By fashion stylist, journalist and pregnant mother-of-one, Charlotte Kewley
Celia Muñoz, mother-of-five, founder of La Coqueta and Cecile Reinaud, mother-of-two, founder of Seraphine are two of the most inspirational powerhouses of a working mother one could have the pleasure to have a cup of tea with. I was lucky enough to get that opportunity when they met for the first time at the Seraphine headquarters in London to chat business, life and motherhood …
I arrived with my dictaphone and question list at the ready but it turned out I mostly just let them talk and listened in… here’s how the conversation went.
How did you each get into fashion?
Cecile: I was working in advertising, then I started to notice pregnant women in my office complaining that they didn’t know how to get dressed. I realised that maternity fashion was a niche that was under-serviced. So being 30 and super enthusiastic, I wrote a business plan, started talking about it and off I went! That was 13 years ago.
Celia: That’s incredible. Obviously we’re a much younger business, only three years old. I worked as a head hunter for 8 years, then had my first child, Flavia, aged 30. I always had a love for children’s fashion – it’s part of a Spanish person’s DNA. I used to dress her in beautiful Spanish clothes, people would stop me and ask where they were from. At some point I thought actually there could be a business opportunity here. I did three years of research to build my business plan and find suppliers as I had no retail experience, no production experience…
Cecile: Same as me!
Celia: It took a really long time! But when I had my 5th child I decided that was the time. I really wanted to start my own childrenswear business. So I opened my shop and it all started.
Cecile: So we have quite a similar story… except that you had 5 children!
Celia, how did you do that with five children? A lot of women struggle with one or two.
Celia: I think the secret is being extremely organised. I’m very routine focused. So we do everything the same every single day, we plan ahead. My husband and I cook for a month and freeze everything. We try to live a life that is fairly spontaneous within a very organised framework and it works. I’m not going to lie, I do have help at home. How do you make it work Cecile?
Cecile: The same I suppose. Being organised, having the right help and I always say there is no such thing as the perfect mum!
Celia: You can never get it right! If you’re at home all the time or not you’re always going to be judged!
Cecile: Yeah and at the end of the day I think I have a better relationship with my kids because I don’t worry about the small things. When I’m with them I’m much more chilled and relaxed.
Cecile, you founded Seraphine before you became pregnant. Once you were pregnant did anything change?
Cecile: It was only just before. A lot of our first pieces I designed for myself, I think that was part of the success of the brand. But then my baby was born, I had a big store with a big investment behind it and no help, no family close by. It was the most challenging time in my life. I nearly collapsed! Literally. It was too much
Celia: I can see how it must have been so hard. The first baby is just the hardest thing ever…
Cecile: So when people ask, I say don’t do it like me! Don’t start a business at the same time as a family. It’s too much stress.
So what would be your advice to any new mothers or women starting their own business or just going back to work?
Cecile: I think to find yourself a network. Like anything in life, when you share problems you feel normal. When you’re lonely it’s hard!
Cecile, can we just talk about the Kate Middleton effect? How did the royal affiliation happen? It must have been a wow moment when she first stepped out in one of your dresses?
Cecile: I remember when it happened I was in the office, it was 5pm and my PR Assistant said ‘Cecile can you come here? I think she’s wearing our dress!’ I just couldn’t believe it! She chose our Fuchsia Knotted Maternity Dress for Prince George’s first official picture. So for her second pregnancy we offered to do bespoke pieces, it worked, they loved them, bought them and she wore them at official occasions and it’s been a fairy-tale!
And now you’ve launched The Diana Award baby collection?
Cecile: Yes, I was approached by the charity, obviously the idea was to raise money and awareness – we give 12% of sales from our baby wear collection to the charity, which is really satisfying. We also did the collaboration Love T-shirt with Tommy’s charity… it’s fun and for a good cause.
And Celia, you of course recently collaborated with House of Hackney?
Celia: Yes! Just like with Seraphine I love HOH and I could just see it working out. I think it’s nice to surprise your customer and keep coming up with new ideas….
What’s the most important message for your business? Why do your customers come to you?
Cecile: For us it’s simple. To make you feel amazing during your pregnancy and look beautiful! If we tick that box we’re happy.
Celia: For us the customer comes for anything that is handcrafted, all of our smocks are handmade and everything is beautifully finished.
And finally what are your must-buys from your own SS16 collections?
Cecile: The luxe dresses – we have a luxe collection of maternity evening wear – the gowns are amazing.
Celia: Our cotton sets for newborns, they’re very practical staples. And of course a handmade smock dress!
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