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Elevate

The Guts to Do It

Many of us think it.  Some of us dream it.  Few of us have the guts to actually do it. I don't think my marriage would survive.  Heck, I'm not sure all of my kids would either.  It takes a certain caliber of person, of relationship, of family to leave the comforts of home to travel the world for the better part of a year.  

Enter new Petit Peony customer Darcy and her husband Rob. Darcy and Rob are successful professionals, working as a lawyer and businessman.  But the prospect was out there: leave their jobs, leave their home in Denver and spend part of a year traveling the world with their two-year-old daughter, Blythe.  And so they did.  We have caught up with Darcy over five months into their journey, as they have already traveled through Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and are currently exploring the Netherlands.  Darcy, a bit of a fashonista herself, is eager to tear open her first package of Petit Peony clothing, which will be awaiting her and Blythe when they return to Denver in August.  

 

Kim:  Tell me a bit about what inspired you and your husband to quit your jobs and travel the world for a year with a two-year-old.

Darcy:  Ha! I laughed as I read your question because when we told people we were taking this trip, we got a lot of incredulous looks and a few people who asked if we were taking our daughter with us.  A few months in, I have a better appreciation for the challenges of traveling with a toddler.

To answer your question, this trip is something we dreamed about, but never thought would actually happen.  But last summer, we were both considering new opportunities at work.  Rob was planning to accept a job the next day when we sat down and discussed whether there was another option, and if this might be the right time to take some time off and travel.  Instead of asking why we shouldn’t go, we started to think about why we should.  We also felt it was an ideal time with Blythe because she isn’t in school yet and we aren’t tearing her away from friends and activities in the way that we would in a few years.  We sat on the decision for a few days, during which time I learned that one of my best friends in Denver tragically passed away saving her toddler son from drowning.  It was a devastating reminder that life is short and confirmed that we should seize the moment.

 

Kim:  You’ve always been a working mom.  What’s the transition to momming full time been like?

Darcy:  It has been a huge adjustment for me.  Part of what I was considering before we decided to travel was taking some time off or finding a part-time position.  I’ve struggled a lot with feeling like I wasn’t home enough, even though my last job had very reasonable hours (for a lawyer) and minimal travel.  I love witnessing the small changes that occur every day – a new word, a different mannerism, learning how to jump with two feet, memorizing a new book, etc.  I’m not sure that traveling with Blythe is a proxy for trying out staying at home with her full time, though – there are a lot of challenges with being on the road without a routine, familiar surroundings, friends, and foods we know that wouldn’t exist at home.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, the need to move at Blythe’s pace whenever possible, and trying to be more patient (I work on this every day, all day).  I miss having time alone, which I used to get at the office, and Rob and I are learning how to balance spending time together and sightseeing with each of us taking time for ourselves.  I plan to work again when we return to Denver and ideally I’d find a job that allows me to pick her up at school each day and have some quality time together before the dinner/bedtime routine commences. 

 

Kim:  How have your travels been different than your expectations?  How similar?   

Darcy:  My biggest misconception was expecting to have more time. I envisioned watching a show with Rob in the evening, having lots of time to read, running every day, blogging, and writing letters.  Even though we have chosen to spend longer periods of time in most countries, we spend a portion of every night planning future travel, which can be exhausting.  We also have to navigate new places and homes on a regular basis (as I write this, we are in our 26th “home” of the trip), which requires time and energy.  Blythe stopped taking naps a week into our trip, so the only time we have to accomplish these tasks is in the evening when she is asleep.  For example, we now have our travel booked through the summer: Copenhagen, the Archipelago of Stockholm, Stockholm, Slovenia, Venice, Lake Como / Switzerland, and London, but we need to find homes, book flights and transportation, and plan activities in each location.  

I did expect to feel homesick for friends and family and our house (which we are renting through a property management company on airbnb), which I do. The feeling isn’t such that I want to book a flight home immediately, but I do yearn for the comforts of home, our routines, and being able to cook meals each day.  I expected to love the food in Japan and I did, although renting a house in Kyoto and cooking familiar food was a nice break from constantly eating fish! 

 

Kim:  What have been the most challenging moments of traveling with a two year old?

Darcy:  Potty training and naps.  Blythe was potty trained in Hawaii and things have gone steadily downhill since left. It isn’t surprising because we have no routine, thus she has no consistency, but it’s been hard to figure out how to make it easier for her or whether to just give up for now.  Prior to our travels, Blythe still took a good nap each afternoon, but she stopped a week into our time in Kauai.  This means she is exhausted and a bit cranky in the afternoon but she refuses to take a nap (believe me, we tried everything for weeks and weeks in Hawaii and then threw in the towel).  Truthfully, we could also use a little break in the afternoon so we miss the naps a lot, too!  

Oh, there was also a day when Blythe officially moved into the “boundary pushing” stage of being 2: she threw a rock at Rob, deliberately stomped on (and broke) a sand dollar I had just told her was fragile, and took off her pants and diaper during quiet time, crawled out of her crib, and intentionally went to the bathroom on the floor.  That was a “challenging” day.  

