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IN CONVERSATION: SAMANTHA LISCHKA


When Samantha Lischka, of Texas brand Modern Burlap learned she was going to have a baby, the inventive young mother got to work looking for quality products to outfit her young one. There is one area she felt was seriously lacking: swaddle blankets.

She started with blankets, and then expanded to onesies, bibs, crib sheets, burp cloths, and hooded towels — all designed with distinctive black-and-white high-contrast patterns (aesthetically modern, but also practical as it aids babies' eyesight and development) and made with organic muslin (super-soft, breathable and said to reduce the risk of SIDS). The now mother of three found that it's possible to build a successful business, while still being able to be a stay-at-home mom — the best of both worlds. She tells us how she does it.  

On starting out: 

Though she didn't have much experience in the industry or a lot of extra money to start a company, Samantha launched Modern Burlap in her small Texas barn with her husband, relying on a thrifty budget. "The main thing that keeps people from pursuing a dream is fear of the unknown or not having financial comfort," she says. "My advice is to start small and see where it leads. And remember that it's OK to ask for help."  

On creating baby-worthy products

Parents put a lot of thought and care into what they buy for their kiddos, so every element of the Modern Burlap brand was conceived with their needs in mind. "The black-and-white patterns are more than just design choices," she explains. "High-contrast, black-and-white patterns enhance baby's vision and stimulate brain development." The materials, most of which are sourced from Denmark, focus around the 100-percent organic muslin that is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)-certified and guaranteed to be free of harmful materials. This breathable fabric is lightweight gets softer with every wash and helps regulate body temp, whether it's hot or cold. "Like all parents, I wanted the best for my babes, and I couldn't find what I wanted at the store," she says. "I created the items I wish existed." 

On making it: 

"There were many late nights perfecting the product, printing method, and initial designs when I was pregnant with our son, Cross Aiden," she says. "Fortunately all those late night feedings and working hours led to products we cannot live without in our home." The moment she feels most proud of: "Snuggling our son with our very first blankets — nothing tops that."

 

On finding inspiration: 

"I am constantly influenced by my family and surroundings. Our cactus swaddle was inspired by my husband's family's West Texas Ranch," she says. "The wide open views with cactus and untouched land is unlike anything else I've ever seen."

On shopping local: 

Even before she was a maker, Samantha believed in the importance of supporting small businesses and the impact that can have on an entire community. "People who shop small support the independent designers directly — the individuals who pour their hearts and souls into creating the products you take home. With success, those designers can expand their lines and dream bigger. They can hire others within the community to join their team." 

On accessibility: 
"An affordable price point has always been important to me, as both a consumer and a brand," she says. "I want all parents to have access for the best for baby. I'm not out to make a quick buck. I'm creating heirloom-quality products at prices I can relate to — even if the margin is small for some of our products."
On motherhood: 
The worst advice she ever received? "' Holding your baby too much will spoil them.' You'll never regret holding them nonstop!" The best? "Someone told me that you don't have to be quiet while the baby is sleeping, and it's so true. They're used to the noises from the womb. Run the vacuum, dishwasher — whatever you need — when they're newborn. That way they will be used to sleeping with noise." 
On finding balance: 
With three small kids, Samantha tries to restrict work to certain hours, but mostly, she understands she has to go with the flow as the day unfolds. "I try to attend to the most urgent work in the morning, while baby Armor is still sleepy in between feedings," she says. "At the end of the day, flexibility is key. If the kids need mama a bit more one day, they come first. Worst case scenario, I'll play catch up in the evenings just after all of my boys (husband included) go to sleep." 
Photos courtesy Modern Burlap 
Looking for a sweet something for your little one or a new mama? Peruse our kids' store. Tag us in pictures of your finds on Instagram @ShopSaintCloud!  
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In Conversation: Szeki Chan


Szeki Chan never intended to get into fashion, but man is she good at it. Her pieces — designed to blend seamlessly into the modern woman’s lifestyle — are stylish, clever and flawlessly made to last. To foster the spread of ideas, Szeki re-outfitted her Brooklyn storefront this year to include spaces for workshopping, storytelling and connecting. Here, she shares her conquer-anything tricks-of-the-trade.

