With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we are going to highlight one Windy City Mom that is transforming the closets of chic Chicago babies. Gone are the days where Mom’s can only rely on their nearest Baby Gap to find an in-trend baby item.  With Lincoln Park’s Monica + Andy, Chicago Mom’s and their bouncing tots have quite the haven of all things Baby. From comfortable onesies, baby gift sets, and Mommy and me classes, Monica + Andy is your one stop shop for all of your baby needs.  After a conversation with founder Monica Royer, along with a visit to the spacious and posh store it’s safe to say that Monica + Andy is exactly what every mother needs. Without further ado, here is my chat with Monica.

Monica + Andy

TCL: How did the idea for Monica + Andy come about? 

MR: I was in the hospital just after my daughter was born. She was smaller than the newborn sizes I had found were fitting. I was also unimpressed with the fabrics on the clothing once I saw them touching her skin.  As I started to online shop from my hospital bed I was surprised at what I wasn’t finding online.  I couldn’t get a good look at the fabrics and exactly had no idea what they would “feel ” like when they arrived.  It was shortly after I began work on the brand.  I was home with my daughter so for the first three years I really worked during her nap times and in the evening.

TCL: The Monica + Andy brand prides itself on being “For Moms by Moms” what would you say are the core values of the Monica + Andy brand? 

MR: We aspire to be the most thoughtful children’s brand ever created”  That is meant to be on a number of different areas.  The first is that there are so many moms that work on the essence of the brand with me.  We have our “mom board of directors” and we all look at the sample pieces to see if we really LOVE them.  If we are not obsessed with something we won’t make it ourselves.   We aim to surprise and delight our customers from the way their gifts are packaged to exceptional customer service.  We aspire to be a great environment to work.   The number one quality we look for beyond if someone is of course, qualified to do their job is.. Are they empathetic?  Are they kind?  These are two incredibly important qualities at Monica + Andy.  We love working with great people.  Lastly whoever works for us has to love kids.  We have them running all over the office.  From bringing our own kids into classes at the guide shop, we have a store filled with laughter love and a whole lot of chaos.

TCL: With a variety of children’s clothing stores out there, what would you say distinguishes M + A from other children’s store brands?

MR: We are a multidimensional brand with not only our first guide shop here in Chicago but an e-commerce business as well.   Our guide shop is not just a store front.  We host a multisite of classes for babies, tots, pregnant and new moms.  I wanted a bustling environment where we utilized our space to be a gathering spot for families.  After the birth of my daughter, I left my corporate job and was home with her.  It was a wonderful time, but I was also a little lonely in the beginning.  I went from always being out with other adults to being home in the middle of winter with a new baby.  I cherished the classes I discovered for new moms and babies and begin to make new friends.  I wanted Monica + Andy to be that spot for new moms.  I think this feeling of community coupled with our focus on customer service sets us apart.  Beyond all that it starts with a product.  We work hard to make our product something we are proud of.  From the feel of the fabric to the fit and the packaging, we aim to delight.

Monica + Andy

TCL: In adult clothing celebrities and fashion designers set the trends, what are the style influences of the M + A brand?

MR: This is a fun question.  For boys clothing, we love www.bonobos.com!  For girls clothing, we take inspiration from so many different places.  When we designed our PrimaBellarina tulle dress I had Sarah Jessica Parker in mind.  I was tired of the puffy tulle I was finding for little girls and wanted something chic and elegant (yet playful)  When I design dresses for girls I make what I would want to wear and then shrink it down to baby size.  For the Azeeza collaboration, I was of course so influenced by my friend and incredible designer Azeeza Khan.  In my mind, she is truly a design genius.  Using her inspiration for beautiful tulle, french lace and fringe I think we created fun statement dresses for that very special occasion.   Around the HQ these days all of us are also wearing www.ayr.com for the casual chic.  Know doubt you will begin to see these influences come through in our coming lines.  From their incredible destroy denim to the high waisted jeans we are obsessed!

As far as baby goes I have always been really inspired by nature.  Our patterns all come from things my daughter and I have seen on trips to the zoo or in stories that she likes to read.  From the fox (based on the Fennick Fox at the Lincoln Park zoo) to the whale (which was inspired by our trips to the Aquarium  and the belugas (although it is not a Beluga whale) I love to work with what she is inspired by in person and in the books she reads.

unnamed-3

TCL: With fashion week, we have seen tons of trends, what types of trends can we expect in children’s clothing this Spring?

MR: For spring I think for baby that soft pastel colors and mix and match patterns are in.  We love combining our yellow polka dot and our grey and white stripe blanket.  Grey is such a powerful baby color and is the new gender-neutral.  Instead of spring being all about matching I think it is all about combing different patterns and looks and putting it all together. We work hard to make sure all of our colors feel nice together and so you can combine almost anything we have in baby to make a fun combo.  Even the purple polka dots and navy whales can come together to be fun.

TCL: The fabric of M+A clothing is free from harmful chemicals that may be seen in other types of clothing. Can you explain why it is important for these chemicals to be absent from children’s clothing and what are the negative impacts these chemicals can have on the child?

MR: After having a baby and seeing how soft and beautiful their skin is it got me started thinking about what is in the fabrics.  All of our fabrics are phthalate, lead and flame retardant free.  Beyond that they are incredibly soft.  What touches your babies skin first matters and we want to present the best possible product for babies.

Monica + Andy

TCL: Describe the M+A child. (What type of child wears Monica + Andy)

 MR: The M+A child is exploring, learning and growing so much every day.  The mom wants both fashion and function.  When I had my daughter I felt there were two types of clothes. Her play clothes for home and her more fashionable clothes for being out.  We try to combine both of these so they can play and have fun while they are wearing our clothing.
TCL: Spring can be a tricky season in terms of deciding what one should wear. Some days it’s cold, some days it’s warm. What items from the M+A collection are perfect for spring? 

MR: I agree!  Spring is so crazy here in Chicago.  Especially this spring!  For babies and toddlers a sweater is always a great layering piece.  Our organic Hemingway sweater is great for girls or boys and adds a great extra piece.  I don’t go anywhere in spring with my daughter without this tucked into our bag…..Also our Luxury Muslin Always blanket is a favorite.  It an be put over a stroller or wrap the baby up in it if it gets chilly.

TCL: The clothes are absolutely adorable and I’ve spotted a few pieces that I wish were in my size. What item from the M+A collection do you wish they had in your size?

 MR: Thanks!  I wish our PrimaBellarina tulle dresses were in my size for sure! Actually make that any dress!  I am dress obsessed!  And of course, every Azeeza piece but then of course I can just shop at www.azeeza.com.  We are also working on a vegan leather jacket for fall that I am super excited about!

TCL: There are many closet essentials within anyone’s closet. What would you say is a must have item any child needs to have in their closet?
MR: For babies it is a good strolling blanket!  You have to have a good multipurpose blanket that you can use for anything.  It is great for strolling, changing, sleeping and travel
MONICA&ANDY_JAN2015_0252801
Photo Credit: Maria Ponce
TCL: What’s next for M+A?

MR: Our VIP gift concierge!  We love being a gifting solution for people (many without kids) that are in need of exceptional baby gifts.  We don’t even want you to have to come online.  You can email us at [email protected] with price range and gender (or gender neutral) and we will put together a package and send out.  We love making gifting easier!

I had so much fun chatting with Monica. She even gave me milk and cookies! If you would like to learn even more about Monica + Andy, check out Monicaandandy.com