 

Kim:  What have been the most special moments?

Darcy:  The leisurely mornings we have together as a family when we read books in bed, drink coffee, and spend time together.  Rarely do we have anything that requires us to rush to do.  Watching Blythe fall in love with the ocean and playing in the sand.  Swimming with her in Icebergs Pool on Bondi Beach. Kayaking in New Zealand and seeing 2 fur seals and a blue penguin and listening to her squeal with delight and then talk about it for days.  Discovering new books throughout our travels and relating to new cultures through the books.  Teaching Blythe about new foods and customs in each new location.  Running through the cornfields and picking fruit from the trees during our farm stay in Christchurch. And welcoming the interactions (most of them, at least) that come with traveling with a child – people are much more approachable and chatty when you have a child with you.  People in Japan adore Blythe.  They pat her head and talk to her, take her photo (yes, it is a bit weird), and give her random gifts – postcards, stuffed animals, stickers, food, and two women in the park even sketched her and gave us the drawings.  Traveling with Blythe has really transformed our experience – you immediately have something in common with another person if you are both parents, even if you don’t speak the same language.

 

 

Kim:  How has your marriage been affected by this trip?

Darcy:   Phew. That’s a loaded question!  We spend a LOT of time together these days, much more so than when we were both working and traveled for work as well.  Funnily, I’ll find there are days when we haven’t had any conversations other than those that involve logistics or Blythe, but we’ve been together the entire day.  This trip requires us to work together all the time, to recognize when one of us needs a break and to offer that time graciously, and to be gentle with each other because real life happens along the way, too, and it isn’t all easy and fun.  We have to talk through issues that arise because we are always sharing a relatively small space, so there isn’t any escaping!

 

 

What is has allowed for is more time to have big picture discussions about what we want from our life when we return home and how we want to approach parenting.  Taking time off affords us the opportunity to take a step back and be deliberate about how we approach our careers, our home life, and our parenting since we have time right now and we have somewhat of a clean break.  We could change careers, sell our house, move, decide to home school Blythe, etc.  The funny thing is that I think our lives will continue on the same trajectory, but it’s always good to confirm it’s the right one. 

I do find that we often are thinking the same thing at the same time!  I guess that comes with all this time together.

 

Kim:  Would you do it again?

Darcy:  Absolutely.  We have learned a lot in our first five months of travel, but I would do it again.  We now know that it is best to not move around too much and that 5 nights is a good amount of time for feeling “settled” into a place.  We are planning a few destinations this summer where we’ll stay for longer periods of time (2-3 weeks).  We are constantly trying to purge and carry less (we left our car seat in New Zealand – those things are just too heavy to tote around when you can rent them as needed). 

 Rob has a calculation for happiness that has been incredibly accurate in our travel: happiness equals reality minus expectations. We have tried to not have too many expectations for this trip and to just experience new places and people as we go. 

 

Kim:  You are a very busy and accomplished woman: lawyer, triathlete, blogger, marathoner, mom (feel free to add anything here!).  What are your hopes and dreams for your daughter, Blythe?  What kind of woman are you hoping and trying to raise?                                         

Darcy:  I have so many hopes and dreams for Blythe, but mostly I want her to be kind, honest, and adventurous – and to have a lot of fun. I want her to know she can be and do anything and that we’ll help her achieve those goals.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

Kim:  You love fashion!  What were your initial thoughts about Petit Peony when you finally happened upon the brand?  

Darcy:  The clothes are darling and I particularly love the dresses!  The contrasting fabrics on the tunics and the bow collar dresses make them stand out and the fabrics are pretty, preppy, and whimsical.  As a former Bostonian, the Party on the Charles print immediately caught my eye, and I love the Bike Ride and Pink Poppies leggings.  Even though we live in laid-back Colorado and I want Blythe to be outside exploring and inevitably getting dirty, I still want her to look cute and Petit Peony is perfect for that!

~

Just as many others have done, my husband and I talked about some “time abroad” before we settled into life.  We both love to travel, and the temptation was out there.  But then life happened- bills to pay, children to raise and a family to whom we wanted to be closer. And we've traveled with children.  17 days around England with a well behaved 20 month-old was worth it, but I'm not sure it would have been enjoyable for much longer.  I deeply admire Darcy, Rob and Blythe for taking the plunge that many of us are too frightened to take ourselves. I always say that you only regret the things you never do.  Best of luck in the rest of your travels Darcy, Rob and Blythe!

                                                                                                          ~Kim

To learn more about Darcy and read about her adventures in travel, visit her blog at www.DarcyEden.com

Three, Three and Under

“That’s why I think our marriage is so strong; we’ve been through a lot in a short amount of time and even though we’ve been together for 16 years, we made it through the last 3 with more love and admiration for one another,” Maria said of the relationship with her college sweetheart turned husband, Mike.  Maria was an easy choice for one of our first customer interviews.  She has been an unfaltering Petit Peony customer since she first discovered the brand ten months ago.  And, it’s a wonder she ever has time to shop.  Maria and Mike commute full-time to New York City while they are simultaneously raising a 3 year-old daughter, Emily, and twin year-old boys, Andrew and Luke. 

