Have you ever thought about the fact that motherhood is part of the female identity for non-mothers as well? It's actually completely natural. So why is a difference made between women and moms everywhere we look? The two mothers Kerstin and Annette asked themselves this question in 2017, when they founded their label WOMOM. With a vision to break the stereotypes of being a mom and a woman, they create woman AND mum clothing with expressive designs.
Anette and Kerstin - WOMOM founders and creators of women and mum clothing
In our new blog series #GOODTHING, we speak to women with a commitment to making our planet more sustainable. We love the products they create and want to know the story behind them. We hope to inspire each other with these interviews and believe that women should support and encourage each other whenever they can. For this edition of #GOODTHING, we spoke to the two founders from Munich about why it is so important to create the awareness that moms are still women, among many more things.
You founded your label WOMOM, because you want to break the division between being a mom and being a woman. What made you start the label for women and mum clothing and why is this product so important to you?
The decisive moment was Kerstin's unplanned pregnancy when she was writing her thesis for communication design. All of a sudden, she experienced being put into a category that she previously wasn't even aware of. As a pregnant woman or mom, you´re often treated differently and seen less like an independent woman. We also wanted to break with the separation of “maternity and women” in the fashion world. In Kerstin´s final thesis, she started to design prints for the first time that treated the subject matter differently. In our eyes, pregnancy and maternity are often belittled or even seen as outdated. Especially in the fashion world you can find stereotypes in mum clothing: Melon-shirts, floral prints, endless stripes and everything is very practical, just not stylish… On social media channels, you see the same thing and it's easy to start asking yourself “why isn't everything in my life so picture-perfect?” With our shirts, we want to talk about all facets of being a woman and mom in a humorous way, and of course the not-so-nice-things are also a part of that.
WOMOM Shop in Munich
Where do you think this social distinction between mom and woman comes from? Did you still notice a personal change in your own personality when you became a mother?
Annette: These distinctions are often very outdated clichés that are stuck in the minds of people. “Moms looks like this, moms live like this, moms must act this way”, and so on. We also started a campaign around this topic called “Adieu Cliché“, where all kinds of different women say goodbye to these clichés - you can read about it on our blog www.adieucliche.com. In my experience, there's no personality change when becoming a mom. You just experience different challenges that you need to face and from which you can't run. And of course, you´re often stressed and very absorbed for long phases, and want to do less things… But that doesn't mean that your old life is just over and that from now on, you only like beige, baby slings and classical music. I mean, you also don´t change your personality when you move or start a new job.
Kerstin: I would also say that i´m still just me. Like Annette said so nicely - you just get new challenges on your plate. But these always exist, whether with or without a child. But what i did notice is that my new life situation has broadened my perspective more than it changed me. You perceive your environment more consciously again, you take more time for things. Everything becomes a bit slowed down. And above all, I try to pay even more attention to our world. It sounds a bit stuffy perhaps, but of course you only wish the best for your child and its surroundings. As this wonderful saying says, "there's no planet B" - we decide where and how the next generation grows up, by not only living in the here and now.
Your designs are often quite self-ironic. How do you come up with your ideas and what messages are especially important to you?
Annette: Since we both share a similar sense of humour, something ironic is often the result when we work together. Everyone in the team collects ideas and impressions the whole year round. We take a lot of things from daily life and often find out: Oh look, other people feel the same way too. All of this goes into one big list and from there we keep developing our ideas. We filter out the topics that we find most relevant and in the end, Kerstin and i create the designs. Here too we collaborate closely or one person experiments with the designs of the other. In the end, we vote democratically in the whole team on what actually becomes reality
The WOMOM Team
Do you have any funny or surprising stories to share on how people that didn´t know you reacted to our designs?
Kerstin: I loved it when during a pop-up, a woman bought a mommy shirt with the sentence “i'm a dog mom”. It's nice to see the unique ways that women “use” our shirts.
Annette: Most often it happens that someone just smiles when wearing the print and then you have to smile too. Many women immediately tell you that they really like the shirt, that's wonderful to hear of course.
What does sustainability mean to you when it comes to fashion?
Kerstin: For me, sustainability for fashion doesn't just mean that it is fair and sustainable - this should actually be completely normal already! Sustainability also means to restrict our mass consumption. Buy less and choose better! For me, it's very important to think about what i really need. Sustainability is also about making everything in fashion reusable. Upcycling, Second Hand, all this should be done way more. Regarding WOMOM, we try not to overproduce, but only make what we really need. We would never throw anything away - that's why we also have a dedicated category for products with small errors. We called it “still wearable”.
