It’s a woman’s world…

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

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Oh boy…

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.

Voila!

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

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Knit vest by Foxx + Walsh

 

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Hand made leather backpack by Moses Nadel

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Black Cupro dress by H.Fredriksson

Masters of Universe

    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)

          Two months since my last update… I wish I could say that I was too busy with my not launched yet business or too involved in my kids gala fundraiser…But the truth is that I just don t know what to write lately because I seem to have become a mere observer of my own family life. 
          I am finding myself energy less and as if I was watching a freaking Street Fighter 6 straight to DVD movie. 
          It is ugly. Pure and Simple. L is hitting P with a wooden pan resulting in her sporting a terrifying black eye for s week, G is slamming the patio door on L’s hand, P is calling G ‘poop’ all day long and so on and so on.
          No rules and no winners; just 2 overtired and overworked referees who get to intervene every 5 seconds to ensure no one actually dies. 
          I am talking about children who manage to turn a picnic in Central Park into a fucking massacre. Let’s rewind to that infamous Saturday that has become our new benchmark for what hell must be like. 
          The scene: Central Park, first real day of spring, jolly mood everywhere.
          Birds are singing, young lovers are giggling, new parents are cuddling their precious baby (poor bastards, they have no idea), flowers are finally blooming everywhere…But me, I get to enjoy SHITE. G has decided that Upper East Side must be more interesting than the west side so took off. Just like that. No good byes,no ‘thanks mom for all your hard work these last 4 years but you guys suck with your middle class picnic basket, I am going to chance it out on my own for a while. Ciao’. Nope, no warning. Gone he was so DH went on his trail. For what seemed eternity. 
          Meanwhile, L climbed into a prohibited area of the park to take a mud bath and step onto precious flora before running in circles so I could not catch him. P had the bad idea of ‘helping out’ by getting inside only to catch the attention of a park ranger who was two words away from giving me a fine but decided that shaming me was probably punishment enough.
          ‘Madam they are your responsibility, you should have never let them get inside in the first place…’

          Thank you Sir. I shall put this piece of advice next to the comment from that ‘I am better than you’ woman who two weeks ago went out of her way to tell me after seeing me struggling with my two boys on the street:
          ‘You have no control, do you? And don’t say it is because you have two of them. It’s no excuse, I had 4.’ 

          Why don t you fucking help me then, bitch??? Instead of judging me. 
          Whatever. 
          Anyway. The first picnic of the season was an EPIC failure. And I am really freaking out about it because I thought nice weather would make my life easier. Throughout the whole winter I was convincing/brainwashing myself ‘be patient, when they can run outside, everything will be different, it will be awesome. You’ll see’. What a fucking disappointment… Worse than the day I lost my virginity. Really. 
          DH and I thus did the unthinkable : flee Central Park on a sunny day. We locked ourselves in our bedroom waiting for the 3 of them to calm the fuck down. They did. Something beautiful happened: they all napped. At the same time. Sigh. They slept 2 hours! 

          Probably co-developing the script for Street Fighter 7: the Apocalypse days….
            
           
           
           

          Mood of the day: Real or Faux ?

          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…

          First layer
          Bottom: thermal legging
          Top: thermal tank top and tee
          Head: faux fur hat

          Second layer
          Bottom: Zara navy skinny trousers
          Top: Vintage yellow gold blouse
          Head: hubby’s grey wool hat

          Third and fourth layer
          Top:
          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.

          Fifth layer
          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

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          P for President

          I write a blog so I don’t forget things; like how much I hurt, how much I worked, how much I laughed, how much I loved…Bla Bla Bla

          Today, I do not want to ever forget some precious moments with my daughter. A day will probably come when her smart ass attitude will frustrate me to no end, when I will ‘expect’ her comments and when I will no longer stop in my tracks because the words coming out of her mouth just silence me and blow my mind. Sorry if this sounds pretentious but I am too proud of her not to share. OK, I will now pass over the vomit bucket 🙂

          Anyway, here are some keepsakes from P, age 4.

          On death

          ‘Mom, we are all getting old and we are all going to die, right?’

          Yes…’ I replied, choking lightly and thinking ‘Shit I AM going to DIE!!!!’

          ‘Why?’

          “Eh…to make place for you and your family. If we all stay and hang out, there will be too many of us and you won’t have space to grow and do stuff’.

          ‘I don’t like that you have to die’.

          ‘It’s OK; I will always be somewhere watching you.’

          ‘Do promise you will watch me, OK? Because if you stop watching (as in looking at me), I will be lost.’

          My heart really tightened at that moment because it was so innocent, simple, and genuine. Of course, children grow up obsessed with parental approval. So, what do I need to do not to screw it up?  Me and so many of my friends grew up always feeling that we were not and will never be enough. Adult happiness becomes so evasive. Of course we cannot put all the blame on our old folks but I wonder when parents stop watching and start judging. When do parents turn from being ‘compasses’ into unsatisfied coaches ?