Kim:  You are BUSY.  What do you do to make sure your marriage of seven years doesn’t fall apart?

Maria:  We try our hardest to spend time with each other each day, whether it’s commuting in together and taking a later train so we can sit next to one another or eating together after the kids have gone to sleep and really asking how the other is doing, without mentioning the kids if possible! We have tried for date night once a month, but we are just getting into a groove of the boys sleeping through the night, so maybe that will be more achievable as time goes on


Kim:  Work, babies, marriage.  What do you do to keep yourself sane?  

Maria:  Sleep, if I can get it. I’m fortunate enough to have worked alongside people who have become close friends, so in some ways, going to work is a break for me. I can talk to other adults, focus on being productive so I can get out of the door to make my train, and eat lunch daily. I know it seems silly, but when I am home on Fridays with the kids it’s amazing, but it’s non-stop and it’s so physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting that I am way more tired on Fridays then I am most days I am commuting. If I do have time, I LOVE Pure Barre. I grew up dancing for 16 years, so barre is a workout I can relate to.  I also love to cook and try new recipes when I have time, although nowadays I find meals that I can cook ahead and reheat since the week is busy and we often don’t get to have dinner until 8:30PM.  When we renovated our house, the kitchen was the focal point; we spend most of our time in this area. We always host Thanksgiving and I look forward to it every year: the shopping, the prep, the cooking, the family and the wine.

 

Kim:  What’s a tip you can offer to other moms who work full-time?

Maria:  Take help! We are lucky enough to live close by to family (3 retired grandparents) and we rely on them so much for help with child care. And also, do what you can and don’t feel guilty; it’s hard, but there are only so many hours in a day. When you are working, be at work and when you are home, really focus on being there and the quality of the time, not the quantity. 

 

Kim:  Do you ever envy stay at home moms?  

Maria:  Yes.  They get to see and experience the "firsts." I remember someone at work told me it happens for the first time (crawling, walking, babbling, etc) when you see it, but I wish I could really be there for those experiences.  But, I think it's truly the hardest job to be home with your kids all day, stimulating them, educating them, training them, feeding them, keeping your house from being a disaster and maybe even squeezing in a yogurt to eat for yourself if you have time. 

 

 

 

Kim:  Have you found that there is a certain type of moms with whom you connect?  What draws you to them?  Is there a type of mom with whom you have trouble connecting? 

Maria:  Most of my good friends and I all had kids within the same year, so I think we’ve been lucky to grow together as we have been going through similar experiences. I guess I find it hard to make new friends because I’m not the one picking my kids up at daycare and when I drop them off, many times they are the first. Fortunately, we’ve become close with two sets of our neighbors.

 

Kim:  What has been your hardest moment or phase of motherhood?  

Maria: Having my kids in the NICU.  My daughter Emily was in the NICU because I developed preeclampsia at 28 weeks. I was able to stretch to 30w4d but then I got really sick with preeclampsia and HELP Syndrome (that thing I definitely skipped over reading in the "What to Expect Book”).  The NICU was something that I new nothing about and it never occurred to me that we would go through the experience, but going through it twice was really hard. It was tough the first time because it was all so new and scary and we were first time parents. After my experience with Emily, when I found out I was having the boys (complete shock!) I was simultaneously laughing and crying because I knew the odds of going early again and having Pre E again we're higher. It was even tougher the second time because the boys were growth restricted (born @ 1.14 and 1.10), I was in the hospital for a month prior to delivery at 28 weeks and I had to be away from my daughter and my husband, who managed like a champ through it all! Then we had to juggle time with Emily, work, and driving into the city daily to spend time with Andrew and Luke. Seeing your babies hooked up to monitors, learning how to breathe and eat, praying each day that they are gaining weight steadily so you can take them home and not being able to leave the hospital with your babies- that was tough. 

 

Kim:  What originally drew you to Petit Peony?   What type of emotions do you feel when you see a new style?  

Maria:  I love the whimsical nature of Petit Peony. I love that when I dress Emily in it, she’s the only one wearing it and it just captures her spirit. It’s preppy and put together, and it’s easy. I get excited when I see new dresses and almost immediately purchase things (sometimes I do). I also love buying Petit Peony dresses for special occasions because I feel like they are one of a kind. I had Emily’s birthday dress personalized and we received so many compliments; I only wish she would stay small so she could wear it again and again. 