Annette: Sustainability is vital in today's world and absolutely necessary. It's very central to what we do and i actually think it should be standard practice by now.
Where do your materials come from and where to you manufacture your clothes?
Kerstin: At the moment, all our products come from Bangladesh, because even here they can be produced fairly. In my opinion, it's very important that we don´t turn our backs on these countries because of the bad reputation of big brands. Next year however, we will move our production to Europe - which we are really looking forward to, because then we are even closer to our production.
What is or has been your biggest challenge with WOMOM?
Annette: The biggest challenge is not to give up and not to get beaten down. When you start something on your own, you need quite some courage and also some naivety, because otherwise you might not dare to take the leap. There are a lot of things you need to handle that are difficult and completely new, such as dealing with authorities and financial matters. And for us, we are mothers on top. Time is still the most precious thing and you have to be a master in organizing and also stay relaxed when your child gets sick and you have to reorganise everything… Lots of evenings and valuable spare time gets lost then. Basically, a lot more comes your way than you would expect from social media or even the press. Of course, that's a great motivation to keep going.
Kerstin: Not giving up is really important. There are always new situations that you weren't prepared for. The fashion world itself is a completely new challenge. Especially with the internet and social media it's very frustrating how quickly and blatantly ideas get copied.
It's also funny when you realise that you are now actually running a company - even though you just wanted to be a bit creative in the beginning. And last but not least, there's the time management - back then with a baby, now a with toddler, it's still one of the biggest challenges.
How to manage being a mom and an entrepreneur at the same time? - “Stay cool, keep calm”!
How do you manage to combine being a mom and an entrepreneur? Do you have special tips that you can pass on to other moms?
Kerstin: Actually, i don't really have much advice - everyone has their own life situation and every child is different. I can only say - don't shy away from asking for help, even though that might be difficult sometimes. I decided to take care of my child myself, and to do it with less money per month, and i worked almost every evening as well as on the weekends. In addition, I am very fortunate to have very good friends who like to take care of my daughter for a few hours, if something urgent arises.
Annette: It takes lots of strength and energy and help from your partner, from families and friends. You just have to get to the point faster and you'll be forced to become more way efficient, but then you're also not procrastinating so much (well, at least most of the time). At the same time, it also gives you extra energy that you wouldn't have, if you didn´t work on such an amazing project.
I find it a bit difficult to give special advice, because it's a very personal thing, that feels different to each person. The standard advice sounds a bit stale but works: “stay cool, keep calm” - that's what helps the most.
To find the balance between work and being a mom is not easy
So you have to combine your kids with your work sometimes
Do you have a special morning routine? What's the first thing you do after waking up?
Annette: It's all about the little one then. He's the one that wakes me up and if everything goes well, we cuddle a bit first, that's really wonderful.
But of course, then it's time to start the day: Making breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, playing around, the whole deal. And then you also have to get dressed yourself and brush your own teeth…
Kerstin: We cuddle a bit in bed first and then we make a cosy breakfast (at the moment with a daily dose of the Lion King soundtrack).
What is your biggest sense of accomplishment?
Kerstin: The many wonderful stories that people share on Instagram about our shirts. That really makes me happy every single time! And the greatest feeling for me is that we reach EVERY woman with our message just like we hoped. Women with or without child, in every age. And not only just in Europe. That's really incredible :)
Annette: When you see a complete stranger on the street with our shirts. Fantastic!
What gives you inspiration and motivation on a daily basis?
Annette: Our mission to offer a great product that is not just nice decoration.
Kerstin: Absolutely – to expand our message even more. To inspire people to think and to rethink. And like we already said – the many positive comments and feedback that we receive motivates us new every day!
Please complete the sentence: “Children are wonderful, because…“
Annette: Because you love more and are able to give even more love than before. And because you see a person growing up and you experience almost everything together, that's priceless for me.
Kerstin: Because you´re able to see the world through children's eyes thanks to them. The world gets turned upside down but looking at it that way, it's even more beautiful!
And even though becoming a mom turns your world upside down, there's no reason to think that you will have to forget about yourself now! Many thanks for this empowering interview and for the inspiration, that societal norms and viewpoints can be challenged with humour. We wish you all the best for you, your family and your business and many more design ideas!
Women, grow together!
Melina is passionate about travelling and sustainability. Her new-year's resolution for 2018 is to avoid any plastic - and it’s still on! On her Instagram Blog she shares her excpierence about other countries and cultures. As an assistant to the founder Lilija she knows everything about the spirit and the vibe of Orbasics.