          On her favorite books

          I always thought that kids had this one book they cherished for ever and would carry everywhere; books about pigs, princesses, dogs and so on. A kind of literary comforter.

          P changes ‘I cannot live without them’ books every 2 months. Among her recent obsessions: the illustrated Bible, the French – Lao pocket dictionary and the signed memoir by Condoleezza Rice ‘No Higher Honor’…Difficult to imagine these books as comforters.

          She turns pages after pages, ‘reads’ intensely, nods, closes the books, re-opens the books and nods again. This stuff has officially freaked me out. That and when yesterday she told me ‘Mom when you decide to learn the guitar, I will tune it for you. I know how to do it, I saw Dad do it, it has to make a special sound when you pull the string.’ She has to be the world’s biggest bullshit express or what???

          On being nice

          ‘I don’t understand why you ask me to be nice. It is not easy; it is very difficult to be nice all the time! How can you do this? What you ask is not fair.’

          I am still pondering what to respond to this.

          On logic

          G & P’s new passive aggressive jousting is calling each other ‘Poop’. It absolutely drives them nuts and really upsets them. I mean it. They kick each other’s heads and they’ll be fine. They strangle each other and they’ll be fine. They steal each other’s food and they’ll be fine. But if the word ‘poop’ comes out, all hell breaks loose. Yesterday morning, P was bawling her eyes out: ‘G told me that I was poop’.

          Me:’Well, he is your TWIN brother so if you are poop, he is poop too.’

          DH was assuredly playing along: ‘Yes it is true. If you are poop, you get it from us so Mama is poop and I am poop and thus HE is poop too’.

          We were feeling very smug about our stellar common sense but P started crying even louder. I tried her to calm her repeating: ‘Stop crying and just tell him he is poop too like everyone else.’

          To which she screamed: ‘But stop it!!! I don’t want to be part of a family of poop!!!!’

          DH and I turned crimson from embarrassment. She did make an awfully good point. As for the two us, a bunch of idiots…really hahahaha.

          On race

          We live in a culturally very diverse neighborhood and from time to time some racial tensions just ignite on the bus or the subway. This morning an African American woman called some hispanic folks ‘cockroaches’ and ‘immigrants’ preaching a revisionist take on American History in which Africans were the indigenous population of America. Profanities ensued. L was confused like hell and I was just relieved that it was not older P or G who was riding the bus with me. So yeah, I wonder every day about what is my kids’ understanding of cultural and ethnic differences. I tried to start a conversation by asking P:

          ‘Do you think Mama looks more like your friend I’s mom (who is Asian Korean) or your friend K’s mom (who is French Caucasian)?’

          She paused, smiled and said: ‘Mom, you are beautiful. That’s it’. DH looked at me beaming and we both concluded that she just understood it all. She has just cracked international conflicts and world peace.

          Just like that.

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          Picture below by Helene McGuire

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          To Heart or not to Heart

          I hate valentines day. I don’t think about valentines day because I don’t do valentines day. Every year I only get reminded about it when I suddenly realize that I am walking on streets that are pink and red like…hmmm…like the opening of a bad erotic movie from the late 70s or something like that. Or when suddenly my local grocery store looks like a rose greenhouse.

          That’s when I really get annoyed because my Friday routine of buying myself some flowers generates a ‘aww she is the one giving the flowers’ look. It really pisses me off. You see, DH very rarely buys me flowers not because he does not think about it but because I am so anal about floral arrangements that he learnt a long, long time ago that he very rarely can get it right! Buying myself flowers gives me a strange sense of empowerment and valentines day just ruins it for me this year! Argggg.

          This year I was also reminded early because the kids teachers kept telling me about valentines cards and after 2-3 friendly reminders I understood that it was not optional but actual homework. Of course I refuse to buy stuff for something we hate celebrating so I decide that the kids/I will do homemade cards …whining all along. And that’s when having twins just takes it to another level.

          Especially when each twin says ‘NO mom!!!! I really, really, have to do a card for all (19) my classmates and my teachers because they will be sad if they don’t get one!’

          To which I reply :’ Aww that is so sweet and generous of you! I am really proud of you!’

          But what I really think is: ‘Little fucker. Really? You cannot seriously like ALL of them and our cards suck anyway so believe me it is not a TREAT!!!’

          On a high note, DH told me: ‘my (male) colleagues are so jealous of me.’

          Why?’

          ‘Because we don’t do valentines and my wife does not give a fuck about it’.

          And that makes me very, very happy. Having wealthy bankers who have everything be jealous of us for one night is priceless 🙂

          Happy #valentinesday for all who celebrate it; for others tonight wear some earplugs for the loud sex next door and we’ll be fine!

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          Mood of the day: lady LEGO

          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)

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