 ~

 I wrote Maria back immediately after reading her blog answers.  We have framed the blog as a forum for women to share their raw experiences and connect on an intimate level.  I felt an instant connection to Maria after reading about her trying pregnancies and her babies’ stays in the NICU.  My first son was a “NICU baby” and I was also on bedrest for weeks during my second pregnancy.  Like Maria, I never envisioned complicated pregnancies when my husband and I first decided to have children.  Hearing other women’s similar stories was so important to me as I navigated the early years with a preemie and continued on with two more high risk pregnancies.  Motherhood is a unique journey for us all, but the similar experiences moms share bind us together and help us steer through this crazy time in our lives!  We hope that through our continued customer spotlights, each reader will see a bit of their own journey emerge.  

 

 

 

The Petit Peony Test Market

When you get started in anything new, you need different kinds of supports to see you through.  For Petit Peony founding owner and designer Kate Bowen, one of her most important supporters from the beginning and still today is friend and Petit Peony customer, Becky.  Kate and Becky met when they lived in the same building in Charlestown and their husbands ended up working together.  Through numerous moves, job changes and children, the two couples have remained fast friends.  Kate refers to Becky and her children Madeline, Ellie and Will as Petit Peony’s first “test-market.”  They were there to provide support in the form of feedback from when Kate first learned to sew, to when she turned the attic of her Vermont home into a Petit Peony studio to create garments to sell on Etsy, to today where Petit Peony is in over 100 boutiques, sells online and has opened its first brick and mortar store in Duxbury.  


Kim:  Kate is inspired by your style.  What is your personal style?  Do you share that same style with your children?

Becky:  Ha! She is so flattering; I have never thought of myself as someone who has style.  I guess I have moved from a very preppy New England girl, to a bit less prep and bit more Anthropologie.  I have learned as I have gotten older what works for me, which is not necessarily what is “in style” at the time.   I have the same thinking when it comes to my kids.  The clothes I buy them are more classic, less trendy pieces that work with their active lifestyles.  I think it speaks to that idea when I can put my youngest in things I bought for my almost 8 year old and they still work.  I do laugh when I realize that the girls and I have pretty similar wardrobes (minus Petit Peony)... You guys need to get more women’s tunics in stock!

 

 

 

Kim:  Kate calls you a “one women focus group.”  If Becky likes it, then she knows it’s good. What was it that sold you on Petit Peony the first time you laid eyes on the clothes, and what keeps you coming back?  

Becky:  I love the prints that Kate picks and the simplicity of the the patterns.  Each piece stands on its own or can be paired with another piece from the
collection. There is nothing loud or harsh in any of her lines, so the girls always look pretty and like little girls.  My oldest can sometimes put together outfits that need to be “adjusted” before heading off to school.  She is reaching an age where I worry about length, and the amount of skin showing.  When she is in a Petit Peony tunic and leggings, I never worry that she looks inappropriate.   In an age where she is starting to notice what older kids are wearing, I love that she still is comfortable and confident in her Petit Peony clothing.



I think for Kate, she is able to look at my oldest and get feedback based on girls a few years older than the Petit Peony sisters.  Things that girls in Kindergarten will select to wear will ultimately be different than second graders.  A great thing about Kate is when I give her feedback based on what my girls think, or how something fits them, she does not take it personally, and instead sees it as a place she can improve Petit Peony.  This season for instance, the Classic Tunic is in it’s third generation of fit and cut. Each season she has taken feedback from her customers and adjusted her patterns to make the dresses the best they can be.

 

 

Kim:  Besides being a fashionista, you had a very successful business career.  What drove your decision to become work part time and spend more time at home? 

Becky:  I was extremely fortunate right out of college to join a small company when it was in its first years.  It became a family for me before we had one of our own.  After we had our third child and my oldest was in Kindergarten, I started to feel like I was missing a lot at home and that I was not giving enough of myself to work or to home.  I needed to make a change, and the right decision for us was for me to go part time and be home with the kids.  It was the hardest but the best decision I have made for our family.  I love to be able to be a bigger part of my kids schools, and enjoy their childhood with them.  At the same time, I love that my kids still do see my working and balancing the two.  

 

Kim: Do you have any advice for moms who are transitioning from working outside the home to being stay at home moms?  

Becky:  Gosh, I don’t know! I struggled with the change and still do.  I don’t know what I expected, but being home with the kids full time really wore me out the first year.  I think learning to ask for help and not being so hard on yourself are key.  I think it’s easy to compare the way you mother to other people, but every family is so different, go easy on yourself.  Be the best mom for your own kids.  Advice that I can give, but do not follow, don’t book up the schedule (hard when you have multiple kids).  When I find myself the most run ragged is when I’m running from one activity, to car line, to the next activity- nagging the kids to hurry up and keep moving.  I wish I could slow it all down and enjoy it more.

 

Kim:  Kate says you are incredibly talented.  In her words you “rock at everything.”  Will you share with us something you feel like you really don’t “rock at”?  Where in life do you struggle?

Becky:  Then my charades are working! Kate is sweet.  I think similar to above I try really hard to be the best mom, friend, sister, daughter, cook (ha!), cleaner, gardener, you name it.  Where I struggle is accepting that I can’t be.  And then accepting that is ok.  

