The old saying would have you believe that necessity is the mother of invention but in fashion, firsthand experiences with hard-to-dress infants and toddlers prove that a maternal instinct is often the golden touch. To celebrate Mother’s Day, the next two weeks we’ll take a look at the “aha” moments mom and aunt inventors experienced and discover how they’ve pioneered the kids’ market with their one-of-a-kind products. By Angela Velasquez
Kerry Newman, board certified pediatrician, mother of three (including twins) and founder of Zopheez isn’t being facetious when she says she likes “mindless” things. In fact, it’s an interest shared amongst her family and the inspiration for her line of infant and toddler zipper one-pieces. For more than 20 years, the family has passed a child’s jumpsuit with a simple zipper closure bought in Paris down from generation to generation. “It’s threadbare and the print isn’t very nice, but every cousin has owned it because is the absolute easiest thing to put on a small child,” Newman describes.
That jumpsuit became the blueprint for Newman’s unexpected turn into fashion. She stopped doing shift work at the hospital and spent her newly found spare time designing and sewing her kids’ one-of-kind, all-encompassing outfits. “Thank goodness for the Internet. I read up on everything I could find about the fashion industry and went on websites for people who wanted to break into fashion,” Newman says. Living near a thriving garment district in L.A. helped, too, as local experts were eager to come to the rescue. “I met with pattern makers and sewers. I asked a lot of questions. People were incredibly nice and gave me tons of information,” she says, noting that one patient printmaker spent two hours explaining printing processes.
The zipper construction distinguishes the one-pieces from the rest of the baby market, but the line’s signature fun prints and colors allow Newman to key into her crafty side. But not even Newman’s innate creativity can out-step her sensible mommy instincts, as she points out, “The prints also help hide stains, which is especially important for crawlers.”
As if potty training wasn’t a difficult hurdle to clear on its own, Myself Belts co-founder Talia Bahr Goldfarb discovered how traditional belts complicate the process even further when her son’s pants wouldn’t stay on. “We were going somewhere where his sweat pants wouldn’t be appropriate. I look everywhere, but I couldn’t find a belt that he could work on his own. It was hard to watch him struggle because he was so proud of his potty training independence,” she recalls.
Her sister, Danielle Bahr Eason, could not believe a kid-friendly belt did not exist in the market and decided to do something about it. “She was the push,” Bahr Goldfarb says of her sister. “She’s not a mom and had a lot more energy than me,” she laughs. Together, the sisters began to cut up belts and came up with an easy loop design that kids could handle on their own.
“We started the patent process and from there the momentum took us from point A to B and so on,” Barh Goldfarb says. Plenty of lessons of their own were learned along the way. When the company launched in 2004, the first order to China was comprised of 10,000 belts. “It was risky,” Barh Godfarb admits, “but we wanted a big assortment.” The optimistic order paid off. The company has close to 800 retail partners worldwide with distribution in Canada, Australia, Europe and the Philippines.
Barh Godfarb’s advice for future mothers of invention: “Go with your gut and do not be led astray. Don’t get swayed by trends because many of the things that appealed to us early on still work. And as someone who didn’t know anything about this business beforehand, I can say that you must be willing to ask questions. There’s so much information out there for you, ready to be absorbed.”
About the Author:
With 4 years of experience as a children’s stylist and magazine editor, Angela brings you an insider’s perspective on trends and seasonal looks that will make babies and toddlers shine in their holiday photos and at birthday parties! Angela also has a way of making everyday clothes and accessories look special — she’ll show you how.