CLOTHING Rock-a-bye baby takes on whole new meaning
Punk-rock mothers channel creative energies to design children's clothing.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
Tina Katz flipped open her vintage hard-side train case and shook out samples of her latest artwork. The former animation background painter from Los Angeles held up a tiny black T-shirt emblazoned with spider webs, oozing purple letters and the phrase: G is for goth!
Get used to it.
An influential slice of L.A.'s hipster mom subculture is jumping into the fashion world, selling ironic rock 'n' roll kids' clothing to fellow moms and, increasingly, a wider audience. Right now, at least two dozen Los Angeles-area moms are producing and designing lines of kid clothes. The style is more bohemian than sexy, more punk than prettified and more black than baby blue -- essentially, miniature versions of mom's own alt-rock look, minus the tattoos.
"My husband and I were big punkers way back when," said Theresa Miraglia, 38, a Long Beach, Calif., mom whose Mini Maniacs line includes "bondage" blankets (that is, red plaid flannel with black vinyl corners), T-shirts emblazoned with '80s punk band concert fliers and bibs with safety pins, zippers, eyeballs and skeletons. "Now I'm a stay-at-home, punk-rock T-shirt designer mom."
Many designers call Los Angeles home, with the Silver Lake section their spiritual center of inspiration. The formerly gay enclave near downtown has given way to gentrification by couples who worked throughout their 20s and 30s in the entertainment industry, started families and suddenly confronted a world of fashion conformity. Used to the hustle and bustle of Hollywood, they channeled their creative energies into designing clothing, knocked on store doors and found a receptive audience of fellow punker parents.
"These are all the people who were going to rock shows all the time in their 20s. All of a sudden, they grow up and have kids," said Deneen O'Neill, 40, who worked 15 years in the entertainment industry as an executive assistant. "I found myself pregnant without a job. I thought, 'Who is going to hire the pregnant gal?'" said O'Neill. She traded her 24/7 entertainment gig for another full-time job: parent entrepreneur. While pregnant with her now 20-month-old daughter, Rory, she conceived her shirt collection, Peace Monkey.
Her T-shirts and one-piece rompers feature snappy graphics that blend glitter rock's palette with her own favorite sayings: "Night owl," "Superstar" and the ever-popular "Poo factory."
O'Neill is among a changing roster of new designer mothers who meet in a Silver Lake park, letting the kids play as they swap goods and trade tips on everything from business to breast-feeding. Katz, 38, sometimes brings her daughter, Magnolia, while Doris Oswald-Burrell, 39, totes 20-month-old Mia Boo, the inspiration for her I Can Fly line of T-shirts, which she sells at the Hollywood Farmers Market and on her Web site.
The designers' patron saint is Lyvonne Hill, who left a career in film and TV postproduction to raise her toddler daughter and open Grometville, a children's boutique in Silver Lake. It's there that designing mothers such as Katz and O'Neill get valuable retail exposure. Mothers finishing their postnatal yoga classes wander into Grometville and discover a world of designs that reflect their own lifestyle.
Racks are filled with retro bowling shirts from Fifi & amp; Fido, the creation of former model and mother of three children, Eileen Haber. Stacked on a table are tiny T-shirts lettered with "Bowie," "Lennon" and "Jagger," part of the Townsend collection created by music fan Shari Cliver and named for her 20-month-old son, Emerson Townsend Cliver. A self-described "old punk," Cliver traded public relations for fashion, helped by her skateboard-designing husband, Sean, who also produced "Jackass" on MTV.
Other designers got their start a few miles away in Hollywood, where Jamie Rosenthal nurtured new talent and new moms at her store, Lost and Found. Many L.A.-based, mother-produced lines such as Queen Bee, Bees and Dragons and the quirky-cool Baby Ya Ya fill the store.
"It's, 'Have a baby. Start a cottage industry,'" said Rosenthal, who has watched several lines blossom from a few items into full-fledged collections. Rosenthal is a former entertainment industry fashion stylist who quit to design the Lost and Found children's collection and open her store, which she described as "where 'Alice in Wonderland' meets Jimi Hendrix."
The growing reach and availability of these offbeat kids' clothing collections is a reflection of the changing image of motherhood. There's even a Hollywood poster mom giving the look mainstream fashion credibility on the June cover of W magazine -- Gwyneth Paltrow in her vintage maternity T-shirt top from Jennifer Noonan's NOM collection.
And later this month, veteran retailer and new mother Christina Sitkevich plans to open Sugar Baby, a children's boutique aimed at hipster parents. It's on Sunset Boulevard, just down from Guitar Center. The store motto: "Rocker moms, not soccer moms."