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DESIGNER Q+A – ANGELA TSAI

In honor of this Sunday (it’s Mother’s Day – get on it!), we’d like to introduce our friend and fellow designer, Angela Tsai. Angela is not only an entrepreneur, but also a mother of two little kiddos and a full-time traveler (her husband is Scar in the musical, The Lion King). Angela has designed a product intended to simplify and inspire new moms, but that can worn by anyone. Learn more below.

About Angela:

Angela is the founder and designer of Mamachic Co., whose first piece is an all-in-one scarf designed for new mothers, but to be worn by all. Made with sustainable bamboo fabric and strategically-placed snap buttons, the Mamachic can be used to nurse, burp and swaddle babies; though its wearability goes far beyond it’s function. As a TV host turned mom who travels full-time with her family, Angela saw a need for a product that helped to minimize baby gear while still letting a mother’s beauty and confidence shine through.

What is the meaning behind the name Mamachic?

Mamachic is my earnest, straightforward mission to literally make mamas of the world feel more confident, beautiful and chic. There’s a funny thing that happens when you have babies — those abs you worked so hard in Crossfit to sculpt? Gone. Most cute tops and dresses collect dust during the breastfeeding years, unless their necks are elastic, v-ed or button-down. With lack of sleep, the energy it takes to maintain your appearance is suddenly secondary to caring for your baby.  But it doesn’t have to be that way! I want mothers to reclaim their swag. I want them to embrace their new, strong role with positivity. I want mamas to know they’re beautiful — not in spite of being a mama, but because they’re a mama.

Do you have an ideal customer or muse? Who is he or she?

My muse is Jessica Alba! She’s the outspoken natural mama who seems so effortlessly chic, even when she’s toting her children around. My customers are women who are driven, conscientious about how their purchases affect their kids and the environment. They care deeply about both style and function, and aren’t afraid to pay more for quality. They don’t want ‘stuff’ just for stuff’s sake and are always looking for creative ways to do more with less. They appreciate beauty and define it on their own terms.

Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you come up with new ideas or designs?

I love collaborating creatively. There was something so wonderful about working with my husband Mike, a truly conceptual person, on our first few scarf designs. He’s an actor and I was a graphic designer and TV host previously. Neither of us had any fashion design background, but it didn’t matter — we were trying to solve a problem. Mike felt he needed something foolproof to protect his clothes when our baby would spit-up on him. We brainstormed together on everything. Then I would tweak little details along the way. We were psyched that the Mamachic evolved into something that solved many problems and looked great. Most recently with Factory45, I was able to get off the lonely island of entrepreneurship and bounce ideas off of other like-minded creatives. That’s when the most recent design fell into place and just ‘clicked’.

What does sustainable design mean to you?

Sustainable design to me is the creation of items or processes that will help us all — humans, creatures, the earth — stand the test of time. Whether it be sourcing materials that minimally damage the environment, creating jobs locally to give your community a fair chance at survival, or making a garment that’s durable and can be used in multiple ways; there are so many things we can do every day to make our lives last a little while longer.

You’ve got quite a full and exciting lifestyle! How do you manage to stay so balanced while launching a business, raising your kiddos and constantly moving your family across the country?

Ah, that work-life balance is a constant struggle!  I surely don’t have it perfected. However, my very extreme lifestyle forces me live minimally. We try not to accumulate too much stuff, since we move constantly and travel in our car. Without this ‘stuff’ there’s less to worry about day to day. So that’s nice. We’re truly thoughtful about our purchases. Further, my husband’s job with The Lion King is fairly easy schedule-wise, so he’s able to spend a lot of time with our kids during the day if I’ve got to crank on work. My kids — Max is 4 and Eva is 1 — are pretty adaptable, although transitioning between cities with them and our cat can push the boundaries of sanity at times. But the experience of seeing so much of the country is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This convertible pantsuit from Seamly.co. So many customizable looks, so comfy, so versatile! And of course, the Mamachic scarf would accompany me everywhere!

Finish this sentence. Simplicity is:

Surprisingly easy to achieve if we just stop overthinking so much!

Angela is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her first production run. Check it out here.

TINA HOFER MEDICO

Tina is a fellow Factory45 alumni, a strong female entrepreneur, a friend and confidant and an overall sparkly person. While not a clothing designer, her product, The Sparkboard, is made for designers. Learn more below.

About Tina:

Tina is an Atlanta-based interior designer and the founder of The Sparkboard. The Sparkboard is an inspiration corkboard by day that turns into a piece of modern art by night. As a creative person who’s always wanting to tack stuff up on my walls, but who also wants a clean and minimalistic home, The Sparkboard is perfect for me. Tina’s Kickstarter campaign to fund her first production run is live now here!

What is the meaning behind the name The Sparkboard?

For me, “spark” is anything that makes you feel alive, connected to the present moment and full of possibility.  The Sparkboard is a dedicated space where people can capture and explore their creative spark.

Do you have an ideal customer or muse? Who is he or she?

Yes. YOU! J/k… kind of. 🙂

My ideal customer is a woman who’s creating a career and a life on her own terms. She’s tapped into her creativity and using her natural gifts to bring beautiful products, services and powerful messages to the world.

Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you come up with new ideas or designs?

