‘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 🙂
“Never tell me the odds.”
Han Solo, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
This week, we received an offer from our local public school for G & P’s kindergarten that starts this Fall. Said this way, it feels like the simplest thing in the whole world. You live somewhere you go the school next door, right? But as any parent living in a big city with an (un)healthy dose of ‘we want the best for our munchkins’ will tell you ‘yeah… you wish but truth is; it is the fucking Hunger Games’.
And DH and I ended unwillingly participating in it. And when will we stop? When you finish reading this, please feel free to judge me. I do judge myself.
Let’s back track a few months to understand my personal journey to insanity. I am a fervent supporter of dual language programs in New York public schools and was hoping a community of French speaking families would be able to open one in our neighborhood – but it was to no avail.
So DH and I decided ‘Fuck this; let’s take it easy and stick to our local community school. It is only kindergarten after all.’
Then, you start having lunches with friends who went to all the private schools’ open houses and interviews in New York. Some have prepared their kids for he last two months for the lauded but also worrying G & T programs ( I still did not figure out the answers to some of the practice test questions). Others have visited all the public schools of the district and have built seriously impressive matrices to rank all options. You keep hearing that it is essential to start the kids on the best track now so they can go to the best middle school, high school and best college and then best …actually conversations get vague then. But what seems to be the general conclusion is : the likeliness of one kid to be a dropout and be that Facebook guy or a prosperous rapper is slim so really, we need to increase their chances to be… Conversations get even more vague then.
Yes. You have all kinds of reactions and you discover so much about your friends’ and your own anxieties, upbringing, disappointments, hopes etc.
And then you have this kind of mom: the clueless one whom everyone is calling because they think she has her shit together because she wears red lipstick on a Saturday afternoon.
And the clueless mom first standing firm on her resolve to not bother is now starting to wither. ‘OK; everyone is leaving Earth in this shuttle for The Jedi Empire to train Padawans. And I am now on my own with all my principles and my kids because of me will remain forever storm troopers’.
So that is when clueless mom is getting all Darth Vader:
I started to drag the kids on a Sunday morning unprepared to the last spots of G & T testing and your kids are like ‘what the heck? We thought we were going to K’s for a play date!’.
I started to ask questions to people I hadn’t talked to in ages to know where their kids go.
I started to freak out at urban legends of 10 families being on the same lease so as to be zoned in their coveted school. Who fucking does this ?
Actually I do know who does this: immigrant families who have to share rents or have to show a residence to find a job or open a bank account- to basically access basic social and economic rights.
Thank god; sometimes you find another clueless mom to prank with about how a popular school has decided to put places on the waiting list down as fundraising auction prizes. You laugh hysterically and then embarrassingly because for a split second you actually believed her!
In the end, because you are still a lazy shit you end up applying to two public schools.
Fast forward and the results fell this week. At one point of the day, I was on multi texting with 5-6 moms. DRAMA. I tried to lighten the mood: ‘heh guys relax. I think I was in a refugee center for the start of my kindergarten year.’ But in truth it is no joke. Whatever you say, you cannot kick away this interrogation: ‘Am I doing the best for my kids?”
We did not get our first choice; we are on the waiting list for that school and the wait game is now starting. But I am actually good with the second choice we were given too so let’s see.
One thing for sure though is that I will not surrender to the Dark side. If I start to falter I will think hard of ‘The Force Awakens’:
– the main heroes are a scavenger and a rebellious storm trooper who understands what is right and wrong
– and yes luke skywalker may be a freaking powerful Jedi who owns a fucking (deserted) island, but Han Solo was always so much cooler 🙂 Period.
This year has started sweet and sour. But that is exactly why it is already exciting.
In the first weeks of 2016, David Bowie and Alan Rickman left us leaving this world with an ounce less of inspiration.
DH’s grandma L. also followed her husband J., who passed away a month or so ago, leaving this world with an ounce less of devoted love. Throughout the last twenty years since I met DH, I wondered so many times how two individuals could have possibly been living apart for a total of 48hours in their entire 75 years of life together. How could they possibly do so and still love each other? The final flight of these two lovebirds put an end to all questions I had. I guess.
