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The Peach Project

#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.