Stylist, creative director, and new children’s boutique owner Mindi Smith has had a whirlwind, 18-year journey through the children’s wear industry.
Having worn many different hats, Mindi is perfectly positioned for success in her latest undertaking—launching online children’s fashion boutique The Little Red Planet.
I caught up with this enterprising mama in her Brooklyn brownstone where she gave me a peek at her day-to-life and her musings on the current landscape in the kids’ fashion space.
Describe The Little Red Planet's vision.
First and foremost, I have always wanted to open a chic children's boutique. I know and love the children's fashion industry so well from my styling days (18 years) and the challenges of shopping for kids as a mom (12 years). When the opportunity presented itself to finally launch a store, I thought why not turn this into something unique! Curate a store with amazing global designers who design with integrity, use slow manufacturing, GOTS certified where they can and/or give back in some small way. And together as a community launch unique initiatives to bring awareness to and support children's causes near and far.
I have always wanted to create some sort of platform where I could give back. Create a community of like-minded women/people who want to help shift things for the better on our planet. I wasn't sure how that would manifest but the seed was planted years ago.
My daughter and muse Mars has always been so empathetic to others in the crazy world we live in and constantly brings my attention to their stories. She also has a style all her own! I wanted to build something with her and for her. I think it's important to realize the social value of children today. They are the "secret sauce" for the preservation of our planet.
If you could go back and give a pearl of wisdom/advice to yourself as a creative entrepreneur, what would it be?
Ask me this question in 6 months! No, I think the main thing I am learning is to go easy on yourself. When you are in charge, you determine the time line, you make the decisions, trust your instincts and don't follow others’ rules. Be BOLDLY not for everyone.
How has the kids fashion industry changed since you started out?
It's so different! When I started styling in NYC around 2003, there were only a few of us stylists and only a handful of smaller boutiques. We didn't have smart phones or social media to help discover designers. You really had to know your way around and sourcing something meant knocking on shop doors, meeting the owners, learning the designers, going to the few showrooms in person, attending trade shows, etc.
But we worked NON-STOP as stylists. And the few stores here did very well especially if they carried EU brands. Now both markets are quite saturated. And fast fashion has sadly started eating up the market. I have faith we can turn this around though!
What is your approach to buying?
Have you ever thought about opening a brick and mortar?
All day every day. I LOVE creating spaces. Soon!
How do you incorporate social responsibility into your business?
It's threaded throughout. From the buying to the packaging to the charitable initiatives. For instance, our first initiative is to help support the design school at Africa New Life in Rwanda. We are partnering with our designers to donate leftover trimmings and fabric from past seasons to the school so that children may learn to work with handmade textiles to create sustainable skills for their future.
What designer or designers are new to your shop that you have recently discovered?
Well, obviously I love all of them! But recently I did fall in love with Laura Colchik and her designs out of Belgium. Simple, chic but really well-made boiler suits, coats, pants, and apron dresses in beautiful color tones. And with every piece she sells she donates to the Tree Conservatory so a win-win there.
What is your philosophy on social media in the kid's fashion space?
Both good and bad. It is fun and creative for sure and an easy way to check out what others are doing. And it has definitely helped get the name of designers and boutiques out there and helps with sourcing, etc, but it's also become so over saturated and abused—and highly addictive!
I think smart shop owners, and designers have to realize that unless you convert the social media audience to for example customers or at least newsletter subscribers, you don't really own the audience. The rules (and algorithms) constantly change as we've seen with Facebook. It's a cherry on top when it works, but you cannot rely on social media alone.
What is the role of your daughter Marley in the family business?
Letting her be involved as much as she would like. She's got a good sense of style for sure and keeps me current! She will have a section on the site called Mars Picks where we highlight her favorite pieces each month.