What It’s Like to Work With Your Mom at Your Day Job
Every day is a family affair for these mother-daughter brands.
“I don’t know any woman who has a simple relationship with their mother or with their daughter,” Greta Gerwig told NPR while promoting her coming-of-age film Lady Bird. Mother-daughter relationships can run the gamut from chummy and close to downright estranged, but for the ones who have chosen to go into business together, these complicated relationships seem pretty well figured out. For mother-daughter fashion labels Therma Kōta, Bernadette Antwerp, Daphne Newman Design and House of Aama, mixing the personal with the professional is all in a day’s work. We spoke with these fashion label founders about navigating family bonds in a workplace setting and what it’s like doing business with your nearest and dearest.
For anyone familiar with Canadian fashion, the name Linda Lundström should set off alarm bells ringing. From 1974 to 2008, Lundström was one of the country’s biggest outerwear designers, pumping out 800 styles a year with a team of over 150 employees. After being forced to shutter during the 2008 financial crisis, wasn’t too keen on restarting her business – until she received a phone call from her daughter Mosha Lundström Halbert, a former editor at FLARE and Footwear News, suggesting they create their own brand of upscale luxury parkas.
Together with sister Sophie Lundström Halbert, the trio founded Therma Kōta in 2016, bringing their shared vision for fashionable coats warm enough to withstand the Canadian winter to the market. The line features show stopping holographic coats and lush shearlings meant to appeal to women of all ages. “What’s so amazing is that we are able to design styles that feel multi-generational,” says Mosha.“I am in my 30s, Sophie is in her 20s, my mom is in her 60s, so we try to make sure that all our styles have that appeal that transcends age.”
Though turning family connections into business connections may seem odd to some, Mosha describes it as very normal for their family. “We grew up with our mom and dad working together,” she says. Mosha and Sophie both took summer jobs at their mom’s stores growing up, which sometimes had unintended consequences.“We’ve both been fired multiple times by our own mom,” she laughs.
Despite past blunders, the Lundström clan agrees that working together that only improved their ability to communicate with one another. “I find it very refreshing,” says Mosha.“We’re family so you don’t get away with things, but at the same time, you never question anyone’s intentions.”Lundström adds: “Does that mean that we never disagree? No it doesn’t. We have some very fierce conversations sometimes. Being a family, we work through it.”
Lundström lives in Caledon, Ont., Sophie lives in Dublin and Mosha shuttles between Miami and LA, so business meetings often double as a way for the trio to catch up. “We talk everyday. It’s 50 per cent business, 50 per cent ‘oh Sophie I like your haircut,’ just mum and daughter stuff,” Lundström says.
At the end of the day, Therma Kōta is continuing the family legacy of high quality Canadian outerwear. “It is kind of like passing the torch,” Lundström says. “I have a lot of knowledge under my belt from all those years, and it is time for me to start sharing it. Who better to do that with than my girls? You guys are such good students and I love you.”
“My mother and I have always had a very close relationship,” says Charlotte De Geyter, the 26-year-old founder of Belgian label Bernadette Atwerp. Founded in 2017, the line is full of slinky day dresses, cozy enough for lounging but pretty enough to throw a leather jacket on top and be ready to go out. After graduating from the Royal Academy of fine Arts in Antwerp (the alma mater of Martin Margiela, Anne Demeulemeester and more), De Geyter wanted to launch her own label. Naturally, the first person she thought of was her mom. “I was up for from the very first second,” says Bernadette, who serves as namesake for the familial label. Working together is a natural fit, as the two share similar sensibilities. According to Bernadette: “We have always shared similar interests like hunting for antiques and vintage together. Looking for those one-of-a kind pieces that always give us so much adrenaline.”
Charlotte shares that the closeness of their relationship has worked to their advantage. “The line between work and mom-and daughter time can get quite blurry. It’s difficult to separate the quality time from the constant work talks. But this is also one of the good aspects, because great ideas can come during relax after work moments as well.” Their brand’s gauzy, loose-fitting garments that would look equally chic on mother or daughter are clearly the product of a harmonious bond. Says Bernadette; “It’s very special to be working together, as we are mom and daughter, best friends and also colleagues now. It makes everything more easy-going and fun.”
Daphne Newman Designs
Daphne Newman Designs isn’t the first business that Calgary-based mother and daughter Daphne Newman and Raquelle Kilotaitis have collaborated on. In 2010, Newman made the decision to sell all her possessions and headed to the Caribbean to open a restaurant – having never worked in a restaurant before. Raquelle decided her mom could use some assistance and went along for the ride. “Mom is a bit wild,” Raquelle laughs.
Together the duo have found lasting success as Daphne Newman Designs, a bridal company based out of Calgary whose filmy satin robes have been featured in Vogue. Raquelle handles all business matter for the line while Daphne is the creative mastermind. Back in the 1980s, Daphne had a bridal line called Bridal Touch with her then-mother-in-law, so she was no stranger to both the bridal industry and working with family. Still, she was sceptical about returning to the industry after being absent for 35 years.
“It was a bit dicey at the beginning,” Daphne says. “Like moving in with a significant other where you’re figuring things out.” (Case in point: the time Raquelle had to change the brand’s Instagram password to stop her mother from making off-brand posts.) “Sometimes our seamstress looks at us like, ‘You guys really like each other after all this’” says Raquelle. But after working together for three years, the two have ironed out their differences and are looking towards the future. Both quit their jobs last year to focus on Daphne Newman Designs full-time.
“It was funny, I was scanning through my photos just the other day, and thinking about how many times Raquelle and I have come together with my kind of crazy ideas,” says Daphne. “I am so thrilled and proud that she keeps behind me, helping me along the way.” Cue theawwwwwws.
House of Aama
Not only do they work together, family forms the very essence of what mother Rebecca Henry and daughter Akua Shakubar have created with their label House of Aaama. Their second collection, Bloodroot, told the story of Rebecca’s maternal heritage in the Antebellum South. Part of their mission as a brand, beyond creating lacy prairie dresses that wouldn’t look out of place in Julie Dash’s epic 1991 film Daughters of the Dust, is to carve out space in fashion for Black Americans to have a nuanced conversation about the bonds with family and home country that were stripped away because of slavery. “By working together, me and my mother have been able to strengthen our bond, and in a way, break these family trauma cycles,” Akua says.
Day to day, Akua studies strategic design management at Parsons School of Design in New York while Rebecca works full-time as an attorney in Los Angeles. “It’s a lot of late night phone calls. We will have meetings at 12am – well, for me it’s a 12 am. Right now it’s like working 9am to 5pm, and then 5pm to 1am on House of Aama,” says Akua.
The duo agrees the most surprising thing about running a fashion label as a mother and daughter is how little their roles at home have factored into their personal relationship. “I don’t really think that I pull rank as the mother,” says Rebecca. “Just because she’s my mother, she never makes me feel like her ideas are better than mine or vice-versa,” echoes Akua.
However, they are perfectly comfortable divvying up duties based on who might be better suited for the role. “Before we had this business I didn’t really realize that Akua is like a hard-as,”says Rebecca. It can be infuriating, but it can also be wonderful, because I am not that way. I’m a Pisces, and I don’t have that skillset to just grind things out on a day-to-day basis.” That said, they’re still grinding pretty hard. House of Aama is gearing up to launch their third collection at New York Fashion Week in September.