My relationships in New York have recently morphed into something very comforting . When living in London, I was young and malleable and basically living with my college crew or look alikes. Things were easy: we laughed at the same jokes, studied the same stuff, had similar dreams and were the only family we had around.
Then we moved. I got preggers. I now have a family with little ones whom I am trying to learn to know. Tantrum after tantrum, cuddle after cuddle, mishap after mishap. Therefore more than ever I need some grown ups behind and by me. People with whom silence is no longer uncomfortable and this, my friends, takes a fucking long time to build. It takes even longer when you are dealing with a panoply of mismatched individuals: Harlem families, child free gay couples, grandma substitutes, and single and killing it girlfriends and so on.
And then gradually, slowly, and at times awkwardly these people who have nothing to do with each other become your life support. A family who drove mid-November to a House of horrors in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills to celebrate your and DH’s 20 years of life together. A family who heard en route that Paris was under terrorist attacks. Every minute we were on this road, the number of dead people was soaring. And your celebration does no longer have any sense. It would have become absolutely meaningless if it were not for those faces facing you, trying to pause for a moment their thoughts of Paris to smile and eat your dry and overcooked cassoulet.
These same people turned up to unwrap jewelry after their kids’ morning school drop and before going to work to help me open my holiday pop up boutique and before I had a nervous meltdown due to the now infamously known as ‘where the fuck are all the chokers?’ freak out.
And that is why 2016 is of course about stepping it up with my fashion boutique Another Garde , of course keeping on discovering who my children are but it will also be a year deepening friendships in this city that is finally no longer ‘my new city’ but ‘home’.
People around me started to make babies again moving to number 2, 3 or 5 (!!!). I have stayed away from babies for a couple of years now because of the trauma of my back to back pregnancies. I was that one mom circling around you always with a glass of champagne in the hand so she would not be asked to carry or cuddle your newborn earning the moniker of the ‘why is she ALWAYS dancing?’ Mom. I have recently chilled out and now I am back to embracing all these new cute babies around me…DH’s recent vasectomy has also helped a lot 🙂 mouaaaaa
And finally L. is talking in a way that I can understand. During the Jonas blizzard, he said ‘it’s a snowstorm.’ Not ‘snow’ or ‘white’ but a clear ‘it s a snowstorm’. Welcome talking L.; papa and I cannot wait to hear more about you.
Warning: since I have not updated my blog in over 4 months, my verbal diarrhea is in full motion and this post is long, obnoxiously long.
So what happened to me and my crew? It is not an over statement to say this: not ever before have we dug so deep in our resources as a family and that includes when I had to run the London 10K with no prior training whatsoever (do not snicker, i still have a dizzy head thinking about it!) AND when DH had a eye surgery making him blind for 48 hours, 3 weeks after the twins were born. Yeah I am letting you picture the situation…
Anyway, the last 6 months of my life have tested our resolve, who I am as a woman, who we are as a family and what life long commitment truly means.
Let’s back track to a few years ago, when on a London double decker bus I told DH that the main reason I did not want children was my utter fear of having to stay put even when the shit hits the fan. I told him ‘if you and I fuck up, I can and will leave it all behind to rebuild. I am survivor and that’s what I do. But I know that a child would be the one person I could never leave behind. It is the one relationship that if even it fucks me up I have to stay put. I will have to be IN it, FOREVER. And this is damn too fucking scary to me.’
That’s what I was feeling then and obviously me being me I got preggers twice in 2 years after that. Because I changed my mind and when I do, I cannot do things half-way.
We are now in 2015. My being a mother is no longer something I question. It is hard work, infuriating, blissful, challenging, self-revealing, physical, joyful and all that jazz. That is why I decided to have a fourth one: Another Garde. It is my curated online boutique for emerging brands which I have just launched a few days ago.
