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Sonnet James has been a company that I have loved for years. It’s known as a brand that creates play dresses for the playful mom. But even the non-moms out there have to agree, these outfits are too cute to pass up. Whitney Lundeen is the own and creator of Sonnet James. Just from following her on social media, she seems like the kind of woman you hope to be friends with because you know that you will be inspired, laugh a lot and definitely play. We are honored to have her as our Mommy Chick of the Month for May. As a mompreneur that we love and admire, we think you will leave this interview inspired too.
Nina: Hi, Whitney! We love frolicking around in your play dresses! Tell us a little about how Sonnet James got started.
Whitney: Sonnet James started as a personal project. The idea was created in a very transformative time in my life. It came to me while I was in therapy. I was going back to some really hard points in my childhood, and the therapist asked me to do an art project that would kind of get me back to that place that I was as a child. The thought was that I wanted to make a dress that would have helped my mother to play with me as a child, something that would remind her to do that with me. So that was when the idea was born.
I always get asked where the name Sonnet James came from–I was in a place where I didn’t think I was probably going to have any more children. Both of my boys were surprise genders; I waited until I had them to find out if they were male or female. I had a boy and a girl name picked out and James was the girl name I had picked out if Satchel (my first boy) would have been a girl, and Sonnet was the girl name for Eero (my second boy). So I kind of put them together, and it was as if it was the daughter that I never had.
N: That story is so touching. To be able to take a difficult time in your life and create something beautiful for all mothers to enjoy. I love that. And the name! How do you balance being a full-time small business owner and mama of two boys?
W: It is chaos, but I actually think it makes me more alive, and I feel like it makes me a better mother. I feel like a lot of times I wish I didn’t work, and could just be at home, and just be 100% focused on them all the time. Honestly, I think that by keeping that creative side of me going and flowing it brings a whole new dimension to me that is really important to my relationships, especially with my children.
It takes practice to turn my brain off from work, but usually things can wait. I find that especially after huge deadlines, I owe it to my boys to unplug a little bit. I can usually tell when I need to do this when my little one starts to get clingy or the older one starts to tease his brother. I watch for little clues that they need more of my attention. On those days, I just say I’m not working today. I am just going to be a mom. That’s a huge plus to having my own business.
N: We love that your dresses help us to feel comfy, cute, and totally unrestricted at the same time. How did you manage to strike this balance in your designs?
W: I wanted something like a one-stop kind of outfit for moms. I just think that there is something so special about a dress; something so feminine and romantic, and I feel that as mothers we really need to tap into that romantic side of us to get through the day.
There are a couple of unique factors about Sonnet James dresses.
First is the material. After I had my boys, I continually gravitated to my old maternity clothes (even after pregnancy) because they were so soft and stretchy. Even though I wasn’t crazy about the look of these maternity shirts and dresses, the feel of the fabric was perfect. So I used that fabric as the base of the designs–a modal and rayon/spandex blend. This was a critical find because these dresses had to be soft and stretchy, but also machine washable. They had to be soft and cozy and virtually indestructible–and this modal and rayon/spandex blend was just right.
Second are the lines. I knew that the best lines were going to be simple, modern lines that were clean and crisp. The dresses would have to be something that could stand out on their own at the office or be worn three days in a row to soccer practice! I think the magic came from this pairing of a casual fabric with simple, flattering silhouettes. These dresses really are perfect for transitioning from work to the park.
N: It’s obvious that you put in a lot of time and thought into each piece. They are perfection and we love to wear them!
As you know, moms are short on time in the morning, do you have any quick beauty tricks to share with our mommy chicks?
W: Exercise. Let your hair air dry or use dry shampoo. I love Stila’s convertible color in poppy for cheeks and lips.
N: How do you like to unwind after a long week?
W: If I don’t have the boys I literally lay in bed and never get out. I’ll watch movies or reruns of Law and Order: SVU. Or read books in bed. I also keep a secret stash of chocolate in my room for when I finally get some time alone. Alone time is really important to me and I need a lot of it (introvert!). My bed is my favorite place on the entire planet. I mean if I could have all my meals brought to me in bed, if I could work in bed, it would be wonderful, I love my bed.
If I do have the boys we play! A hike or go to the museum, we clean and wash the car, pizza and a movie at home!
N: What is your bedtime routine?
W: Yes yes yes, love the bedtime routine. I love to take a bath to calm me down. I wash my face with a warm wash cloth. I spray some witch hazel as a toner. I use Jan Marini’s bioclear (it’s my favorite) and then I make sure I am wearing super comfy pajamas. I am a huge fan of matching sets!
N: What’s the greatest lesson (or lessons) that motherhood has taught you?
W: Motherhood connected me to humanity in a way I never expected. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. When people would irritate me I couldn’t help but think “that’s someone’s baby”, just like Satchel is my baby and that person has a mom somewhere who sees all the good in him or her just like I see it in my son.
N: What makes you feel beautiful?
W: Hawaii and being happy.
N: As a mama of two, what’s a piece of advice that you wish you would have known and would like to share with expecting moms and/or brand new mothers?
W: This advice I received from a friend: never panic and always light up when your kids walk in the room.
N: What are your secrets to being a happy mommy?
W: Alone time. Being grateful. Perspective.
N: Do you have any rituals that help you to feel centered?
W: Exercise is incredibly important for my mental health, so I try and make that a top priority–and I try and do it with friends as much as possible. Lately, I have been doing sprints with a friend (gotta sweat) and unwinding by taking yin yoga classes.
N: How did your mother inspire you?
W: My mother is kind. She has a beautiful heart, and that has always inspired me.
N: What are your greatest hopes for our children’s’ future—the next generation?
W: That they understand that they have a huge responsibility to understand and fight discrimination, sexism, and racism of all kinds. To hold firmly in their hearts that women are equal to men. Also, that they understand that women are not objects. We are all brothers and sisters.
N: What are your greatest hopes for women and mothers everywhere?
W: That we get respected and valued for who we are as human beings and what we contribute as women. That women and mothers will stop being abused.
Thank you, Whitney. We loved getting to know you a little bit more and sharing your insights. Keep doing what you’re doing, girl! We’ll be following along. 🙂