Discover more from Zillion Trillion
OPEN FOR HAPPINESS
Meet Catherine and Rebecca, 2 seasoned fashion experts, and super moms behind my favorite kid’s store MILKTEETH (and 50% of Atlas’ closet). Scroll down to find out how to tame your inner critic, the inspiration behind the brand, channeling your anxiety into something positive, and the noodle sofa I never knew I needed + there is a GIFT for all you amazing ZT readers at the end.
Tell me a bit about your lives/careers before Milk Teeth. How did you both meet?
CNH: I studied fashion design at FIT but dropped out when I got a part-time job assisting a stylist. I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do. I was a stylist for about 12 years, working for magazines and brands, doing everything from editorials to ad campaigns to shows, to styling celebrities. I loved it and I worked with some really nice people, who showed me that it’s possible to be both successful but also kind. But I think I hit a wall once I found out I was pregnant. I was exhausted by the travel and the uncertainty of never knowing which jobs would confirm and whether a client would come back again the next season, which had felt exciting in my 20s, but which now wore me out. I’d just moved to LA, found out I was pregnant, and was flying back to New York for clients who wanted me to be local, all the while panicking about how I was going to manage childcare with a totally unpredictable schedule. Rebecca came into my life at just the right time, she booked me for my first ad job postpartum, where I had to pump every two hours, and eventually hired me for a new LA-based creative studio she was building for Zappos, the e-comm retailer. She is my brilliant friend and now business partner.
RC: My path never felt linear, but I do think now I'm drawing on so many of my past lives and it all seems to make more sense. I studied to be a therapist and even started a graduate program after I graduated from UC Berkeley, but I think I was just too young at the time to settle into a career like that. I dropped out, knowing I needed to be doing something creative. I worked at a magazine (RIP ReadyMade), helped manage bands, and eventually started managing a photography studio. I went on to work at Gap and Nike, and after a brief detour into styling, I moved back to LA to focus on photo production. After freelancing for years, I felt the same desire to slow down (no more 18 hours days driving around Hong Kong, pls) and was recruited to open a creative incubator for Zappos. I was skeptical at first, but it ended up being an amazing opportunity, which allowed me to convince many über-talented people who likely never would have worked for Zappos to join our team, including Catherine, who I knew was a unicorn from the first time we worked together.
What inspired you to open the store?
RC: Catherine and I were on maternity leave at the same time. Me with my son Charlie, Catherine with her second daughter, Clover. We’d bonded over a shared frustration with the lack of cool, unisex clothing options for kids. We felt like there was an empty middle ground... it seemed to be either Zara or H&M, or the beautiful much more $$$ clothes from European brands which we occasionally got as gifts, and loved, but wouldn’t have necessarily bought ourselves for everyday wear, from Stella kids, and Bobo Choses. We both loved Korean kid’s clothes, I'd been to Seoul and brought a bunch of stuff home, and Catherine had a friend who'd sent her some too, and we always got so many compliments on the playground whenever our kids were dressed in them: baggy pants, fun prints that weren’t trucks or unicorns. We talked about it so many times that we just decided we had to give it a shot and start selling some, even if it just ended up being a little thing we did on the side.
What are some of your current design inspirations? Art/ architecture/ literature. Anything.
CNH: I’m obsessed with squishy furniture. Anything that would add personality and texture to a home, but which would also be safe for kids to climb all over. My dream is to commission a Mrs. Noodle Pillow as a sofa alternative. I also love artist Katie Stout’s stuffed chairs.
RC: We’re both drawn to how color can be used to change the feeling of something or make it seem a little trippy, whether it's a sophisticated dress but done with neon accents, or a drawing of blue strawberries and a purple cat. Nicholas Party's paintings are a great example. Also, when we first met, we were both reading a lot of the same books that touched on creative pursuits and motherhood; Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill will always be a favorite of mine.
You started the store during the pandemic, while at home with kids= having FULL-TIME jobs. This is SO beyond impressive. I can barely write an email while Atlas is at home. How did you manage to get anything done? Give us all the tips!
CNH: Oh thank you! I feel spread thin and exhausted and brain foggy all the time!
