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Just four years ago, Lauren Antos and Jennifer Baron took on the entrepreneurial challenge of starting a clothing line. Having bonded over past internships in New York, the two ladies possessed a varied skill set to launch their label, Lily & Migs. In the seasons since, the brand has put out effortless, feminine pieces for women on-the-go. The duo splits its efforts between Boston and Chicago—not a task for the weak of heart. We chatted with Lauren about Betsey Johnson sensibilities, the pros and cons of working outside of NYC or LA, and what to expect for Spring and Fall 2013.
You and Jen met at Betsey Johnson. What was the path that you took from meeting each other to starting a brand?
When our internship finished we just went back home and we stayed in touch. Then we got asked to go back and host Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, so it was very fun to do the whole tent thing at Bryant Park. After leaving there, I got a job offer in their sales office at the showroom; she already had her own line, [it was a] little bit smaller line. And so I called her and said "Okay, I'm either making this move with my kids or what? What am I doing?" We talked awhile and we decided to give it a go. And that's how it started.
What has been the most challenging aspect of getting the label off the ground?
Money and representation. I mean, you can't represent yourself. Well you can, don't get me wrong, but it's really hard to. It doesn't look as professional and people don't take you seriously.
Yes, super competitive. And obviously we went that route because its usually the first route you go unless you have a huge backer and we were just self-backing ourselves. It was just our own money that we were dumping into it. After realizing we kind of needed to do something else I reached out to Christina K. Pierce, who had just started her whole agency. I don't think they even had a space yet. We met and we signed with them and it's been awesome.
What made you and Jen decide to run the company from two different cities? Just convenience?
Yeah, neither of us are moving. We did for a little bit think about moving to Chicago but then life-stuff happened. I got divorced and I can't move and she's definitely not coming here.
How do you juggle that? How are the creative duties split between the two of you when you're not physically together?
First off what I have to say is thank God for technology. Otherwise, no way Jose, someone would have to move. Skype, create huge styleboards, PDFs of inspiration. We talk for the initial couple of hours then she'll go sketch. She'll tell you I suck at sketching [laughs]. Then we'll go back and forth and then we'll come up with the whole collection.
So it's very collaborative.
Yeah, we even do fittings via Skype.
Yeah. I used to be the fit model but I have scoliosis and all the things were kind of going to the side. It's kind of nice because she has a studio space there. Jen does all the patterns and design.
Who is the Lily & Migs girl?
It's a girl who wears many hats. That is who Jen and I are...we design a little bit for ourselves. We're both moms, and obviously are working as entrepreneurs. I'm divorced, she is married, so there are two aspects there. I travel a lot, she does not. So we kind of mix it all together, and we don't like to pinpoint the age, which lets us have a broad customer. As we've been going along we keep thinking about demographic. For example, we used to use a lot of chiffon. Well, you can't wear chiffon every day if you're a mom. So we've been working with knits and things that are comfy.
Is it tricky to balance a business with being a mom? Is it hard to navigate or do the functions feed off of each other?
Yes, it's tricky, and it's not just a 9-5 office job that you shut off. Thank god we are both moms and can understand each other. We're flexible. If you're not good at time management or don't have patience, this isn't for you. You have to know when to fit in a half hour of creating a press kit or a social media post. You have to pick and choose.
Have you ever thought of doing a kid's line?
We get asked to do a little girls line a lot, and it's not a no. But it's more like once we "make it" we'll think about that. We haven't quite made it yet (laughs).
Where do you see the line in a year from now?
Hopefully with a major account like CUSP or a well known e-commerce site, or Nordstrom. We've really been able to beef up our boutique list, and that is the next step.
What are the pros and cons of working from Boston and Chicago rather than working from NY or LA?
Say one of us were in NY—there are so many showrooms and agencies that you kind of get lost in the shuffle a little bit. Here, the group is tighter, it's more of a family. It's a caring thing. And it's nice to have the style influence from both cities. Though if you ask Jen, my style is more LA even though I live in Boston. I think you can make it work wherever, whenever.
Do you interact much with other local designers? Does it feel like a community?
David Chum—I've known him since 2009, when we were doing our first fashion shows together and were kind of lost. He's a sweetheart. Samuel Vartan is a good one. It's very supportive, not secretive.
What can shoppers look forward to with your spring collection?
We added knits. There are some stripes, florals. The more popular pieces were the knits. We always wanted to add them. People want to go out and feel like they're in their pjs but sexier. I always like when I can get home and not feel the need to take my clothes off right away. You know, when I'm comfy enough to sit on the couch.
Do you tend to gravitate toward florals?
No, it's a whole myriad of prints. Though I'm not a huge leopard print fan. For fall we designed our own print.
What are you excited about for next season?
We introduced a new ponte knit. It's thicker and has a body-slimming effect, almost like Spanx. We added another knit almost like a pima cotton with some stretch. It's like silk, but cotton.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Jen and I both love the Lower East Side in NY. A lot of people watching. We do always try to incorporate a peplum; we've done that from day one.
Are there any Betsey Johnson sensibilities in your work or workflow?
In the actual designs we are definitely flirty, ruffles, young. As far as workflow we're both really laid back and like to have fun. We danced down the runway at our last show.
No cartwheels though?
[Laughs] No, I usually pull something when I do that for my daughter.
· Lily & Migs [Official Site]