Being a fashion designer’s mom has some obvious perks, including access to nice clothes and front row seats at their shows. In light of Mother’s Day in the U.S. on Sunday, WWD spoke to designer moms to hear about their offspring’s upbringing and how early in their lives they displayed an interest in clothes. Here’s what these fashion moms had to say about their darlings.
Reva Robinson, mother of Tory Burch
NEW YORK — Reva Robinson never really expected her daughter to grow up to become a designer, despite being brought up in a fashion-minded home.
“Tory was never really interested in fashion or clothes,” she says. “I was more likely to find her up a tree or challenging one of her brothers to a race or tennis match. But her father, Buddy, and I were pretty fashion-minded in our home, so she was exposed to it.”
Robinson says she had an area on the third floor of their house in Valley Forge, Pa., where she kept all her designer clothes and Louis Vuitton trunks. “No one was allowed up there. Tory and I would sneak up there and I would show her all my designer clothes — she wasn’t very interested. But I said, ‘Someday, you’re going to love this,’” remembers Robinson.
“Tory always looked naturally beautiful and stylish to me — because she didn’t try too hard. She didn’t wear her first dress until her prom. It was one of my Yves Saint Lauren dresses,” she says.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Burch got a job working for Zoran, “a designer I loved who was a friend of mine,” Robinson says. “I think that was really when she started to love fashion.”
Robinson says she attends every one of her daughter’s shows. “I do get nervous, but I’ve seen enough of the collection by the time of the show to feel good about it. Whenever any of my children do anything, I feel like hiding in the bleachers. Her first show…I was really nervous for that one. It was really exciting, though. It was very personal. It was mind-boggling for me.”
Asked if Burch makes her special designs, or whether she wears the clothes right off the rack, Robinson says, “Both! How lucky am I? I adore her pants. They fit me perfectly. When I want something special, her design team is kind enough to make it for me.”
As for why she believes Burch is successful and what was it about her upbringing that prepared her, Robinson says, “Tory was always tenacious even when she was little. She had to be, with three older brothers. She never gave up, and she is still like that. She was the leader of the pack. Her father and I always told our children that ‘negativity is noise.’ You have to have a tough skin. Everything she presents is honest. There are no short cuts. My motto is, ‘If you love someone enough they have to love you back.’ She really loves people and what she does, so it’s a natural that they love her back. Never once have I seen her hurt someone. She is always encouraging.”
Asked whether she has any influence on Tory’s designs, she replies, “You should ask Tory.” But it’s no secret that Burch named a shoe collection after Robinson that became a bestseller, the Reva ballerina flat. “Well the most amazing thing that has happened to me is being known as Reva the ballerina! I’m famous because I’m a shoe! People ask me to sign their Reva flats. I love that.” — Lisa Lockwood
Plum Bovan, mother of Matty Bovan
LONDON — There were regular explosions of color, pattern and quirk in the Bovan family’s Yorkshire household, with mother Plum channeling her own talents and passions into the wardrobe of son Matty, one of London’s hottest emerging talents who’s known for his wild, statement creations.
“If I’m perfectly frank, we don’t have an awful lot of money, so I would go to charity shops and buy clothing that was never gender specific. I didn’t put Matty in a dress or anything, but I’d happily put him in a pink jumpsuit or a yellow striped one. I’d always go for the nice quality, the pretty stuff — and he loved it. He didn’t feel awkward, and he got to choose what he liked. It was always bright colors — I mean, that is so Matty,” she says.
Plum, who designs her own jewelry, favors big earrings and lives for color, says it was clear from an early age what sort of career path her son would take.
“He liked Barbie dolls, and he used to make all the clothes for them. He’s incredibly creative; I can’t tell you how super proud I am of him, and not just him as a designer. He has many other strings to his bow: He’s very good artistically, he’s a university lecturer and he takes his students very seriously. I’m in awe of him — not that I’m biased.”
She goes to all of his shows, and in the early days used to help out behind the scenes. And she still makes the jewelry for the runway.
“He will give me a rough brief, and then I will make what I think is right. He might like it at the time, but, invariably, once you get to the end of the collection, he’ll say: ‘No, no scrap all that! I want this.’ And then it’s a mad panic to make 40 pairs of something, or do something at the last minute. That’s usually how it works,” Plum adds.