The gestation period was long – almost two years – although not as long as with L who at 3 year and a half still thinks he belongs inside my tummy (more about this in another blog post).
Every day, I felt my heart racing and pumping, often on the verge of bursting out of laughter or cry. Like when I was raided by freaking pregnancy hormones. Sleepless nights. Everyone asking when it is coming out and how you feel. Sleepless nights.
And you are tired, so tired, and emotionally fucked up, and you look like shit but you cannot look shit because you have just launched a Fashion venture so you try to look shit-ish instead.
And then it comes out and you look at it and you know the hardest part starts then: growth and nurturing. And you dig deep, deeper and deeper. And you know you are IN it and you cannot leave this one behind either. Because maybe for once in your life, you feel that this is what you are meant to be doing. I can say it out loud: most people think I am mental and insecure (friends: it’s ok. I know about it and I still love you) because my career path looks worse than a Paris subway map written in Mandarin and covered in pigeon’s poop. And they are right to think so: I am absolutely schizophrenic.
But as I wake up every morning, I cannot help but feel possessed: I HAVE to keep on and on. Despite the madness. Despite the sheer exhaustion. Despite that little snarky voice in my head that says:‘Who the fuck do you think you are?’
I keep on. I want to make women feel emotion, beauty, inner confidence when they come onto Another Garde. I want to support emerging brands to connect with these smart and confident women. I want to build connections, conversations. To be honest, I don’t give much shit about Fashion. Doing Fashion week is at the bottom of my priority list. However, I do believe that well curated and designed pieces can celebrate a woman’s inner kick-ass awesomeness. In the last 5 years I ballooned up and down through and between my various pregnancies; I have sometimes cried over how a bad cut just made me feel worse than I was. Oh yeah, fucking pregnancy hormones were not helping either 🙂
So that is why I do what I do.
In the meantime, my daughter P asks why their mom has to work all the time and probably wonders if I am exploring my pseudo-lesbian tendencies because I keep checking out beautiful women online – I am mainly trying to fix some html code, very poorly I must admit.
DH is becoming the SOLID ROCK that I – in the past – doubted he could be. Watching the kids, working hard in the office, signing checks to my company and just believing in me like no other. DH: I am so sorry you married such a bitch but she takes back every single word she said on that boat AND double decker bus. Random note to self: I probably should just shut up while in public transport as a general rule.
G is being G: trying to seduce my interns. And succeeding too.
L. recovered from a flesh eating bacterial infection. L. was lost in Central Park (within 1 minute of not watching him) and found 600m away from the picnic we were attending. I almost died that afternoon. L. is receiving 10 hours of Special Education support at school since the beginning of the week. I will write more soon about this because I am still trying to process all this.
Let me know what you all think!!! You are probably among the first ones to have supported my ambitions by all your nice comments on my ‘Mood of the Day’ series. If you like what you see, I would be very grateful if you could help spread the word! We only ship in the US at the moment but if I see some love coming from an overseas ‘Garde of Women’, I will get to you quicker than planned 🙂
Some snippets. Photography by Carolina Palmgren. Models: Kailah NG and Giannina Oteto
Knit vest by Foxx + Walsh
Hand made leather backpack by Moses Nadel
Black Cupro dress by H.Fredriksson
Mr. Ping: Once I had a dream that I ran away to make tofu.
Po: Then why didn’t you?
Mr. Ping: Because it was a stupid dream.
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
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)
We always have busy week ends because staying in the house is barely an option with 3 hyper active tots and 1 ‘cannot stay inside’ husband. There is this underlying fear that if we don’t do anything we may really kill each other. It is a little bit like a retired couple whose kids are off to college and start crazy bunny booking all these AirBnB places all over the world to avoid getting a divorce.
‘Me on my own’ weekends would look like this: sweatpants, slippers, comfort food, TV shows marathon (I would watch anything, absolutely anything… I once got addicted to a girly teen show titled ‘Make It of Break It’, I am such a LOSER), wine, and planning (but failing) to wax.
