‘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 🙂
‘Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It’s only me
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and…
Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?’
Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
G woke up this morning telling me : ‘Mom I had a really nice dream’.
And the first thing I want to reply is: ‘I don’t give a shit’.
He and his siblings almost got the end of me yesterday night laughing, fighting, switching the lights on until 10pm while I was trying hard to work on some excel spreadsheets and figure out how many button ups I can realistically sell this year.
Yeah I want to say I don’t give a shit but the endearing mama came back for a split second and I enquire about it.
–‘I dreamed that you, Dad, P., L. And I moved to a new big house.’
– ‘Oh really? What did the house look like ?’ I am thinking:’ did DH brainstorm him about moving to the countryside ?’ A hot topic between his parents
–‘It had a door to a garden and when I opened it I could see the trees and it was Fall and the leaves were red, yellow, green and …blue!’
– ‘Was there anyone around us?’ I am trying to come up with a quick brainwashing trick to get him to equal space to solitude and the slow death of his mom’s soul.
– ‘Nope; no one just us’.
– ‘No one huh ? So what are we doing then?‘
– ‘Dad did not work. You did not work. We never go to school. We play games all day. We watch the Yaya (iPad) every day. And we NEVER have school.’
OK… I sigh in relief: that is not the suburbs, it is the fucking Chocolate Factory !
As the three of them shoot off for school on their scooters, I am left to ponder what my dreams are actually made of?
What are my blue trees looking like?
The truth is my dreams hurt me too. When you live them, they make you feel furiously awake and alert. They also make you want to throw up because you are suddenly scared that you are not worthy of your dream. And you are really scared shitless that it will just crush right in front of your eyes. Dreams are super scary. I cannot but hear my father in law’s favorite saying about teams throwing up the towel seconds before the final whistle while they had the whole game in their hands. He always says: ‘He is afraid to succeed. He is afraid to win it’.
I always hated it. Having always been a sore loser and an ultimate fighter, I always thought ‘why would anyone on Earth be afraid of winning. Losing sucks!’
This morning, however I feel I may connect with its meaning for the very first time.
Wins breeds more craving for wins. Wins come with a responsibility to uphold a promise to yourself and others (if you feel you have succeeded on your own, you are misguided me thinks).
You get addicted to what you feel viscerally when you win. You get addicted to the look of your loved ones when you win. It is exhilarating. It is intoxicating until you cannot breathe because you can see the next move, the one after, perhaps the one after that and then things get blurred. And you ask yourself, what I am to do when all my moves are done.
So yeah major freak out. I really want to cry. If only I could cry. Note: there’s a now an infamous conversation between my assistant and me in which I told her, very shortly after we launched our online store, that I was not able to cry. She asked: ‘Why?’
I replied:’I don’t have the time to. Mind you, we are walking now and it is raining on my face so that would be the perfect moment to cry’. It did not happen but my assistant has probably kept this conversation in her notebook titled ‘The shit my boss says on a daily basis’.
Anyway, I could cry. Instead I blank out until I enter this quiet and bright studio and showroom in Brooklyn where two humble and super talented designers, sisters and moms, created one dialogue after another, one conviction after another a luxury leather goods brand working with American leather and New York craftsmen (more about their beautiful universe soon on my online store – fingers crossed). And my heart beats again. It beats so strong it wants to burst but the nauseating feeling is gone. For now.
I found my cure. No tear drops, just a new bone. When my own dreams act like an enraged bulldog biting my ass, I decided to rely on other women’s dreams and let myself carried away by their force and beauty. I will be a temporary parasite and blood sucker. Yes, that is my coping mechanism.
Should this fail, I still have G’s home and its blue trees 🙂
Also not that it is what I personally think but it made me laugh to see this statement in my Manhattan mini storage the day after my conversation with G.
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.
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
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
When temperature hits -27c you know that your skill in layering clothes will be useless because the only thing you should do is layering 4 thick sweaters and thus look like a piñata. However, when you have 2 business meetings that morning you have to improvise your ass off. Here we go…
Bottom: thermal legging
Top: thermal tank top and tee
Head: faux fur hat
Bottom: Zara navy skinny trousers
Top: Vintage yellow gold blouse
Head: hubby’s grey wool hat
Third and fourth layer
Real vintage rabbit fur vest from BFF who since she no longer has any idea what winter is living Down Under has generously lent long term one of her most precious belongings to her slob ‘yours truly’ friend. That is real friendship for you.
Faux fur vest from the slob friend/me.
Grey coat not seen on pic because … I am sweating enough as it is.
I have an unfinished debate (mostly with myself because DH simply rolls his eyes calling me an hypocrite) about real/faux fur. One side of me screams outrage and the other side tries to justify myself ‘it is really, really old so there’s no much I could have done about it back then, right?’. It just feels so warm and soft arggggh
Anyways turns out that I could not have chosen a better outfit for the day because the freaking day sucked. Today I learned the hard way about ethics and work standards in business. It’s not because you care to the point of bankrupting your family and alienating everyone about a comma on a slide that others care too. Fakers and ‘all talk, no show’ are everywhere. And they are going to try to fuck you.
So here I was in a cab wondering ‘why the fuck am doing this to myself?’, ‘why am I so arrogant to think that I can win it all?, ‘how can you avoid sweat marks on blouses? ‘, ‘do I need a big slap on the head as a reality check?’, ‘am I doing this just to piss off my mom?’
69 blocks and at least 3 imaginary assassination plots later, I decided that I, me, myself was real. What I want to say and do is real. Fuck the fakers. Mark these words: YOU WILL NOT BRING DOWN (think of the #wickedmusical I.e. High pitch, looking all green, angry and fucking mental).
Special thanks to Natasha who when asked ‘why should I keep on, girl? ‘ simply answered ‘because you’re too fabulous’ #reallove
Today is a big day because it is the first day that I will be sharing details of Another Garde, the fashion startup I have been working on since February to a friend/business brain/potential investor. It’s scary because I want her to be ruthless and tell me in the face if this whole business concept sucks. It feels a little like introducing G to his new teacher in September and say: ‘do you think he’ll handle structure and discipline well? Hmm…’ A little like giving someone a stick to beat you with. Basically.
Anyway there is a word for what I am doing today: pitching. In the 11 years, I lived in London I probably used the word ‘pitch’ only to order beer but New York is like Pitch Land! I seem to use it all the time:
Baseball pitcher: potentially the most revered sportsman in America
High pitch voices: that’s basically the sound of New York on Sunday brunch time, in shops, on a train to Long Beach etc. An odd sound mix of a pack of barking mutts and a 13 year old teenager having his first orgasm again…and again…again. Yeah. That bad.
Elevator pitch; in here you don’t introduce yourself, you pitch yourself. New Yorkers are pro networkers and have little time so you basically have 30 secs minute to make an impression. In fact, when I was looking for a job, Archibald/the worst job search coach ever used to say: you have 10 words to explain who you are, what you want and how I can help you so go ahead…after 1 minute of my rambling he would snore right in my face. Ass.
Anyway, here’s my Pitch Outfit – I figure that if I bleed from stress it will look nice on white 🙂 like O-ren on Kill Bill.
Elizabeth & James blazer, knit top from Joe Fresh, loungewear from H&M, black hide leather sandals from MIA and DH’s $20 aviator shades.
Let’s make this a home run people!!!
Disclaimer: This is not a public solicitation or offer to fund my business.