Little girls dressed in Saurette have something in common: they all look like they went shopping in their mom’s closet.
And that’s just how designer and founder Lisa Kanouse wants it.
The Detroit-native-turned-Manhattanite creates whimsical clothing with soft lines and materials that appeal to trendy women, but are cut for the pint sized – – oftentimes leaving their moms a touch green with envy.
Lisa visited with Charm City fans during her first-ever Baltimore-area trunk show last Friday at Wee Chic – A Baby Boutique, and was kind enough to spend a little time with me chatting about designing, running her own business, her new line and being a working mom.
Like many moms trying to balance family and work life, Lisa runs her business from a home office, which gives her the flexibility to help out at the school during her sons’ lunchtimes. Ironically, it was the school playground where Lisa found inspiration to create her clothing line.
“Little girls, even 5 or 6 year olds, love to talk about fashion,” said Lisa. “And even at that young age, they are asking for particular styles and items. It’s amazing how much they talk about it – – even on the playground!”
Lisa’s collection is full of practical pieces that have unexpected details. Pink and purple are always a part of each season’s color palate – – those are the colors girls respond to right? Then there are ruffles, ruffles and ruffles. The tiered ruffle skirt has a best seller for Saurette, and so in subsequent collections you’ll see ruffles used in new ways. You’ll find smocking on a block pant or an applique flower that pops off the back of a pima cotton dress.She commissions fine artists to design her t-shirt graphics, so her shirts are not your typical vanilla character tees.
Another feature Lisa takes to heart? Wearability. Pieces need to go from season to season, and from playtime to dinner at Grandma’s house. The same pair of leggings in her collection can be worn cropped, long, scrunched or folded.
I asked her an incredibly unfair question because “dressing up” is on every mom’s mind this time of year: which piece in the holiday collection is her favorite? (I know. It’s like asking which child do you like best…) She immediately chose a pink and purple floral print sleeveless dress with yellow mesh trim at the hemline. The dress feels holiday because of the cut and can be paired with a cardigan for winter. The color palate and sleeve length take it right into spring.
Although she ultimately calls her own shots when it comes to designing her pieces, Lisa is incredibly attuned (and better yet – – interested!) in what her customers have to say.
“I have two little boys of my own. I know that if I put something on them that has a scratchy tag at the neck, it’s coming off immediately,” said Lisa. “Everything in my collection has to be comfortable – – so I ask everyone, the five year old fit model if she’s happy in [the clothing.] It could be the most beautiful dress but if she’s not happy, it’s not getting worn and Mom just wasted her money.”
Color, style and fabric choice initially attracted Wee Chic owner Bridget Stickline to the collection. Lisa’s unassuming, proactive customer service skills keep her buying the collection each season.
“I love working with designers that have the same hands on approach to service and client happiness that I do, Lisa fits that bill,” said Bridget Stickline, whose store is Saurette’s exclusive Baltimore area retail boutique. “She is really involved in her business and loves interacting with her end-consumer. Last Fall Lisa worked directly with one of Wee Chic’s clients to commission a dress for her daughter.”
Not surprisingly, Lisa thinks that if a movie was made about her life, the lead song would be Michael Jackson’s Working Night and Day. That’s nothing any other mom could relate to, right?
Many thanks to Lisa for sharing, Wee Chic for hosting us for the interview, and Laura Black from Laura Black Photography for the images.