Velvettes: Rachel Mednick
Rachel is the founder of Lucy & Leo, a vintage inspired collection of organic baby clothes, made in the U.S.A. She is working towards creating a better fashion industry, one that supports people and the planet.She is currently based in Philadelphia.
Kate Lee: What inspires you to create for Lucy & Leo?
Rachel Mednick: I am very much inspired by vintage clothing. I have always had access to great vintage pieces from both of my grandmothers and my mom (my grandma on my moms side liked to save everything and I am so happy she did!) I also get inspiration from my own wardrobe as a child. I love when I can design special pieces that have a sense of nostalgia.
KL: How did you get started with this company and what pushed you to do this full time?
RM: When my cousin Lucy was born, I had just graduated from Drexel University with a degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising and had bins of scrap fabric left over that I didn't want to go into a landfill. I started making clothing for Lucy out of my scraps and people loved what I was making. Soon after, her brother Leo came along and I decided this what what I wanted to do full time. Before Leo came into the picture my business was called LucyKids and I did it as a side hustle for about 3 years. I saw all of the horrible things going on in the fashion industry such as people being underpaid, treated unfairly, breathing in harmful chemicals on a daily basis and the extreme amount of damage that the fashion industry is doing to the planet and I wanted (and still am working) to change that. Most consumers often forget about the people who make their clothing and don't realize that if you only pay $5 for shirt, there is no way that the person who made that shirt was paid fairly. At Lucy & Leo we ensure that all of our people are treated like people: fair wages, happy working environments and no toxic chemicals.
KL: What has surprised you the most about starting your own company?
RM: How much I have learned about myself. You can ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you that I have always had a strong sense of self, even as a kid I never cared what other people thought and did my own thing. Owning my own business had pushed this to an entirely new level and I am so grateful for this journey of constant learning, after all that I what life is all about! I am learning more about myself now than I ever thought was possible!
KL: Did you have an important mentor or people in your life who helped to shape your career?
RM: Yes, so many people have made huge impacts in my business. I think one of the most important things I learned early on was to surround myself with other entrepreneurs. Having supportive friends and family is great but it is hard for them to understand the specific daily challenges that come with entrepreneurship. I was fortunate to find a community called Savor the Success (founded by Angela Jia Kim, inspiring entrepreneur and all around amazing soul), she has created this amazing tribe of women which I feel so lucky to be a part of. They pick me up when I'm feeling down, hold my hand through scary times, remind me not to give up and best of all call me out on my B.S.
KL: What do you think are the most important challenges female entrepreneurs face?
RM: I think all entrepreneurs but especially female entrepreneurs face a constant battle with their inner voice, and they forget to ask for help. As women we are so capable of doing many things at once, dealing with significant others, kids, friends and not to mention managing our own sanity. It's ok to take a break and not be perfect. It's also ok to ask for help and take it when it is offered.
KL: You focus on sustainability and Lucy & Leo is a no-waste company. Do you hope to change the fashion industry with this mission?
RM: Absolutely! I started Lucy & Leo to create change and educate consumers. I believe as a business owner I have an opportunity to change how things in the fashion industry are done. When it comes down to it, people want to do the right thing, there are so many awesome sustainable businesses out there now that are working to create positive change in the world and in the fashion industry. Consumers need to realize that they create change when they shop, that when they spend money it supports something and makes a statement. I dream of a world where water is not polluted by toxic dyes, that farmers are living cancer free because they are breathing fresh air free of harmful toxins, where the oceans are not polluted by plastic and landfills are not filled with piles of clothing that has been worn once and tossed away. Everyday this is what I work towards. Look out for list of great fashion brands who are working towards this same mission on the Lucy & Leo site soon. I want to provide a place where customers can easily find these brands and support them.
KL: What does "having it all" mean to you? Do you believe it's doable or healthy?
RM: This is a tough questions. Some days I already feel like I have it all, I get to do work that I am passionate about and feel fulfilled by every day and I am supported by friends and family that I love. On the other hand, I am still working to create a business that can support me fully financially and that is a challenge. To me having it all means doing what I love and being able to support myself financially, travel and be able to share experiences with people I love. For me I believe it is doable, but I do not need a lavish lifestyle. I think it is easy to put access pressure on yourself to fulfill "having it all" I like to focus on just being happy on a daily basis an creating a life that I don't need a break from.
KL: Biggest piece of advice for young women who are about to embark on a business?
RM: Get yourself a good therapist (this will challenge you in new ways you never dreamed of) and surround yourself with other women entrepreneurs. Be careful of who you spend your time with an surround yourself with people who will support you, and also tell you the truth. Also, be clear on your goals and take time to celebrate them when they come to fruition. Each week set your intention, it is important to take time to stop and think about where you are and where you want to be, otherwise time will fly by and it is easy to get off course.
KL: What's in store for you in the future?
RM: I think there are few things are are predictable and many things that are not (that's what makes owning a business so exciting!) I'd like to lean in and focus more on sustainability and ethical practices in the industry, I want to create more change and I feel like I am finally accumulating the knowledge to do so. There is so much change to be done and I want to be in the trenches not just a bystander. I am not exactly sure what this looks like yet, but am excited to find out!