What Keeps You Up At Night: Robyn King

We’re so excited to share a catch up we had with Robyn King earlier this month. Robyn is a full time stay-at-home parent, and mom to two adorable boys—Hunter, almost 5, and Reed, 2—who, for the past two years has been working during her boys’ nap times, late at night, and early in the morning (she and her husband Mike share just eight hours of childcare per week) to launch her own collection of women’s wear—Robyn King. And cue the bells: Her second collection launched yesterday! And, she’s sharing a discount and giveaway!

Here, she lays bare the ins and outs of starting and running her own business, the unique challenges around starting a fashion line, and how she fits it all in. And at the end of the day we’re asking her, ‘What Keeps You Up At Night?’

How did you make this happen?
With young kids, everything is hard.

When we had our second son, Reed, two years ago, the political climate in the U.S. was intense. I realized, here I am raising two boys, who will be grown men someday, and I want to give them an example of what women can do. I love being their full-time caregiver—I always wanted that, and I still want that—but I want them to reflect back on their childhood and be able to say, “My mom loved us and took care of us, and she also did something she loved.” Even if it doesn’t turn out to be something big, I want them to have the example of a mother who chased her dreams.

What do you think pushed you toward this at the moment that you had two children under the age of two?
I imagined a future where they would both be in school and I realized that when I have more time I don’t want to go back to a job working for someone else. I want to make my own job that offers some flexibility so I can still spend as much time with them as I want to…until it drives me crazy!

Starting a business is notoriously hard. How did you work out starting your own fashion line with your husband Mike?
I had to just level with Mike and ask him if he was willing to help me do this. He was super supportive: he said, ‘this is our savings, so we should invest in us.’ Basically we bought me a job, which is kind of great, but also really hard.

So when you launched the first collection of Robyn King it was just you…
Before having kids, I went to fashion school and I also worked in the fashion industry for ten years. I’ve always made clothes for other people, and after Reed was born I started making clothes for myself. At first, when he slept all the time, I had a little bit of time here and there to work on a project. I worked on loose, flow-y “after-baby” clothes, and wore my own designs to drop off Hunter at school, and soon all the other moms who had just had babies asked me where I got my clothes. I saw that there was interest so I decided to start making clothes seriously.

But, wait, how did you actually do this?!
For the first collection, I went to a pattern maker I worked with at one of my old jobs and explained I wanted to make a few things and see if I could sell them myself. He was into the idea and helped me make the patterns and introduced me to a couple of sewers who helped sew the patterns.

Talk about the business side of it.
At the beginning we invested a small amount so I could make a few things and just see where it went. I launched the website and somehow, magically, people found it, and I sold through the first production. After that I thought: this could actually work! I hadn’t put any effort into advertising or marketing, and it felt like it just sort of happened. So I thought there’s something here, and Mike and I took that as a cue to keep it going and take the next step.

For the second collection we decided to do a proper production. This time has been much more challenging. It’s more of an investment, and we have contracts with production people and factories etc. It feels like there is more at stake, but I’m also really excited.

The whole point of this was to start the ball rolling, so that in a few years, when the boys are in school, I can really dig in. I have to remind myself of that sometimes: This is just the beginning. It takes time. Nothing happens overnight.

What has been the number one challenge?
In fashion, there are many people who come into play to make your vision a reality. Trying to find the right people to make this happen has been a huge setback I hadn’t anticipated. You have to sift through so many people to get the right support.

I didn’t have any experience in building a team before I started, but I do have more life experience now, so I’ve really been leaning on that.

So how do you manage…

Running a business while being the primary caregiver?
We have a babysitter for eight hours a week. I drop Hunter off at preschool and take Reed, and we race downtown to buy fabric. When he was younger I took him to the pattern maker and he slept while we worked. Now I save any errands on which I can’t take the kids for my eight hours.

Everything else has to get done after bedtime, on weekends if Mike watches them, and early mornings. If I have something I need to do in the morning, Mike can start an hour late and we juggle the schedules. It’s not easy! For example this past Friday I picked up Hunter at school and took both kids with me to pick up samples, and it was very hard. It’s a messy time, it’s a lot of tag teaming with Mike, and… yeah… Dragging kids around town!

Self-care?
The term self-care is so loaded now. It seems like it’s turned it into one more thing we have to buy or somehow fit in, and that doesn’t feel authentic. Honestly, this business is my self-care right now. I think that’s how all of this started, I was home and needed a creative outlet and that need propelled me forward.

Making time for your partner?
We have no time alone together! Our time is doing bath time together, folding laundry while we’re watching a show, or doing dishes, because our babysitter hours go to my business and not to date nights right now. We have time on the weekends when we’re all together as a family.

Sometimes it’s a drag and sometimes we need a break, but then I try to remember this is why we wanted to have a family in the first place—to have a family life—and that’s the whole point.

Tell us about the clothes!
I started with the concept of a forever collection: elevated basic styles that I can change or tweak each year or each season, stuff I would wear all the time. For example, a really great shirt, that I can make with short sleeves or long sleeves. I wanted to make one collection I can build on over time.

What is your design philosophy?
Right now, everything is made of linen and everything is made in downtown Los Angeles. It’s sustainable to the extent that we possibly can be. You can even compost it. It’s a complete natural fiber! The fabric doesn’t stain easily, and you can wash it a thousand times and it still looks good. I feel like for twelve months of the year you can wear it in Southern California and still feel great. In other climates you can layer it and always be comfortable.

What keeps you up at night?
Honestly this business is keeping me up at night! No, seriously, what was keeping me up was how to be a positive female role model for our boys. Now the business is providing that and feeding all the creative stuff that I was missing for a while and that feels good.

Thank you, Robyn! I love this: “Even if it doesn’t turn out to be something big, I want them to have the example of a mother who chased her dreams.” And I really value the honesty about how the support of one’s partner can be so crucial for doing that. Wishing you so much success with the new collection—which is gorgeous!

So, dear readers, what keeps you up at night?

Discount and giveaway! Great news, Robyn is offering readers 15% off with the code “hitherandthither15” through April 12th—just enter the code at checkout. Plus, she’s agreed to give away a piece from the new collection—your choice—in an Instagram giveaway.

P.S. Since we launched this series last month, we’ve been thinking a lot about what the word “creative” means, and pondering readers’ comments about providing a more inclusive look into normal jobs. We hear you, the struggle to juggle it all—work, romantic life, children, pets, friends, family obligations—and so much more, all while following your passion feels Herculean. Over the coming months we’re planning to share stories from all walks of life. Let us know in the comments from whom you want to hear, and what keeps you up at night.

Interview and series by Mina Manchester. Mina Manchester has worked in PR for eleven years, and writes fiction. Her short story was published in The Normal School  this summer, and she in the process of revising her first novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. 

[Robyn is wearing Robyn King with exception: Pants—Ilana Kohn / Shoes—Martiniano / Jewelry—Made by Mary Thatch Constellation necklace]

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