On putting others first:  

When I started the brand eight years ago, I was looking to solve the problem of finding clothing that I liked and could afford. Everything changed when I started to involve customers in the process. That’s where the brand got better. It became a marriage of what I liked and what my customers needed, versus what I imagined people would like, which often led me to hit the wrong note. I focused on the function that clothes play in the everyday lives of the women who wear them. Years of letting that idea marinate has really helped us streamline the brand and find our voice.

On collaboration:

The mission and idea for the brand has always stayed the same. It’s about making clever and pragmatic clothes that work hard for the wearer, are beautifully crafted, made of exceptional quality and are attainable. My customers are my inspiration. I talk to them about their lives, and from that I think about the kind of pieces they need to fit into their lives. The production team in Guangzhou helps me source fabrics. It is really important to me that the fabrics not only feel amazing, but are also superior in quality. We rub the fibers and make sure colors and textures are consistent. The whole process is collaborative. I trust everyone on my team immensely.

Once samples are completed, I wear them day-in and day-out to make sure that they serve the function that we set out to achieve. For our winter collection, we’ve been experimenting with thicker coats and jackets filled with down-feather, so I’ve been taking all of the jackets for a test-run to see if they keep me warm and hold up to the New York winter!

 

On staying sane as an entrepreneur:

It is important to ignore the noise of what other people are doing. That’s how you achieve the things that you set out to do — even if it is different from the rest of the world. When you are able to cut through all the noise you end up hearing yourself clearer, which in turn pushes you harder toward your goals and strengthens your brand’s message. Set small achievable goals, and don’t worry about the rest.

On failure... and bouncing back stronger:

Side note: Besides being an amazing designer, Szeki was a successful pop star in her youth! 

I left music because I failed, but it’s cool. I recognize that I was young, and that it didn’t work out for me. The industry didn’t allow me to be me. As much as I liked performing, I couldn’t see it as a lifelong career. I have carried a lot of what I learned into my design business. Both take a lot of effort, not just from you, but from a lot of people. When I was a singer, I was putting on a show and expressing myself in a very big, very loud way. I love doing that, but it’s different than what I do for 7115. When you’re designing it’s a lot more thoughtful. It takes more of you, but the outcome is so much more precise. It’s smaller. It’s quiet.

On the essentials:

Everybody needs a great pair of trousers, a really good blazer and a piece of jewelry that’s dear to you.



On remembering where you came from:

I was born in Hong Kong, and raised in many different places (the UK, America). This made me want to create clothes that were pragmatic and universal. The designs are their own thing, but the construction and quality of our garments really shares the history of craftsmanship in China. With all the noise about things being made in China, now more than ever, it’s important to tell people how exactly we make our pieces. What it means to be “made in China.” The country; the centuries of garment-making heritage—it all shows through our designs and in the quality.

On necessary skills:

There’s nothing more important than being resourceful. It will be the one skill-set you master and use throughout your lifetime.

On finding your girl tribe:

Our team in Guangzhou produces all of our pieces in small runs. Our production director is a former professor at Guangzhou University, where she taught textile design. The rest of the team consists mainly of graduates from the program and local experienced seamstresses. We are like a family. They’re so close that they aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and disagree with each other. When I go to visit, we cook and eat together. My New York team is the retail team, and they are who I work with the closest. They are my support network. We joke that they’re like a 24/7 hotline. When I’m worrying, when there’s a crisis; these girls always step up. I would not be able to do what I do without them.

Photos courtesy 7115 by SZEKI

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ONE THING: INDEGO AFRICA PLATEAU BASKETS


Indego Africa Plateau Baskets handmadeIndego Africa Plateau Baskets decoration

Indego Africa Plateau baskets

In our new "One Thing" series, we highlight the latest treasures we're obsessing over at the shop—with a preference toward products that are artisanal and ethically made. 

THE LOW-DOWN: Handmade by artisan weavers in Rwanda using locally sourced sweetgrass and sisal. Hang them to brighten a gallery wall or place on a coffee table as a catch-all for sundry items. With every Indego Africa Plateau Basket bought, you help employ female workers in Africa and contribute to educational programs in under-served communities. What's better than supporting incredible, talented women?

images via indego africa 

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Kate De Para: 11 Questions/11 Answers.

A few rapid fire questions for the designer behind Evens.  