For her own jewelry collections, she works with driftwood, wire, glass and lightweight clay. “I like huge earrings and they have to be lightweight, because my ears can’t take the weight. I am always experimenting in my studio.”
Plum wears Matty’s pieces — but not all of them.
“If I was a size six or eight I would love to wear them, but unfortunately I’m not. I can wear them if they’re fluid, and he does give me things. I have a beautiful coat, a beautiful long scarf and a skirt — quite a few things,” Plum says, adding that she’s never actually asked Matty to make her anything special.
“Honestly, I haven’t because he’s so incredibly busy with shows, with production, with lecturing. He’s always doing something — shoots for himself, for magazines or things he produces so, I wouldn’t like to say, ‘Can you run me up a frock?’”
If she did ask, there’s no doubt Matty would run that frock up in no time. “He’s a kind, caring, considerate, lovely guy — quite a strong head — but a sweetie pie.” — Samantha Conti
Kyoko Takahashi, mother of Undercover’s Jun Takahashi
TOKYO — Kyoko Takahashi is one of her son Jun’s biggest fans, wearing at least one of his designs each day. She and her husband have been to every one of Undercover’s shows, starting from his first show in Tokyo, to Paris, and even twice to Pitti Uomo in Florence. “I watch each time not knowing anything about the collection, so it is always exciting and filled with surprises,” she says. “As an Undercover fan myself, I look forward to it every season.”
When Jun was a child, she often used to knit her own sweaters. These days she typically dresses in skinny pants, a shirt and sneakers. “Probably I dress younger compared to people of the same age,” she says. “I don’t think about being appropriate for my age, I challenge myself by wearing Undercover to stay young physically and mentally.”
Kyoko especially likes Undercover’s color combinations, and says that even today she continues to wear pieces from many seasons ago. “I wear at least a piece or two of Undercover every day, such as a jacket, pants, T-shirt, sneakers, etc.,” she says. “I also like the accessories.”
Years ago, Jun made his mother a handcrafted jacket with denim on both sides. She cherished it, but the gesture was not repeated. “Looking back I should have probably asked him to make more for me,” she says. “Unfortunately, there is nothing made specially for me these days.”
But even if she has to wear the same pieces as everyone else, Kyoko is pleased to see her son succeeding. “I am proud of how he realized his childhood dream and is working hard to share this with lots of people,” she says. — Kelly Wetherille
Angela Wickstead, mother of Emilia Wickstead
LONDON — Design is a strand of the Wickstead DNA, with mother Angela having run her own ready-to-wear and designer business and who most recently has created a collection of luxury bed, bath and table linens from Italy.
An attention to detail and stylish dress were priorities for mother and daughter alike, wherever they happened to be living, in Auckland, Milan or London.
Angela made most of Emilia’s clothes herself when her daughter was younger, “and we always had lovely shoes sent from Italy for her, which she often disliked as she looked very different to the other little girls at parties and just wanted to fit in,” recalls Angela.
As Emilia grew up, she developed her independent streak and became more experimental with clothing. “She and her friends were always dressing in new and different quirky ways — phases of tomboyish looks and clothing was always layered and layered. She always accessorized, and just had fun as a teenager with her own self-expression.”
Emilia’s fashion intentions started getting more serious when mother and daughter moved from Auckland to Milan.
“Emilia became enchanted with fashion as an industry and in a more feminine, Italian dressed-up sense. Women in Milan were so put together, and she loved it,” Angela says. “I still recall her being mesmerized by designer stores — remember these didn’t exist in New Zealand — their window displays and fashion weeks, which were at our doorstep. Fashion was everywhere and all the time.”
Angela says she’s happy her daughter followed her instincts and made a career in design.
“She would work through the nights constantly, either painting or drawing until early hours of the morning, and was always creating something new. She was always creatively excited. Any free moment she had, that was what she was doing with her door closed, playing music in her bedroom.”
Angela says she would never miss attending an Emilia Wickstead fashion show, and even worked behind the scenes for the first six years as her daughter was setting up the business.
“It’s wonderful now being able to watch them as a guest. It was quite a new experience for me to get used to.” Angela adds that Emilia takes her advice, “and I love that she still asks me for my opinion on things.”
She also wears her daughter’s designs, and Emilia will make her mother clothes for special occasions.
“I love them. I dress quite simply, so the more classic and architecturally cut pieces are my favorites, I love the cut of her trousers, so have quite a few, and I love her new collections as much as her past collections. They are pieces that don’t have a time line to them. I still wear her first season pieces.” — S.C.