But this weekend, we actually had no plans. Absolutely none. Or so I thought…
Saturday: Black is Beautiful.
Breakfast and lunch: no recollection of what we ate. We are now eating all together at week ends and to be honest it looks more like: kids drop-eating, mama swallow-eating and papa scream-eating. People write books and articles about French families taking their time to eat together while calmly talking about Ebola or Bernard Henry Levy…yeah right, not fucking happening in my house.
Time I took my shower: 1pm; which is so ghetto since we did actually have something we had to go to. How could I forget about P’s first class play date??? Some parents had organized a gathering in Central Park to get to know each other outside the stressful morning school drop also known as ‘please don’t talk to me cause I haven’t brushed my teeth yet’ awkward morning meeting.
It was great to see all the kiddos play together and actually see that P knew their names. It is impossible to have any idea of what is happening at school because every question we ask my ‘usually cannot shut her mouth’ daughter is answered by a ‘No’:
‘Do you have friends? No.
Did you enjoy your soccer class? No
Did you play soccer? No.
What songs did you learn? No.’
It got so bad that I seriously started to think that the whole school, after school and extra curricular activities were a big Ponzi scheme because:
‘What do you in school then? Sleep, go to the restrooms and eat.’ Okayyyyy then…..
The plot thickened when many parents shared similar intel. Everyone laughed it out ‘Ha ha these kids are nuts’ but I could feel it, I could see it…Some of us were getting the Carrie Mathison crazy/million of thoughts look ‘Oh my god, what if it was not a school but a cult?’ Mouaaaaa.
After running 20 blocks after my kids on their scooters, I looked at DH and silently implored ‘let’s get a beer at our local’. Two hours later, we are barging with 3 tots wearing scooter helmets into the anniversary of Bebe noir, a clothing retail store, where African beats are blasting and gorgeous shop assistants are showing us their new collection. P is busting some devil moves on the dance floor, G is ransacking the clothing racks and stealing a blue nail varnish and L…well he has decided to peek into the fitting rooms…Initial high pitch screaming was then followed by a huge ‘Awwwwww’ followed by L finding firm breasts to rest his head on for the rest of the evening.
Let’s be clear here. I keep telling people that L is not as social as his siblings and very clingy with his mom. Obviously if you do look like Rihanna, he’ll pretend he has no mother nor father. Poor little orphan. Come to think about it, I should ditch his ass in this store each time I need to do grocery shopping on the other side of the road. I am SO doing this.
Can I also say that 3 little helmets running around women with long legs in high heels is very stressful??? I kept thinking: bowling, strike, …oh shit!!! I did have 2 pints of beer…I know.
Time we all went to bed: 11pm
Sunday: Nikita, I will never be.
DH got a nasty bug so Black Ops today is Me on My Fucking Own. OK, he did set up a CIA assets bootcamp in our courtyard using all the tents, tunnels, outdoor tricks we have before signing off for the day…but still. It was a lonely, very lonely mission.
DRONES. EXPLOSION. NO EXTRACTION.
What did I do? I stared at my legs for a long time thinking shit like:
‘I will never buy again from H & M because the sweat pants I got last month were basically disintegrating in front of me (and last time I checked I do not have freaking invisible lazer beam mutant eyes!). ‘
‘How long will L keep this fake tattoo on his arm? It’s been 2 weeks. Freaking ridiculous.’
‘Who sings that song I have been obsessing about on Spotify? No, no, I cannot ask anyone about it because my taste in music is shitty at best. It is so embarrassing how shitty it is.’
‘I am addicted to Instagram.’
‘Why am I wearing Penelope’s Halloween golden tiara?’
‘I wonder what BP (Business Partner) is doing now in Joshua Tree Park?’
It got really scary when after an hour, I started to have the same thought popping back in an angrier mode like: ‘I am never fucking buying SHIT again from H &M!!!’
Yeah, could never be a spy. Would NEVER pass the solitary confinement test.
Oh also… time I took my shower: N/A.
Have a great week everyone!!!
Some random pics from my weekend…