 

Kim: Your mom passed away almost 8 years ago.  You love to tell stories about her.  How do you think she influenced you as a mom?  What are the hardest parts of raising kids without her? 

Becky:  Talk about being a rockstar.  My mom loved being a mom- simple as that really.  I am one of four and we were very energetic, active kids who gave her a run for her money.  She was the queen of homemade birthday cakes and halloween costumes, notes in your lunch box, songs and back scratches before bed, a smile that could brighten any bad mood, and her hugs - she was legendary for her hugs.

One of the hardest parts for me is knowing how amazing of a grandmother she would have been.  She passed away when my oldest was 4 months old, and I do feel so happy that she at least got to be a grandmother for a short period.  I talk about her everyday and make sure she is still a part of my kids lives.  They talk to her when they forget to add something to their Christmas lists, or when they need a sunny afternoon for a playdate or snow for skiing.  As someone who loved to garden and be outside, it is somewhat fitting she has taken over the role of “mother nature” for them.

~  I love the beauty and simplicity of how Becky’s mom truly impacted her. Becky gave advice about not being over-scheduled, but recognized that this is difficult to achieve.  In a world that in so many ways demands us to be so busy, Becky unwittingly gives beautiful advice in her remembrance of her mother.  Hugs, cakes, notes and scratches: the most meaningful moments for our children are the simplest ones that are made from nothing more than love. 

#ELEVATEWOMEN CHANGETHEWORLD

As many of you know, in March I traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras with two other members of the Petit Peony team as part of our Global Giving philanthropic mission.  Over the course of five days, we packed and delivered food to impoverished areas, handed out blankets and Petit Peony clothing in the local hospital’s NICU and in villages, and built a house for a single mother.  Petit Peony also employed women to sew 300 Petit Peony dresses, which we also distributed.

For me, this trip has been over two years in the making. I was first introduced to the co-founder and executive director of Mi Esperanza, Lori Connell, in September of 2014. I was looking for a way to produce the first ever Petit Peony collection. After realizing it would be way too expensive to initially produce in the US, finding Miesperanza felt like a gift.

I instantly felt a connection to Lori and her U.S. based non-profit’s mission to elevate Honduran women out of poverty through education, financial opportunity and meaningful employment in ethical and fair-wage fashion. The women of Mi Esperanza made my dream of launching Petit Peony a reality when they accepted my first order in October of 2014. To the 12 women who produced Petit Peony’s collection, this work meant they could send their children to school, provide for them, give them the tools they need to go on to University and TRULY break the cycle of poverty. 

I loved that Petit Peony played a part in changing the lives of the women of Mi Esperanza in 2014, although it was not until my trip last month that I truly realized the impact each and every production has on these incredible women. 


Before this trip, I knew through Petit Peony I wanted to continue to support the women of Mi Esperanza, but after meeting them in person and hearing their stories first hand, feeling their embraces and sharing tears of mutual gratitude, I am committed to producing a portion of the Petit Peony collections through Mi Esperanza, providing work to these women. It is no longer just gratitude or a mission; we are business partners, and I am so incredibly excited to continue our journey together.

After working in Honduras for five days, I realized that the only way to provide real change, is not to pack 100 food bags and hand them out to people in their homes in severely improvised villages; it’s not to give a little girl a brand new dress and feel her excitement and happiness to be given something; it’s not even to build a home for a single mother.  All of that giving is meaningful and necessary.  It gives each person we came in contact with HOPE for their future, but REAL CHANGE happens one woman at a time. Every time a woman completes her educational courses at Mi Esperanza, she is equipped to provide her family with REAL CHANGE. It took me seeing, smelling, and embracing poverty in the flesh to come to this realization and motivate me to be able to help change the world by elevating one woman at a time out of poverty.

                                                                                               ~ Kate

The Making of an Inaugural Collection

When the future first daughter of the country contacts you three weeks before the Presidential Inauguration and asks you to design an inaugural collection for her children, there's little time to do anything except get to work. 

Join me for a personal view of how Petit Peony founding owner and designer Kate Bowen took on this exact challenge when she opened her e-mail on the drive home from a family ski vacation.  Three weeks later she watched her designs moving across her television screen with Arabella wearing a navy Blue wool coat and velvet dress to the historic wreath laying ceremony and all three children sporting Petit Peony designs to the National Prayer Service on Saturday. It was a dream come true for Kate to see her designs land in the press alongside world-renowned designer Oscar de la Renta.  

Kim:  Can you put into one word how you felt when you were asked to design a collection for the inaugural events? 

Kate:  SHOCKED. But then immediate excitement with the thought that my designs could possibly be on the world’s stage in just a few weeks!  

 

Kim:  How did Ivanka discover Petit Peony? 

Kate:  Ivanka was introduced to Petit Peony last spring. She became a customer and featured Petit Peony on her #womenwhowork campaign last fall. I sent Arabella a few custom designs for fall with a patriotic flair for the campaign.  

