Folks We Love with Whitney Lundeen from Sonnet James
Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you've come to arrive here.
I started Sonnet James in January 2013. I feel like I kept my style together pretty well after my first son was born. But after my second son was born, I was wearing Uggs and sweatpants everyday. I started thinking, “why do my hair, why do my makeup?” This lack of self-care began affecting me in a lot of ways. It really affected my self-esteem and I was getting a little depressed. I didn’t feel like there was an option for clothes that mothers could wear everyday that were “realistic”, but still fashionable. So I decided to do something about it – I decided to create a market for beautiful play-clothes. Something that was just as easy to throw on as my Uggs and sweatpants, but made me feel beautiful instead of frumpy.
I was a single mom and after putting the boys to bed, I would come straight downstairs and would roll out the thing of butcher paper. I had bought a bunch of books about how to draft patterns. It was the most aggravating, frustrating learning curve. But it all happened on my kitchen floor. I would use my little boy’s children's books as weights to hold the pattern down. It was basically one month straight of me working from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m every night, doing things I never ever imagined I could do.
Who's in your family? Ages? Names?
Satchel (age 9) and Eero (age 6) are my two sons.
How did you choose your kids names?
Eero is named after Eero Saarinen, a Finnish Architect. Satchel is named after Satchel Paige the American baseball player.
I currently live in sunny Palo Alto, CA.
I’m the founder and creative director of Sonnet James.
How did Sonnet James come to be?
So I was in therapy processing a lot of things — my parents’ divorce, my marriage, it was all sort of tied together. I realized I was in this cycle of dysfunction, I felt like I was continuing what my parents had started. I was emotionally gone at that time and I needed something physical to constantly remind myself to be present. Part of my therapy project was to do activities I had done in my childhood. I remembered that when I was little, I loved to do fashion sketches, and I had once drawn a dress for my mom to try to remind her to play with me. That’s where the magic started. It came from a place of pain, but also a place of hope. Life is full of unexpected things, you know? Every day is tough in its own way, but I feel our job as humans is to really understand that the pain is always going to be there, but choosing happiness, joy, play, engagement, love over hate is what’s important. I think there are a lot of moms going through painful things – we need to do everything we can to give each other a source of hope. Because being a present mother is the most important job in the world and it needs all the support it can get.
On New Year’s Eve 2012 I decided to make Sonnet James a reality. I started to sketch, pattern-draft and sew, and before long I had created 12 distinct dresses. When I tested the dresses with other moms, I realized I was meeting a fundamental need for mothers everywhere.
What is the most challenging thing about being a mom and working? What helps you to find balance?
I do my best to finish my work before the boys get home from school so that I can be a present mom. As soon as they get home, I stop what I’m doing to focus on them and talking about their days at school. Sometimes I might need to work once they are asleep but putting them to bed is very important to me.
What's on your manifest board?
Quotes that I love, polaroids of me and my loved ones, photos of mothers, and tons of patterns and fabric swatches.
What is your favorite book?
Le Mis and Harry Potter.
How do you unwind?
My bed is my safe place. As an introvert, I need alone time to recharge and this usually looks like me laying in bed watching Friends after a hot bath.
Tell us some of your most loved ways to spend the day with your clan?
We love being active– riding bikes and skateboards to the park or heading to the Farmer’s Market on weekends.
What was the best and worst thing about giving birth?
Best: hormones, getting a baby!, power, confidence.
Worst: recovery and lack of sleep.
What is something you wish you had known before having kids?
That all my childhood issues would come out being a parent. My best advice is to see a therapist before you have kids.
When you were a teenager what did you dream of? Do things look different?
Getting out of Glendale, AZ and living in a big city. I dreamt of being the mom in Parent Trap (the new one).
Where do your passions lie? What are some things you really believe in?
My passions lie in being a playful, present mom. I strive to make moms feel beautiful. I want to help empower other women. I believe in caring for others and the environment. I'm passionate about supporting women and children, education, stopping abuse towards women and children, supporting diversity, and EMPOWERING MOTHERS.
What are some of your favorite life lessons you've grown to love? (even if learning them at the time was hard)
Being broke as an 18 year old and working cleaning houses for $7 an hour and having to take the bus to get to my jobs. I certainly learned the value of the dollar!
What do you wish you could've told yourself when you were a teenager?
BE BRAVE, make more mistakes. Love yourself, you’re incredible.
What do you find most challenging about being somebody's parent?
Trying not to control them, holding firm on boundaries, and unconditional love.
What do you want your kids to learn about the world?
That being a white American male means they have a huge responsibility to understand (the best they can) and fight discrimination, sexism, and racism of all kinds. That women are their equals. That women are not objects. That we are all brothers and sisters. That there is a God who loves them.
What advice would you give a parent-to-be?
Don’t panic. When your child walks into the room, light up!
What is the best advice you have every received?
What are 4 things you can't live without as a parent?
- Tangle Teaser hair comb
- Baby wipes
contributed by Kacy Byxbee, editor, Your Zen Mama