job and I am still have post-pregnancy 15lbs to shed. So I started a sort of wardrobe surgery clinic by transforming some of my old maternity clothing into things that I might actually like to wear rather than have to wear because of my Sharpei like belly and cash shortage.
So here it goes: DKNY simple black maternity dress, brass sequins from the shoulder straps of a worn out Pea in a Pod maternity dress, 2 feather trimmings, black felt and…snaps from Spain (it seems like a random fact but my fashion designer cousin got me these while working for Loewe few years ago and I have yet to find nicer ones… Love them).
Et voila. I like the edge it gives the outfit and even without the feather patches, I could wear the dress with the snaps being visible.
It is called ‘Robin’ because:
A – it’s a bird
B- the kids are currently obsessed by 1970s Disney’s ‘Robin Hood’ or as G would call it ‘Robin the Poop’ so I have to endure it twice a day. It is like brainwashing. It is driving me insane. The worst part of it is that it is supposed to be the story about some guy stealing the bad and rich and give back to the nice and poor. So basically the story of a good dude with compassion, right? So why did my kids become complete pains in the ass since they started to watch this animated movie? I am NICE and POOR!!! Don’t they get it? I NEED compassion.
I finally made the big leap and by that, I don’t mean:
– kicking out L back to his room when he crawls into our bed in the middle of the night and pull and pinch my breast as if it was a a ‘doudou’ (French for anything that calms the baby: teddy bear, security blanket, muslin, padded book etc. In the case of L, it is the breast of any female between 18 and 45 year old)
– submitting my resume to a local restaurant to apply for a waitress job because our debts are piling up
– begging my mom to come and live with us to help with the kids
I chopped my hair. I was tempted by the whole Britney Spears infamous head shaving but did not go through it because a- winter is too friggin’ cold in New York and b-I have a super flat back of the head, as in flat ironed; another thing I used to blame my mom for. She probably let me sleep flat on my back ALL the time. She did have a 1 one year old (my big sis) to mind at the same time so I guess I now understand her and can no longer really hold this against her…It still sucks though.
Anyway, I did not shave entirely but went back to my post wedding and pre children hair style: short and short. People who met me in New York were stunned (most of them positively rather than ghastly stunned) and asked: ‘it must feel…strange?’. It actually did not feel strange at all. It feels more like peeling away all the worry and layers built up after 4 strenuous years of fertility treatment, pregnancies, breast feeding etc. It feels more like getting ready for 2014 aka ‘get a job, whatever it is’ year with the kick ass energy of an old friend: the (hair) Bob.
Many people were also freaked out by how much I now look like my daughter, P. Me is thinking (slightly annoyed): ‘Cannot believe that my trademark hair style got appropriated by my 2 year old…Damn it!!!’ Oh well, I guess it is just the beginning…
Today, to accentuate the new bob, I went for: BCBG Max Azria stripes dress, Roberto Cavalli belt, French blue beret, Natasha’s old vintage rabbit fur vest (worn with the skin out), and new Blowfish ankle boots.
P.S: P saw the beret and wants it…
The whole week sucked. So I decided to do something creative with my hands instead of punching a wall. I had no idea what to do and started to rant about all the clothes I really need to get rid off because they have breast milk stains…Bingo I was going to make a breast milk patch in leather for a very cheap but comfortable Forever 21 top I used to wear loads while nursing.
I was inspired by my amazing childhood girlfriend Toy who now lives in Ireland. She wore the quirkiest and prettiest dress for her wedding. Her black dress was made magnificent by a stylish and clever accessory by Le Bestiaire Unique . I also thought of her because she has a very very contagious smile and laugh and boy do I miss it today. I also found inspiration in a lamp sculpture I saw in a Chelsea gallery earlier this week (before everything unravelled). I had the sculpture in my mind for the whole day but cannot remember the name of the artist to save my life!!!
I cut circles in 3 types of leathers (different colors, smoothness and thickness), glued them together into some kind of harmonious configuration, glued the male parts of snap buttons in the back and sew the female parts on my top. The idea is to be able to remove the leather ‘patch’ when washing my top.
I am now thinking that I do have a couple of dresses (also ruined by breast milk) that may be enhanced by this new patch. Yippee!
What do you guys think about this?