Kim:  With a controversial political climate, did you hesitate at all to accept Ivanka’s offer?

Kate:  No, I’m not a political person. Ivanka Trump is so much more than our first daughter. She is a fashion mogul herself, a mother of three, a female entrepreneur and someone who is dedicated to elevating other female entrepreneurs through the Ivanka Trump #womenwhowork campaign.  She proved her commitment to this mission by asking me, a designer without formal design training, to create designs I had never created before such as wools coats, formal dresses, blouses and jon jons for a momentous event in our country’s history that world famous designers take part in.

 

Kim:  What were the steps you took as a designer to create a unique collection from scratch in only three weeks? 

Kate: Ivanka sent me inspirational photos and colors she was interested in. I then quickly got to work sketching, and went for a run. Running is where I find inspiration and clarity during design sessions. I love traditional tailored looks and relied upon what I would dress my own three children in. Within three hours I had the collection drafted and sent over to Ivanka for her review. She was vacationing in Hawaii and responded very quickly. When I received her response, my stomach dropped. She loved everything. She even used capital letters LOVE on certain pieces in the collection. Being in fashion herself, she did have a few suggestions. I tweaked the specs slightly and immediately got to work. I was so fortunate to find a company in Massachusetts that has a high end sample room. Kathryn (founder and owner) of Good Clothing Company cleared her schedule and committed to producing this collection in just ONE week since we needed time for fittings. I skyped with the children to get their exact measurements, and then worked with my design firm who also dropped everything to create tech paks and specs in ONE day. I sourced fabric from NYC over the phone for the wool, used one of my tried and true US suppliers for the velvet, and Kathryn helped me source the silk for the lining. 

I visited NY three times coupling the trips with other business. The navy blue wool coat and velvet dress fit Arabella perfectly. We had zero alterations for the first fitting. I had a couple of suggestions, but I was told that everything was beautiful and they were so incredibly gracious. After that fitting I was asked to design a SECOND set of clothing for another inaugural event. I was ecstatic! That is where the ivory wool coat and dress Arabella wore to the National Prayer service came into play, along with the boys wool coats and rompers. Being in sales I’ve taught myself to never celebrate until the deal is done.  When my friend Becky sent me a photo from the daily mail of Arabella wearing the Navy Blue ensemble on her way to the wreath ceremony, I immediately had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I also realized I hadn’t really taken a breath in three weeks!

 

Kim:  What is different about creating a collection for a specific customer versus designing a collection for your overall audience? 

Kate:  The main difference was I had a color scheme to work within. I do believe Ivanka presented me with this opportunity because she feels a connection to my brand and confident in our designs. She loves traditional, tailored looks as much as I do.

 

Kim:  Can you share a moment during your design of the inaugural collection that panicked you at the moment but at which you can now look back and laugh? 

Kate:  YES! This moment I will never forget. I received a phone call the evening before the family was leaving for Washington; a button popped off Arabella’s ivory coat while Ivanka was trying it on her! I nearly dropped dead. Everyone remained calm and asked me to send backup buttons. The Good Clothing Company whipped up a sewing kit, and off to Washington it went. Due to increased security, the family never received the package. I was incredibly disappointed.  I was visiting my Dad in Florida at the time and realized the button fiasco could mean the end of the coat. I didn’t realize Arabella would wear the ivory coat until I saw the live news coverage! I was swimming with my kids and heard from my mom via text; we were shocked and questioned if Arabella was even wearing the Petit Peony coat!  We replayed Arabella walking down the church aisle countless times and determined YES that is THE coat!  All I could think was- wow this really happened- the first grandchildren wore Petit Peony to two out of three inaugural events. I later found out that the button was super glued on the coat for Arabella.  I will be forever grateful.

 

Kim:  In what way has Ivanka's willingness to give such a huge opportunity to a small business elevated you and the Petit Peony brand? 

Kate:  After speaking with Ivanka the Monday after the Inauguration and hearing her genuine words of gratitude and encouragement for me and for the brand, I was inspired to do more and to give more. Ivanka elevated me, she elevated me as a designer, a business owner, and elevated my ability to perform under pressure. My gratitude for this opportunity pushed me to want to continue doing as much as possible for others, particularly other women.  

Soon after the Inauguration, Petit Peony brought on a philanthropic director, and we created our Global Giving philanthropic mission.  Since the fall, we have had a mission trip planned to Honduras to elevate and support women and their children living in extreme poverty by providing, clothing, blankets, food and building homes. We continue to work with a local Boston charity Room to Grow, providing low income new moms with clothing for their babies.

Elevate is dedicated to supporting our amazing customers by telling their stories. I’m so inspired when I reach out to a customer after an order and organically we exchange stories on how we are raising our children while striving for balance every day and trying not to lose ourselves in the process.

Finally, as Petit Peony continues to expand, I have brought on an extraordinary team of women to support, celebrate and grow the world of Petit Peony!