Grace Sui, mother of Anna Sui
NEW YORK — What stands out most to Grace Sui is how her daughter built a “family” around her staff, some of whom have been with her for more than 30 years.
“She has worked with the same team of people since her very first show,” says Grace, who has been to almost every one of her daughter’s shows from the first. Last month, she even traveled with her daughter to Xi’an for a Anna Sui fashion show in front of the famous Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.
Grace says even as a young girl, her daughter displayed a talent for fashion.
“From an early age, I remember Anna always wanted to change the design of all her dresses. She was constantly drawing her own versions with paper dolls and sketches, she always wanted something different. Also, she was obsessed with matching her shoes to her outfit,” Grace remembers.
Grace recalls that growing up, her daughter loved Kenzo. “I’d take her shopping with me to all my favorite boutiques like Winkelman’s. One Christmas they had drastically marked down all their Kenzo things. I bought her so many great pieces. She was in heaven,” Grace says.
Her daughter sends her things that she thinks her mother will like every season. In her photo, she is wearing the dragonfly embroidered jacket from Anna Sui’s spring 2019 collection. — L.L.
Katerina Gouma-Katrantzou, mother of Mary Katrantzou
LONDON – “Inexhaustible” is how Katerina Gouma-Katrantzou describes her daughter Mary Katrantzou, who was a multitalented multitasker from the get-go.
“Since she was a little girl, Mary always helped me with my clients. She came to my store and tried to sell things,” says Gouma-Katrantzou, an interior designer based in Greece.
“Mary was always designing, whether on her bed blankets or the walls. Anywhere! At the age of seven, she designed a dress that was incredible. That’s when I knew she was a designer, but I could never imagine that she would take the risk of creating her own brand and be so hardworking.”
Katrantzou’s knack for pattern, shape, color and texture also surfaced early — and her mother was a big influence.
“Mary grew up in a creative environment and during her childhood I tried to encourage her to be creative. I am a huge fan of bright color and I used it extensively in my job, and Mary was surrounded by it.
“When she left [Greece] at the age of 17 to study architecture, I thought she would come back to work with me. However, she chose fashion and I am very happy she made this choice,” she says.
Gouma-Katrantzou admits there was a time when things could have taken a different turn. “While Mary was a student she also told us she wanted to be a lawyer. She is inexhaustible!”
Gouma-Katrantzou attends all of her daughter’s shows, “and each time it is a new experience for me.” She also wears her daughter’s designs, and tends to snap up one or two pieces from each collection.
Katrantzou doesn’t make her mother special items, but that’s fine with Gouma-Katrantzou. “I choose styles from the existing collections. I always find something to be excited by,” she says. — S.C.
Orna Simkhai, mother of Jonathan Simkhai
NEW YORK — “For children to be successful, you have to unconditionally be by their side. You have to take two steps back and just to be there whenever they need you, to give them love and care and moral support that they can do it. And not give advice and say, ‘Do it this way,’” says Orna Simkai.
Keeping in touch has always been a hallmark of their relationship. “I used to text Jonathan every morning, ‘Good Morning Sunshine. You can do it. You’re the best, and try to do your best. Be kind to people around you, show gratitude and appreciation,’” she says.
Whenever she would go to a department store, like Bergdorf Goodman, and tell them that she was Jonathan’s mother, they would say, “Oh, Jonathan Simkhai, he’s so lovable. He hugs us.’”
Orna is no stranger to successful offspring. She has three sons, and her middle son is Joel Simkhai, the founder of Grindr. “He is very successful and I would say he changed the world,” she says. Orna herself owns a successful jewelry business, Shema-Or by Orna Simkhai.
She says she’ll go to all her son’s fashion shows, and a few hours before she’ll go to the hairdresser. She’ll be wearing one of his dresses. In fact, she frequently wears his clothing, especially to go to parties.
“When I go to the shows, I have butterflies. When I’m there, I can not believe it. I’m pinching myself. Is this really my son, Jonathan Simkhai? So many people came there to be a part of his show. I look up to God and say ‘Thank you, I’m grateful to you.’
“So many people want to come up to him. I try to stay in the corner and watch all the people. I’m front row, maybe the second row. This is his time, I have to give the limelight to him. I’m not going backstage, I just watch. I take pictures, and then I go home and make an album and cry with love. And I’m proud of him,” she adds.