My brain is a strange mix between type-A control freak and carefree playful dreamer. Harnessing the right part at the right time is not always easy. I generally get my best ideas when I’m out for a long walk or dancing around the house. I write down good ideas or things to remember on scraps of paper and try to keep it all in one dedicated place (obviously for me that’s The Sparkboard!). Then I’ll get clear on the desired outcome of my project and work my way there using the notes I’ve saved in my SB as jumping off points or building blocks. I don’t know if this makes any sense but it seems to be the way my process unfolds!

What does sustainable design mean to you?

Creating high quality, timeless pieces that add beauty and functionality to a space (or a wardrobe!) for years to come.  Using materials that are responsibly sourced without depleting or overtaxing our current resources.  Choosing production partners who value social and environmental responsibility.

The Sparkboard is all about fostering your inner spark. How to you keep yourself balanced and inspired while running your own company?

I have to make time for play and personal care in my daily schedule. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed and overworked when you’re your own boss.  No one else is going to tell me to take a break or take time to celebrate my wins (no matter how small!) so it’s my responsibility to build that into my workday.  This is a lesson I’m still trying to fully learn.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A wide-leg, high waist navy jumpsuit with a cropped, white tailored jacket! I have an outfit like this that I wore to my wedding rehearsal, to The Sparkboard photoshoot and to several other important gigs in between. It lets me feel super pulled together and super comfortable all at the same time!

Finish this sentence. Simplicity is:

Having everything you need and nothing you don’t.

FROM THE GUT

I’ve spent the past several weeks working on writing and editing a script for our upcoming Kickstarter. I’ve never written a script before, but knew what I wanted to say. So piece of cake, right? Wrong. I’ve spent the past 3 weeks trying to cram 800 words into the space of 200; trying to be inspiring, but also get all of the facts in; confused by too many messages; lost; found; lost. And then, Shannon Whitehead clarified everything instantly for me by advising me to just to speak to my ideal customer.

And just like that, all of the striving for the right words dissipated. I sat down this morning and wrote freely and with ease. I wrote what will be our script. No second draft necessary.

I’ve begun to notice that almost every decision I’ve made in the past year has been instantaneous and from the gut (or heart or soul). And there have been many decisions. They all felt right and not because I had rationally analyzed them. And they’ve all worked out. The things that I’ve struggled withlike this scriptare the things that I fought for against my gut. I felt like I had to fit in all the right info, say things in the right tone and in the right order. All of those things are important. But when you allow yourself to free fall and it feels right, then, it is right. The right people will feel that energy in what you’ve created and that’s all that matters. Others won’t connect and that’s ok. They’re not who you’re reaching out to anyways.

Another big gut decision I made in the last year was to apply for Factory45. I had heard about the program while in the midst of feeling a little lost and trying to decide if I should dedicate the energy to Eenvoud that it deserved or to walk away. I remember the moment that my gut jerked me awake so clearly. I was on a train home from a weekend trip and whipped out my computer. It happened to be the last day of submissions. I wrote my application on that ride, submitted it and that quick decision changed the course of my life. Turns out that I didn’t walk away, but instead have dedicated myself to that thing that I couldn’t stop thinking about for so long. And now it’s real. And our script is written. And we’re launching in less than a month.

Applications to round 2 of Factory45 opened this week. If you feel a pull, go with it.

To learn more about Factory45 and to apply, click here.

2014

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” -Steve Jobs

2014 was quite a year for us. Our foundation is poured and we’re gearing up for our official launch this March via Kickstarter. We’re so thankful for the dots that were connected this past year and since looking backwards is just as inspiring as looking forward, here are the dots that made our 2014.

  • We were accepted as 1 of 10 design companies in the inaugural class of Factory45, an accelerator program for made in the USA designers. I could write multiple blog post about this, so I’ll leave it at we would be NOWHERE close to where we are right now without Shannon Whitehead and all of our amazing classmates that we now call confidants and lifetime friends.
  • We launched a brand new website with the help of the amazing Austin-based Emily Belyea Creative. If you’re an entrepreneur needing a minimalistic and functional website, Emily is your girl.
  • We met our fiery patternmaker, Iris. She greats us most days with “top of the morning!”, trains at a UFC gym and tries on all of our samples in her Jimmy Choos. We couldn’t be more thankful for being connected to her. I’m looking at you Tara St James.
  • Pratt’s new design accelerator space, the BF+DA, opened it’s doors in our very own South Williamsburg. Iris is now working there and we’re hoping to produce our first collection within it’s walls.
  • I signed with a new fit modeling agency this year, MSA Model Management. Their management allows me the freedom and space to be able to work on EENVOUD and for that I am so grateful.
  • Black Brick Coffee became our unofficial office. The baristas ask us everyday how business is going, with genuine interest. Not to mention… their peanut butter cookies.
  • We took a deep breath most weekends on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. Compared to many of the other New England islands, Block Island has remained relatively untainted by the ebb and flow of tourism thanks to the Block Island Conservancy. More than 44% (and growing) of the the island is preserved land in perpetuity.
  • Lastly, we met so many kindred spirits carving their own paths in the fashion industry – Shannon, Angela, Emily, Heidi, Mikaela, Jenn, Lara, Sharon, Tina, Alexander & Jonathan, Jill, Kristin, Kestrel, Alden, and last, but definitely not least, Jed.

If 2014 was the year of building EENVOUD, 2015 is the year of being it. We can’t wait.