It’s September 6th, 2016 and it’s officially back-to-school around here! While we don’t have any little ones just yet, my husband Luke is a CPS teacher and the Chicago kids begin after Labor Day. Whether you’re back to school already, or today’s the day, I wanted September’s feature to have to do with kiddos. And let me tell you, if you dress your kid in one of Lillabarn’s outfits for the first day of school they’ll be the cutest, most comfy and stylish little person around!
Let me introduce you to Bergen Anderson owner and creator at Lillabarn – clothes and accessories with an urban edge for kids and babies everywhere. Bergen welcomed me and photographer Ania Sodziak into her home last month, and we had a ball getting a glimpse into her very creative (and dare I say ‘Wes Anderson’ esque abode) and studio. Her Scandinavian roots shine through in her design aesthetic, which feels very refreshing in an American home! She’s got some wonderful and practical advice to share, and with her second baby on the way she’s glowing in these pictures.
Thanks to Ania Sodziak for the beautiful photographs to accompany the interview.
Centered By Design: Women Who MAKE Interview – LILLABARN CLOTHING
What is your first memory of making [art]/being creative?
I grew up in a family of makers where being creative was a part of our daily life. I remember sitting up to the counter and drawing with my mom. I remember making paper and books and marbling. I remember learning how to sew.
How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner?
My last “office” job was with a very small business where I was one of only a few employees at the beginning. We all wore many hats. It was there that my love of processes and spreadsheets began as well as my knowledge of Quickbooks and Trello and other operational apps and programs. I also run a small non-profit theatre company that requires a lot of creativity, initiative, and patience.
These two jobs plus my theatre degree (which basically can be applied to anything) gave me a good solid business base to build on. That being said, I’m still learning.
Tell us about the process of launching your own business. Best parts? Biggest challenge?
I’ve always been a maker. That was a really important part of my growing up. My mom and siblings are also makers. When I was pregnant with Johanna (my daughter), my nesting manifested in sewing. I couldn’t find the type of baby clothes I wanted for my daughter, so I just made them. Then after Jo was born, I just kept making and making. Friends and family suggested that I make clothes and sell them, so I opened an Etsy shop with my mom and sister in 2011. It’s really a family business: my mom and I design and stitch and my sister designs and prints all of our tees and does our graphics and identity work. It’s a great team. Seriously.
In 2013 we decided to launch our own site independent from Etsy. From there the business has grown organically. We do events, we meet people, we collaborate and connect.
Now it’s 2016 and I’m pregnant with our second child. Lilla Barn continues to change and grow. We’ve moved to designing and producing seasonal collections for the little ones and even a few pieces here and there for women. We’ve experimented with fabric dying and will have a new Gift/Homegoods section in our online shop this fall.
Focus and balance are two of the biggest challenges I face with my business. There are so many things I COULD do, narrowing down what needs to come next is often hard. And as a mother/wife/business owner/maker/woman, sometimes it feels like there is never balance.
What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?
I love meeting other mamas who have their own businesses. That’s so inspiring to me. It’s nice to hear that we face the same challenges and enjoy some of the same rewards. Since I work with design and textile, I get a lot of inspiration from visual art. Museums are always good. I love bright colors and abstract patterns. I take a lot of inspiration from Nordic design and styles (I have Swedish heritage and also have lived in Sweden and Norway at different times in my life). Marimekko is a favorite of mine. I also love Lotta Jansdotter who is a fabulous Swedish textile/print designer.
What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs?
Ask other female entrepreneurs lots of questions. Make friends. Connect and build relationships. Be open to change. Be patient.
Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?
I only use textiles and design garments that I love. That way, everything we make makes me happy. Our designs often include bold patterns and bright colors – both design elements that I absolutely adore.
Imagine your business in five years. How would you like to grow?
Good question. I’d love to get to the point where we are designing our own fabrics. Right now I’m in a bit of pregnancy haze so hopefully I’ll have more clarity on this soon.
Do you have a most popular item?
This past summer, our art leggings were super popular. The fabric print is extremely unique, multi-seasonal, and totally gender-neutral. Our ninja pants are also a best-seller. Everyone buys them. They are perfect for a baby shower gift AND they can accommodate a cloth diaper. Bonus.
What do you enjoy most about the creative community here in Chicago?
There is a huge creative/maker community in Chicago that is immensely supportive of each other. You only have to reach out and you’ll fine camaraderie, support, and friendship.
Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?
Absolutely. Whenever I’m working in my studio, my mind is relaxed and content. A lot of it is the design process itself but it’s also the process of working with my hands. I’m extremely tactile. Building, making, and creating are ways for me to disconnect and refresh.
Bergen’s Chicago Favorites:
See you next month with an all new Women Who MAKE interviewee!
Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!