Does she ever give him advice on what he should put into his line, and does he take it?
“Yes, he does. He doesn’t want to hurt my feelings and gives me a lot of respect. He’ll say, ‘Send it to me and I’ll use it in my next collection.’”
Asked whether she knew Jonathan would grow up to be a fashion designer, she says, “When he was seven or eight years old, he had this eye for fashion. When he was 12, 13, 14, my friends would say, “Orna, come, let’s go shopping. Bring Jonathan. Let him choose for us, whatever he says, that’s what we’re buying. Since he was 12 years old, he would tell my sister-in-law, or he would tell me, “Mom, I think this skirt doesn’t match that top.’”
Jonathan is married to TJ Allers, and they have a son and daughter, who are 10-month-old twins. “He’s such a dedicated friend, dedicated father to the children, amazing husband and son,” she says.
So how does she plan to celebrate Mother’s Day?
“Jonathan has been invited for the Met Gala. May 6 is his birthday. I always tell him he’s my Mother’s Day gift. He’s going to be 34. This year he was invited to go to the Met Gala, and has designed a dress for his lovely model [Josephine Skriver] to wear. For me, this is the most amazing gift. My son to be at the Met Gala. I don’t have to be there with him. It’s for him. It’s his first time going.
“To see him happy, to see him accomplish such things, this is an amazing Mother’s Day,” she says. — L.L.
Susan Posen, mother of Zac Posen
NEW YORK — From the time Zac Posen was a teenager, his mother, Susan Posen, saw evidence of his design talent.
“Zac’s interest in fashion was evident in early high school at Saint Ann’s in Brooklyn. He began by making dresses for his girlfriends, writing about fashion for the school newspaper and experimenting with his own personal style. His focus and goals have been crystal clear since early adolescence, which a rare thing,” says Susan, chairwoman of House of Z LLC and a former partner at the law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP.
Susan goes to every one of her son’s shows and is always nervous. “I would never miss a show! And yes, I hold my breath for the entire length — all 12 or 15 minutes — of a fashion show. I inhale again as the last model exits the runway,” she says.
She’s always able to find a piece in the collection that she loves and that works for her. “On occasion I have fallen in love with a dress and have had it made up in different colors and fabrics,” she says.
Asked why she believes her son is successful, Susan says, “Zac is a special blend: He combines protean creativity, a finely tuned business head and a warm heart.”
As for how having a designer son has enhanced her life, Susan replies, “His career has given me a passport, both as his mother and as his business partner, providing access to the world of fashion. From the perfect buttonhole to global recognition, it’s been a thrill.” — L.L.
Sue Minkoff, mother of Rebecca Minkoff
NEW YORK — “My goal as a mother was to help my three kids become better human beings, more self-sufficient, harder working and kinder than me. All three of my kids embody that. Rebecca is a shining example of that, in addition to being so gracious with an uncanny, fun sense of humor,” says Sue Minkoff.
The other important thing is that Rebecca cares about helping others, which is manifested in how she supports other female entrepreneurs. “She’s very down to earth. She doesn’t care about fame. Fame is not important to her. She’s the most amazing mother and wife and far surpasses me in that area,” Sue says.
Rebecca was born in San Diego, and the family moved to Clearwater, Fla., when she was 10. Sue says her daughter always showed signs of wanting to become a fashion designer.
“When she was a little girl, at four, she wanted to put together her own clothes. She would wear these pierced earrings with a T-shirt that said ‘Panic’ on it. At eight, she took sewing classes, and when she was 12, she had all these pictures in her mind of what she wanted to design and couldn’t draw those,” she says. So she took a class and was so happy she could put the images on the figures. At 13, Rebecca made her Bat Mitzvah dress with a pattern.
“That was the very last time she ever used a pattern,” Sue says.
Sue says she attends almost all of her daughter’s shows, but doesn’t get anxious about it.
”I don’t get nervous at all. I get so excited to see the aesthetic of the creations. When they added the music that accompanies the designs, it’s a very special moment.”
One moment that stuck out was when Sean Lennon performed at one of her daughter’s shows at Lincoln Center about 10 years ago. He is Rebecca’s contemporary, and John Lennon is hers, music-wise. “Her dad and I pinched each other. We were so proud and happy at how far she had come,” Sue says.
