I am not a parent yet, but when I become a mom I want fashionable breastfeeding clothing to rock around town. The fact that there are limited options is absolutely ridiculous. Thank God we have…
I am excited to share my interview with the woman who brought us this company, Andrea Newberry, a stay-at-home mom turned award winning, self-taught fashion entrepreneur. I can’t wait for her launch of the NEW Leche Libre Plus Collection.
Natasha: Why do you think it is hard to find cool breastfeeding plus size clothing?
Andrea: There is a not a lot breastfeeding apparel in general. I started Leche Libre a few years ago, not because I had a background in fashion, but because I was a mom and saw a need that I wanted to fill. Everything was maternity wear, dual purpose. Since I launched, there are a few more lines coming out that includes cool breastfeeding wear. When I started the Kickstarter last year, it was to launch with plus size. My mission is to empower, own, and use our bodies for how they are meant to be used. The fact that women have been shamed in public is what I wanted to address. I originally wanted plus sizes for my Kickstarter but I didn’t have resources to offer it to the community. The whole point of Leche Libre is to give that style and functionality that fuels women in their lives. As soon as the Kickstarter was successful and fulfilling orders, I immediately started working on the plus size collection.
For many years, women were pressured to using formula. Now culturally, we are getting back to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding apparel and plus apparel are where the two niche areas connect. Unless you are a plus size breastfeeding woman you won’t be thinking about it. Since launching Leche Libre, there are many women who want and need this plus size collection. This is the culmination of my mission to get out there and help them live their lives.
Natasha: Tell me what we should expect from the new collection you are launching on Kickstarter?
Andrea: When designing the original collection, I was focusing on a collection that would represent a full wardrobe for a breastfeeding woman. When preparing for this plus Kickstarter I worked with Kat Eves. She has helped me work on what the plus size woman wants, not watered-down versions. We took the collection and are delivering a complete wardrobe. One is a little, black breastfeeding dress that is simple and minimal and can be styled in a myriad of ways.
Second, is the reptile tunic which is edgy and is a stretch denim with a chic reptile print on it. You can wear it out for a night on the town or go from professional to casual.
Last, is a nursing sweat-shirt. I have a piece in my closet I can wear every day and this is that piece. When you have three pieces you have a complete wardrobe. The sweatshirt comes in two colors.
The dresses have pockets because the modern woman needs to have pockets. Moms are one of the busiest people. Having pockets means it is one less thing that women need to worry about. Always bothersome, is that when it came to fashion, you had to pick functional clothes that were frumpy or wear clothes that made you feel like yourself that you couldn’t easily breastfeed. Leche Libre comes from the merge of functionality and style that delivers for the breastfeeding woman’s needs.
Natasha: What has been the feedback from women when you launched your first collection?
Andrea: The feedback has been amazing. One of my favorite testimonials is from a few weeks ago. One of the clients told me she loved it. She hadn’t felt so much like herself since 4 years ago since she had kids. Being a mom in general; there is a lot of pressure, that we have to be taking care of others. A mother should be selfless and be nurturing in every media form. We need to take care of ourselves too. As a mom, I was suffering from Postpartum Depression and got into a role that I was taking care of everyone else. Leche Libre is the oxygen mask for moms to take care of yourself first so you can take care of others. With the original Kickstarter, I had 500 backers from all over the world. I saved my international orders I saved them all for shipping them in one day. I have sold something to every inhabited continent. The women of the world get what I am doing. I want to keep the momentum going. I started this as a passion project. There are women who are breastfeeding their children and they want the clothing that will make their lives easier and let them feel like themselves again. Fashion is how you tell the world who you are without needing to speak. I said ever since I launched that I wanted to do a plus collection. When I say I am going to do something, I will always do it, The plus size collection is here and feels really good to be getting it out here.
Natasha: As a self-taught fashion designer, what were important steps that you took to get into fashion and build your business?