I wouldn’t have been able to do this alone. Having a partner in the idea was the only thing that made this feel possible for me. I was always having ideas and starting projects, but not finishing them (my knitting project, a half-written screenplay...) I wanted to prove to myself I could do this, I think. I had quite bad postpartum depression and anxiety after my first child was born, and the second time around felt so different. I already had therapy and medication in place and felt so much more confident as a parent.. maybe I was over-confident and thought I could start a side biz! Maybe I just channeled the anxiety into something else! But really we just wanted to get it live to test it as an idea.
RC: Our only goal was to get a website live, to test our idea. It was very much a day-by-day process.
CNH: My motto now I’m a parent is “done is better than perfect.” The challenge was over-riding my inner critic and just putting something out there, even if it was low-fi. As a recovering perfectionist, it felt scary.
RC: But we knew that if we didn’t do it, someone else would!
What have been some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting your business? What have been your biggest learnings?
RC: Time, prioritizing, owning what you don’t know, giving into the uncertainty, embracing a never-ending to-do list, honestly so many of the same things I came to terms with as a first-time parent. Milk Teeth is definitely my second child and the learning curve is truly wild. The biggest lesson is perseverance, Catherine always says it’s not about weathering the big problems, it’s more about staying the course while you juggle a thousand small issues
CNH: I am learning so much every day- it feels like my brain will explode! I’m far outside my comfort zone in so many areas but I’m asking for help all the time. I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask for help.
CNH: We LOVE our customers! We’ve made so many new friends, like you, and we love seeing everyone’s kids out and about in their Milk Teeth best! I am extremely grateful to all my fashion industry friends and colleagues who have been so supportive, placing orders and helping spread the word. I think a lot of people felt like we did...they worked in creative industries, and they cared about what they wore and what was in their homes, but once they became parents, they were frustrated by how old-fashioned and lacking in style, kids’ gear so often is.
What are your kid’s current in-store favorites?
- Leonora, 4: Terrycloth Jumpsuit by Happymess Kids “it’s like the beach"
- Clover, 2: Santa Cruz Sunglasses in Ivory (mostly worn upside-down)
- Charlie, 2: Cosmos Sweater in Violet, (he says "i’m wearing Milf Teef" which is hands down funnier than any joke I've ever made)
How do you manage to look put together while having kids + a business? Since you are both pro stylists - I Have to ask, what are your top 5 wardrobe heroes?
CNH: Thank you, that is very kind! I don’t always feel that way! But I usually stick to a uniform which makes it much easier. Some of my favs:
2. The perfect plain white t-shirts from Leset. I wear a lot of print and pattern, so these break it up. They are thick cotton with a high crew neck like a mens Hanes tee, but ever so slightly cropped, which is flattering.
4. A large bag that reminds me of Old Celine. *Ludicrously capacious* for life.
RC: It's a struggle with far less time to get ready in the morning than I'd like, but you have to have your go-tos and know what works best for your body...I've finally disposed of any standing-room-only pants, byeeee.
1. A heavyweight jean that looks cool, but can withstand chasing toddlers and building office furniture.
2. An easy one-peice in a statement color with for a fool proof way to look pulled together in an instant.
3. Something that makes me smile as I’m getting dressed
4. A hands-free bag in the perfect size. Playground essential. Work essential.
5. You can never go wrong with an Online Ceramics tee, kindly lent by my generous husband. Word on the street is they might be doing kids' shirts soon...👀
Last but not least, What’s next for Milk Teeth?
RC: Our Spring collection drops at the end of April. We’ve made matching cotton short-and-shirt sets in a few colors. It’s been a best-selling style for us and we looove the fabric we found.
CNH: We’re hosting a market at Platform here in LA on April 30th: we’ve rented a bounce house and invited 20+ of our favorite woman-owned brands, for a market. Leret Leret, Zizia Botanicals, Loam Candles, Mother Tongue - our favorite magazine (think The Gentlewoman meets The Paris Review for moms), Beditorial, Palomita (our fave spot for creative kids toys), and many more. We’re so excited! Since we’re online-only, events like this are where we get to meet and hang out with our customers, and we always want to have an element of fun for kids and parents alike, hence the bounce house!
*** GIFT FOR THE ZILLION TRILLION READERS***
USE THE CODE : ZILLION15 for 15% off your order
*one use per customer
THE ZILLION TRILLION EDIT - We did the shopping for You, so you can check at least one of the things on your to-do list today.