 

 

Although she may not even realize it herself, Kate is also touching the lives of women in her community in an impactful way.  As she has expanded from a one-woman show to a team of five women, she has done for us just what Ivanka did for her.  Kate has connected in some way with each of the women she has brought on to the team.  She never asked for resumes or sat any of us down for interviews.  Just as Ivanka connected with the Petit Peony brand and put her faith in Kate, Kate offered an opportunity for each of us to be part of her growing business and put her faith in us.  This opportunity changed my life in a way that Kate may not even yet know.  But more of that to come in a future post.  

~Kim

Welcome to ELEVATE

Welcome to ELEVATE, a blog aimed at celebrating motherhood, empowering women and connecting with Petit Peony’s extraordinary customers through raw interviews that we hope will leave our readers laughing, nodding and reflecting along the way.

With our move to Duxbury over the summer of 2016 came new opportunities for Petit Peony and founding owner and designer, Kate Bowen.  Petit Peony opened its first storefront, allowing Kate to begin personally connecting with Petit Peony customers.  The growing business also demanded a growing team, which now includes five women working to take Petit Peony from our beloved current customer base to an internationally recognized label.  

 

As the Petit Peony team gets to know our customers on the surface, we also want to get to know our customers on a more intimate level.  Our blog posts will take a personal look at Petit Peony customers who inspire us, and we hope to leave you, the reader, feeling inspired along the way.  We want to celebrate women and explore their true identities, and we want to promote ways in with mothers can bring quality into the precious time they are able to devote to their children in an increasingly busy and demanding world.  

Lastly, we want to give customers a look into the Petit Peony world: a glimpse at who makes up the team, discussions of where the company has been, and previews of where it is going.  This is an incredibly exciting journey, and we want to take you along for the ride; we hope that you will join us. 

Petit Peony "Dresses" Thanksgiving

We are super excited to host my BIG, happy, extended family next week for Thanksgiving! The girls are old enough now to know how special the Holidays are and get really excited when they celebrate with a large group of people they love. My five-year-old is extremely creative, and lately, she has been spending her time decorating our entire house with whatever the season brings.
Paper Source Thanksgiving Place Card
I am constantly looking for easy-to-do, fun crafts. When I saw this craft from Paper Source, I was inspired! The Thanksgiving place card is a great way to get children involved in party planning/hosting for next week, and I had everything we needed at home to get started!

Girls making place cardsConstruction Paper
Scissors
Glue sticks
Googlie eyes (optional)

I simply cut out everything for the girls and they assembled each place card themselves! Kendal even started cutting when she was running low on supplies.

Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving or traveling you can bring these sweet festive placecards. The authenticity and pure joy that is exhibited in each turkey is sure to add magic to the kick off celebration of the MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF YEAR!

Teal is the New Orange

Happy (almost) Halloween! 

I love everything about this holiday - fun crafts, pumpkin carving, costumes, and of course, trick-or-treating.  Halloween truly celebrates the magic of childhood.   

Scarlett smiling while she paints.That being said, Halloween can be a little tricky at our house.  Our daughter, Scarlett, has severe food allergies.  At eight months old, she had a reaction to yogurt. Her face turned bright red and continued down her neck. After a quick dose of Benadryl, a terrifying trip to the ER, and allergy testing by our pediatrician, we learned Scarlett was allergic to peanuts, tree-nuts and had a slight milk allergy.  

Needless to say, I spent the next two years watching this little lady like a hawk, always fearful of what she might find and pop in her mouth, or what someone, unknowingly, might give her to eat. 

I’m sure the anxiety I feel is similar for all parents of children with severe food allergies, especially on Halloween night. Candy bowls are filled with all sorts of goodies that either contain nuts or were likely processed in a facility with nuts, making them off-limits to children like Scarlett.

Teal Pumpkin ProjectThat’s why I was so excited to learn about the Teal Pumpkin Project.  Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) hosts the project in an effort to encourage people to raise awareness of food allergies, while providing non-food treats so that all children can partake in the joy of trick-or-treating safely.  By painting a pumpkin teal, the color of food allergy awareness, and placing it outside your home, parents can take a deep breath and know your house is offering something their child can take with them on halloween night, dump out on their family room floor and excitedly thumb through the treasure they acquired on their hunt.

Before participating in this initiative, I would have had my head buried in each bowl Scarlett would walk up to, desperately searching for a safe treat for her to take home.  Not anymore.  Now my entire family can enjoy trick-or-treating by making our route along the map of “teal” houses.

R to L: Charlotte, Kendal, and Scarlett paint their teal pumpkins!This is our second year participating, and I couldn’t wait to get the girls painting their pumpkins to put in front of our house!  Not only is it for a great cause, but it’s a great crafting project.  So much fun, why paint just one?! And, invite a friend to join in on the fun. 

Go teal this Halloween - even if you don’t have a child with a food allergy.  For ideas on non-food treats to hand out, visit Teal Pumpkin Project.

Every child deserves to be a part of the fun. And, honestly, how much candy do they really need, right?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy treating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Petit Peony Anchors in Duxbury!