Andrea: The most important thing I did, I studied the lean business methodology and took it and applied it to fashion. The core of the lean business methodology is to come up with a minimum viable product, only buying items to get you started. I was teaching myself to do fashion design by watching Project Runway and YouTube videos. When I finally had a pattern and style I liked, I took pics of what I was making on facebook and made 5 sales and invested it in the business. I work with Stitch Method to help with the coaching for sourcing materials and finding local manufacturers to work with. From there, I took it a day at a time and learned as I went. For a while, I was thinking I don’t know what I am doing. No one really knows what they are doing as you are inventing something. I want my clothing company to inspire women to be empowered moms. I became a stay at home accidentally when I lost my job during my first pregnancy, I found there isn’t a lot of social validation. I felt myself disappearing. I want Leche Libre for women to know that they can do whatever they want. Their value and self-worth come from themselves. My path to creating my value was to create a business. But, we can all find value by going after our passion.
Natasha: What were obstacles you faced when starting Leche Libre? How did you overcome these challenges?
Andrea: The first obstacle was that I was suffering from Postpartum depression and only saw the hole I was in. I loved being a mom, I just wasn’t able to see myself. Working around that, I was trying to integrate being a mom and an entrepreneur. I wanted to be present for my kids; trying to integrate both. I struggled a lot to bring my kids to business meetings or keep them busy during phone conferences. Next, I would say, teaching yourself means making a million mistakes and learning from them. Having these micro-failures and growing from them. No matter how you are, you have the ability to stay grounded and know that you can learn from a mistake. The quicker you can learn from those mistakes the better off you will be. Starting a fashion line is very hard. The fashion industry can be nasty. I wasn’t aware of the nuances until getting into it. There have been so many obstacles when getting into it and there is a lot of risk. There is no guarantee that these businesses will go where we want it to go. It all comes down to tenacity. My business is my path to self-actualization. It comes down to me learning to know my self-worth and value. You keep putting one foot in front of another. You have to take a moment to honor what has been achieved. Coming back to my mission, I am here to empower women. I am centered in myself and I am connected with my mission – this is the goal to always be here. There is this superficiality that is perpetuated in this culture. It’s important to focus on what is real and focus on the mission. I am in this for the right reason.
Natasha: In media, breastfeeding mothers have taken quite a bit of heat for breastfeeding in public. Have you seen a positive change in media against this stigma?
Andrea: I wouldn’t say it has gone away. One of the more positive things, 5 years ago articles were focusing on women being shamed and asked to go away. More recently, the stories have been about breastfeeding women standing up for their legal rights when being shamed or an advocate stepping in to support the breastfeeding woman. It is interesting; the plethora of these stories in the media. Not every woman will be harassed for breastfeeding in public, but when they read the accounts, they are living with the fear of being harassed as opposed to living their life without stress. This is where Leche Libre fits in. My clothes are designed to make breastfeeding easy and discrete. It can look like you are holding a sleeping baby. Women want to live their lives and not have this overwhelming fear and perpetual paranoia. For my brand, the clothing gives the women the opportunity to make their own choices and relieve the stress so they can live their lives. There is an element of having an activist brand to use as an activist if they want and they also have the option to discreetly do what they need to do in their lives. I have great optimism to keep moving forward with women equality and rights for all despite the current political turmoil. I am really excited to be a part of the movement to keep pushing these issues forward.
Natasha: Last minute thoughts?
Andrea: I am really excited about this plus collection because I’m fully fleshing out the term: body positivity. In fashion, I feel like body positive mostly speaks to being size inclusive but breastfeeding is also a way to be body positive. Bringing them together is a culmination of my mission. Women are forced into narrow definitions of beauty standards. Plus size breastfeeding women have so many different levels of oppression they are dealing with. I’m so excited to get this collection out there. Plus size women experience such shame and discrimination with extra pressure not to expose their body when breastfeeding. Giving birth is the most powerful thing a woman can do and these women have just done this. They deserve to own it and celebrate their body for its awesome life giving power and confidently breastfeed in killer style.