Ilana Anger of Little lief and I connected a few years ago when I was working for Papier Mache Magazine. Instantly I was comforted by Ilana’s generous open spirit, and the fact that we were both Australian expats raising children in and around New York City. Our interests overlapped in many ways, Ilana’s contribution to ethical children’s fashion, and the impulse behind raising her children, who now attend the Brooklyn Waldorf School.
It was another year before we met in person at Acorn Toy Shop’s 10th Birthday party, and when we hugged, she felt like an old familiar friend. Since then Ilana and I have been in regular contact, genuinely interested in supporting each other’s journey. When Ilana shared she was putting her brand Little Lief on hold while she focused on early motherhood, I was simultaneously sad that Little Lief would not be available, and impressed that she was letting go of what she had built to be totally focused on her children. So many of us grapple with maintaining the balance of work and motherhood, and sometimes the right choice for some of us will be to choose to set work aside and “Just be a mother for a while.” Ilana’s courage, and strength that she could put her business on hold was admirable and inspiring. Now and then I would write and check in with her about when she might be returning to children’s fashion? When we last saw each other at ShopUp, Ilana announced she had a new collection ready to show. It is with much excitement that I share these snippets, celebrating the return of Little Lief.
Could you share why you decided to put Little Lief on hold, and why you feel it is right the time to come back?
My approach to Little Lief and raising my children has always been very hands on. Just before my son Leven’s first birthday, I started to feel I wouldn’t be able to focus on achieving the quality in the clothing that I have always been so particular about. I didn’t want my attention to detail to be compromised in any way, and raising children in New York City and running a small business meant that I couldn’t focus fully on either. This September my son started nursery and for me it’s finally the right time to come back.
You were well established and represent by the best boutiques, Do you feel any regrets for having stepped out of your sound position in the market? Or were you 100% confident in the choice.
I occasionally feel a twinge of regret, but at the time I was very confident that this was the best choice for me and I still feel that way. One can only ever make what they think is the best choice at the time and moving forward, I am excited by new challenges like expanding into women’s apparel with the same philosophy and approach. I feel so much gratitude for having been able to truly and fully experience these magical years with my children.
Now there are many more “designer mother brands” in the arena, how has that made you feel watching the market become more saturated with brands in your niche?
You are right, I started Little Lief six years ago wanting to dress my baby daughter, Lief, in something easy, gauzy, made sustainably, ethically, and preferably locally. At the time it was hard to find kid’s clothing that met those criteria, so I made it myself. Today, well-crafted “designer mother” brands doing things right are more common in the market, and I am grateful for the general change in attitude among consumers. Designer mothers like myself balance kids and work, we make sacrifices in our personal life and in our professional life, making sure that our garments are made from sustainable materials, by artists who make a fair wage, and who work in a safe environment. The fact that these days there are many more successful “designer mother” brands out there indicates a shift in public awareness, and that could only be a good thing.
Did this break inspire you to change the direction of your brand in any way? How has this informed your return? For instance, you have now added women’s pieces.
It did make me think a lot about my brand; I knew I wanted to do some things differently. I thought a lot about adding women’s pieces. Being a mom tweaks your brain towards a constant state of caring for others. It’s so easy to forget yourself in the process. For this reason, I decided to add these amazingly breezy dresses and skirts that I literally can’t stop wearing. They are made from the most comfortable aged fabric which is hand dyed in a palette of soothing colors. This collection for women is about comfort, quality, and a sense of ease. Coming back, I have also reminded myself over and over about why I started Little Lief in the first place—to make outfits that I want my kids to wear—and I should stay close to that. Lief still loves wearing her Little Lief outfits, and that is what’s important to me.
Share little about the women’s collection, you mentioned to me when we saw each other last week the fabric is handwoven and hand dyed.
It is a capsule collection I decided to add when I came back to Little Lief. Over the past two years, I have been thinking more about women and dressing and wanted to add pieces for women that reflect the same ethos that led me to start Little Lief. The pieces are created from handwoven and hand dyed cotton and are virtually amazing after washing them again and again. This sort of quality and style is what fascinates me most when I am styling or designing clothing. Practicality and comfort yet stylish while using natural fibers.
Elle is a huge fan of your knits, she loves your sweaters, and we receive compliments on them every time she wears them. When will you be doing knits again?
Thank you, Kirsten. First and foremost, I want people to enjoy my clothes, so this really puts a big smile on my face. I am currently sampling knits for next winter and I’m so excited about where I’m going.
Will you be working with stockists, or do you plan to sell online only?
This first season will be solely online, but I do plan to slowly include stockists. Taking baby steps!
Thank you Ilana
Kirsten wears: Scoop Neck Dress in Mocha.
Elle wears: Ruffle Sleeve Cherry Dress. Sample knit beanie in process for Autumn Winter 16.