1. Where do you get your inspiration for your prints and fabrics?

Seriously everywhere. Lately, repetition in construction, aerial views, industrial materials, NASA image archives.

2. What's your guilty pleasure?

Definitely lots of pizza.

3. Most overused phrase?

Probably "lolz."

4. The best advice someone has given you or you have for someone?

Things are never as they seem!

5. Favorite go-to date outfit?

Usually a power suit in jumper form. 

6. How did you develop your sense of style?

My mom would tell you I was born with it. I think it was from having to learn to alter / rig my own clothes growing up because nothing fit me. 

7. Favorite app?

Filmstruck right now!

8. Favorite productivity tool?

Still stuck on my moleskin calendar.

9. Tell us about Red - your new kitten?

Red it such a punk! I got him so that my dog Arlo could have a buddy around. Red basically tortures Arlo all day, and Arlo loves it. He latches onto my pant leg and climbs all the way up to my shoulder to perch, if that gives you any idea.

10. What are you listening to right now?

Yuck.

11. Favorite local spot?

Rudyards! 

images via shopevens instagram

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In Conversation: Amina Belouizdad

 

Amina Belouizdad started Bartaile with her best friend, Felicia, with the intention of creating a product for people #goingplaces. We had some real talk with Amina about the ins and outs of starting a business.  She managed to inject some realism on the conversation around entrepreneurship with just the right amount inspiration. Read through for some “a-ha” moments.

On being true to your brand:

Necessity is the mother of invention. We started Bartaile because at business school it was a 2 mile walk to class. We looked at ourselves and all the girls that were trying to make it work with totes stuffed with books. That’s when it hit us that there was a need for a functional but chic bag to take everywhere. We were basically our own target market. It came from a really organic place and I think that really resonates to our clients. It’s at the very core of what we do.

On not making assumptions:

One of the more interesting things of this has been figuring out who your customer is versus who you thought they were. We thought it was going to be someone who is on the corporate track that is always carrying her laptop. Turns out that our customer is very much on the intersection of creativity and tech. Someone who travels and is digitally savvy. She is discerning and loyal and it has been exciting figuring out who she is.

On perfectionism:

Product development was a big challenge for us. Neither Felicia or myself are from a design/supply chain background and the learning curve was steep. Looking back we tried to make it too perfect and were too hard on ourselves. It cost us time and money. It’s better to be lean, nimble, quick and learn from customer feedback.  

On not quitting your day job:

The problem is that there is a very romanticized view of entrepreneurship. It’s a hustle. Its hard, its lonely, its confusing, but people don’t talk about that aspect enough. All you hear are the success stories. You don’t hear the gruesome path of the one making it. I think that it is leading young people to take risks they are not ready for because they have been misinformed. With that in mind, I’m an advocate for slow and steady wins the race - in whatever form that means for different people. Sometimes it’s a lot of savings, sometimes that means bringing in a partner, and sometimes that means keeping your day job. There are a million ways. I think it’s really important to have more dialogue around entrepreneurship.  It’s as though it’s almost shameful to have a corporate job but maybe that’s the right thing for you. Maybe you’re just being smart!

On living a life of intent:

At school I took this class called “Total Leadership” and it was about living a life of intent. It was all about thinking of the four areas of your life: self, community, work and home. Actually, not just thinking but designing a life for those things to merge. It’s about creating overlaps and crossovers and how anything you are doing should benefit at least two of those areas. A lot of people live their life in silos but this actually helps you merge and really define what is important to you. For example, Bartaille really embodies everything I care about. It’s about creating solutions to problems, being creative, and it takes me places. I lived in Asia for a long time and our supply chain is there by design. China will always be a part of me and I want to have a foot there. 5% of our sales go to education and that was important to me. I get to work with one my best friends. Bartaille is a vehicle through I do everything I want to do. A little bit of intent and thinking really pushes us to make the right decisions.

On being unapologetic:

Be unapologetic about your life. People feel like they have obligations and don’t do what they really want to do. If your work doesn’t fit your values or doesn’t make you happy - you can change it. So many people go through the hamster wheel and don’t think about what they really want to do.The best way for me was to start it from scratch with Bartaile. For others it might be just shuffling some things around.

On waking up early:

You end up creating two extra hours for yourself out of thin air. Plus, they end up being the most productive and quietest two hours of my day.  

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