Welcome to Boston Mamas Rock! – where we’re giving a voice to fabulous local mamas from all walks of life. Read on for today’s interview with Mila Cole, mother of two and lawyer turned designer behind the children’s clothing line Laughing Out Loud Kids. Then go ahead and nominate a fabulous fellow mama!
Mila Cole, Designer, Laughing Out Loud Kids
Christine: Welcome, Mila! You’re a mother of two and the designer behind Laughing Out Loud Kids, but formerly you were a lawyer. What kind of law did you practice and what inspired you to leave the field? And then when did you start Laughing Out Loud Kids?
Mila: I practiced business law but quickly turned to finance. I went to Brandeis University, where I pursued a Master’s degree in finance. I entered the financial world and held a position as a quantitative analyst (in fixed income) right before turning into a designer. I played with the idea of starting my own brand right after the birth of my son Sebastian, now 3 and a ½ years old. I researched the field and followed my childhood obsession of designing clothes.
Christine: You started designing clothes as an 11-year-old when you worked with a seamstress to transform your sketches into clothing. What was the first piece of clothing you made? What was your favorite creation from those early years?
Mila: My mother used to take me to the seamstress to have her make my clothes, so we would visit 2-3 times a year to create our wardrobe for the season. I sat down in her waiting room and would sketch my own designs. They would always try to convince me that my designs were too complicated or too expensive for a little girl, so I found alternatives so I could still have what I wanted to wear. There were a few dresses I really liked but I cannot recall which one was the first one. My favorite though was a spaghetti strap dress with some details in the bodice.
Christine: You have two sons under 4. Tell us where you were with the development of Laughing Out Loud Kids in relation to the arrival of your children.
Mila: I was in the hatching stage. I was researching the industry when my first son was born. I am a savvy consumer and I liked a few existing brands but I found that the design always seemed to prevail over the quality. Meaning, there were cute outfits but the quality was not the best. I wanted to create cute outfits of high quality.
Christine: What has been the most challenging thing about being a mamapreneur, juggling the high demands of your business with family life? Do you have any nuggets of wisdom for aspiring mamapreneurs?
Mila: It has been a challenge to separate work from family. I had to travel to Peru for two months with my sons. It was hard to be alone (without my husband), working and raising my children. I was working at a pace that I’ve never worked at before. At the end it is very rewarding because it is your business yet there is flexibility for you to spend quality time with your children. You see your little ones grow and see every step they take.
Christine: One of the signatures of your collection is that you love using vibrant colors and simple silhouettes, and you translate these elements to boys clothing too, no doubt inspired by your own sons. And while the tide has been turning in recent years, cool boys clothes aren’t always easy to find. Why do you think that has been the case historically?
Mila: Generally, consumers are not interested in buying boys clothes; there definitely is a gap in the market for boys clothes. Our society is very resistant to dress their boys in pink or buy their boys a doll. It is a cultural issue that rules this type of consumer behavior. It only takes a celebrity kid to model an out of the ordinary garment to make it more "normal." To me it seems like nonsense and lack of personality, but maybe it is just a matter of preference.
Christine: I don’t sew clothing but I absolutely love fashion and am fascinating by the process. Can you give us a sense of what goes into starting a line?
Mila: It is very complicated at the beginning because you are extremely careful about not making mistakes! You need to be extremely organized and very detail oriented; can you handle 10 things at a time? I am still learning. I am a designer who creates everything from scratch - just like any other big designer. I don’t ever work with available fabric. First I decide which colors will be hot next season, then I choose the type of material I want to use or mix. Then I knit the fabric according to my specifications, then dye the fabric and finish the garment. Every process entails a great amount of monitoring and it is a discipline of its own. I hire engineers to audit the knitting, dying, and manufacturing processes from start to finish.
Christine: At the moment you don’t have an online store; how can folks find your products?
Mila: I am currently available in boutiques nationwide but I will eventually open my online store. In Massachusetts I currently am at Milalilu in Newton, Village Baby in Brookline, and Impish in Northampton.
Christine: I’m known as a blogger committed to green issues so I must ask: do you plan on developing an organic arm to your collection?
Mila: My clothing is made with Pima cotton, which is eco friendly, and my accessories (buttons) are made out of natural products such as milk resin or coconut.
Christine: We’ve talked all business up to now. Tell us about the favorite things you do to unwind or any hidden/unusual talents you may have.
Mila: We like to travel...my hidden talent was designing!
Christine: And finally, what’s your favorite thing about being a Boston mama?
Mila: My favorite thing is that I can be home with my kids while enjoying my work. I worked in a male dominated industry and I've always worked under a lot of pressure, but this new venture is very therapeutic. The pressure is very different!
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