She wears her daughter’s clothes as often as she can, mostly the dresses. “I’m 71, and I don’t fit into all of them, but I look religiously at the web site to see what can I wear. I definitely use the bags and the shoes,” she says.
She’s happy her son, Uri, and daughter are in business together. “They each have their different strengths. He has the business sense and she definitely has the aesthetic and the design sense, and the compassion to help others and other women in the industry. We’re really proud of both of them,” she says.
For the most part, she doesn’t give her daughter design advice. But since she was always using Patagonia fanny packs and backpacks, and felt funny walking around with them, she asked her to design those. “Eventually they did, and that’s what I wear,” she says. — L.L.
Nunzia Officioso, mother of Giuliano and Giordano Calza
MILAN — Down-to-earth, calm and supportive but rather behind the scenes, Nunzia Officioso is a fan of GCDS, the brand founded by her sons Giuliano and Giordano Calza, and the siblings’ career. “I believe that we — as parents — have contributed to this chance to be successful. We were never interested in leaving goods and properties to our children; instead, we wanted to offer them the right assets to face the world on their own,” she says.
While never missing a GCDS runway show from the front row, Officioso, who is 69, is not among the label’s customers, since she feels the brand’s style would be inappropriate for her age and body type and admits she often regrets not being able to wear some of her son’s looks. Her style, while casual, is more grown-up, and over the years, she has sported only a few items from the brand.
“I really love his masterful ability to play with colors and silhouettes that are sometimes unusual,” she says about her son Giuliano’s creativity. His brother manages the business and financial side of the company.
Giuliano, who is 31 and serves as creative director of the brand, “manifested the first signs of a passion for fashion when he was a kid; it was the first time I recognized his talent,” Officioso says, recalling how at age six he stole her sarongs and draped them on his friends’ bodies, during the family’s summer vacations in Punta Licosa, a seaside resort in south Italy. “I was only 13 when I started sewing clothes myself, I guess there’s something genetic about [Giuliano’s passion for fashion],” she says.
While recognizing her son’s talent, Officioso has never been pushy, nor has she ever felt “overexcited for the success,” she says. “As a mother, I’m concerned that he is too young for such a responsibility on his shoulders…as if a part of his youth is getting lost and he is really missing time for himself. It’s not a regret but rather a concern,” she explains, adding that she feels relieved knowing Giuliano works side by side with his brother. “They are complementary, which I think is also one of their strengths. We often say, to make fun of him, that Giuliano doesn’t even know what bills he has to pay,” she says with a laugh. — Martino Carrera
Marie-Jane Henry, mother of Guillaume Henry
PARIS — Clothes shopping with her son wasn’t always a fun experience for Marie-Jane Henry.
“When he was around seven years old, I used to take Guillaume along with me when I went to Dijon to buy clothes for myself and he used to be a bit of a nuisance,” says the 73-year-old retired schoolteacher, who lives in the rural east of France.
“He always had to touch everything — smoothing down creases, replacing a belt. It was evident that he was obsessed with fabrics and fit. Unfortunately, the salespeople weren’t always very understanding,” she says.
The youngest of three sons, Guillaume is best known for his relaunch of famed French brand Carven in 2009. Marie-Jane, who had never heard of the fashion house prior to her son’s appointment, sees a link with the younger Henry’s approach to creation.
“He never used to play with pre-made toys: He always preferred making things from scratch, designing little objects from cardboard, wood, paper, but above all fabric,” says his mother, who, sensing her younger son’s predisposition, bought him his first sewing machine when he was 10 years old.
Fashion shows are intense experiences for Marie-Jane, who lives them as if she were in her son’s head. “I’m not a simple audience member, because I know everything,” says Marie-Jane, who attended Guillaume’s shows at Carven and Nina Ricci, which the designer joined in 2014 before embarking on his next adventure in 2018, the relaunch of French heritage fashion house Jean Patou.
“I’ve been thinking about the best way to describe it to you, and I’ve settled on the image of a wave: It’s charged with all the work I know he’s put in a collection, all the stress, all his dreams, and in 10 minutes it’s over and I see my son breathe. It’s quite a violent moment. Fashion is no walk in the park.”
Despite the emotional charge, Marie-Jane is impatient to discover her son’s debut at Jean Patou, which will take place during Paris Fashion Week in September. “I can sense he is very enthusiastic,” she says. “I can’t wait to see my son’s happiness.” — Fleur Burlet