Petit Peony from Shem Roose on Vimeo.

Has it been two years already?! It was summer of 2014 when I originally started Petit Peony as a small Etsy shop; so much has changed in such a short period of time. I went from sewing clothes for my daughters in my Vermont country home, to launching a brand, taking on two strategic investment partners, and now Petit Peony has officially anchored in Duxbury, Massachusetts. 

It’s all in thanks to you, my loyal customers, the support from my family and friends, and taking a much needed “break” from the hustle and bustle of city life to spend time with my family in Vermont, that this dream to start a children’s clothing line is now a reality. 

For those of you new to the brand, see our full story here. 2015 was an amazing year - a year of true growth.  So many things have happened since I last wrote. It’s been a whirlwind, but one amazing ride so far.

Building the Brand

By Ruth W. Demby - Nikon SLR, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11851512Petit Peony left gorgeous Charlotte, Vermont, and now resides in Duxbury, MA.  For my non-New Englanders, Duxbury is an amazingly quaint, coastal town situated between Boston and Cape Cod.  It has everything that Petit Peony needs for inspiration - traditional New England colonials, boats and fishermen, four beautiful changing seasons…and maybe an occasional mermaid sighting?  

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why we would ever leave Vermont?  I’ll be the first to say that I LOVE Vermont.  It was, after all, the birthplace of my son, and Petit Peony. Vermont’s community and values were a huge inspiration to me. It was what allowed me to start this company, and I’ll always keep Vermont close when thinking about what’s next for the brand.  

Petit Peony Store InteriorBut, like all things, we must move forward to see growth, and I’m really excited by what this new move means for us.  For one, we have officially opened our first office and store!  Louisa Birkett, of GRAPEVINE Interiors; my interior decorator and new fabulous neighbor here in Duxbury, designed the interior of the store.  She
couldn’t have executed the brand more perfectly!  It looks classic and clean, nautical and fun all in the same breath. Added bonus- our view overlooks Duxbury Harbor!  

Adding to our new location, I’m excited to announce a new member of the Petit Peony Team.  Melissa Maloney has stepped in as our operations manager, and what I like to refer to as my ‘right-hand woman.’ She will be handling all of the day-to-day business, allowing me more time to focus on expanding the brand.

We have recently been featured in Vogue and Glamour UK magazines. Petit Peony was also a participant in Ivanka Trump’s #WomenWhoWork Fall Campaign, a non-political decision centered around helping support her movement to raise awareness around equality for women in the work place. In addition, Petit Peony designed a few patriotic pieces for Ivanka’s daughter, Arabella this fall. This recognition helps sets our brand apart from competitors, gains exposure, and validates the quality and classic styles that we are creating.  

Looking Ahead...

So much excitement in the coming months!  We’ll be launching our boys collection in the spring, as well as a limited women’s collection, making it that much easier to coordinate your family, while being comfortable and still stylish for all of those precious moments that are worthy of your memory books.

We are working on growing Petit Peony globally. Boutiques in Japan have signed on to carry our designs in the spring of 2017.  Additionally, Melissa and I will be headed to a tradeshow in Paris in January, to further promote the designs throughout Europe.  

We are truly on our way.  It is serendipitous that this all started because of my passion and inspiration for my children and my love of creating wholesome childhood moments to cherish forever. I think of those early times, pregnant with my son, sewing dresses and leggings in my attic because I couldn’t find sweet, simple, timeless clothing that captured the magic and innocence of childhood. 

Childhood is a fleeting time in our lives and I want to cherish every moment with my children. It is important to me that my kids, and yours, are comfortable playing while looking adorable. #comfortablyadorable

As always, thank you so much for joining us on this incredible journey! We hope to hear from you soon!

 

Petit Peony Logo

Petit Leaf Garland (DIY)

Looking for a fun, easy, yet adorable "Thanksgiving Craft" ?! The Petit Peony Sisters have moved on from "Halloween Crafts" and we are in full fledge Thanksgiving mode. This glitter Leaf Garland was so fun and easy. If you live in a seasonal climate like New England you should take advantage of the mild weather this weekend and do this craft outside!
Supplies:
1. Mod Podge
2. Freshly Fallen Leaves (can't be dry)
3. Glittler
4. One pesky little brother
We decided to make silver and gold leaves to hang from our mantel. Kendal, Scarlett & Jack loved running around looking for the perfect leaves. Jack is the epitome of a pesky little brother. They find the perfect leaf? He eats the perfect leaf. They are ready to paint the mod podge on their leaves, he steals all the paint brushes and knocks over the glitter during his exit strategy.
The assembly is simple. You use a generous amount of mod podge all over your leaf, sprinkle with glitter and allow to dry!!
This craft is so simple it will keep even your littlest ones entertained for at least 30 minutes!
Enjoy!
Xx
Kate
leaves: Petit Peony Farm; Little Wooden Picnic Table: Amazon; Irish Knit Hats: Gap Kids
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