Going back to the basics was a serious no-brainer for former fashion retail executive turned mompreneur Shennel Fuller, founder of our favorite new, ultra cool, unisex kid’s brand Miles and Milan. Short on time but definitely not style and sick of the cheesy, loud (AKA tacky AF) prints available for babes, she took a leap of faith and decided to manufacture the versatile, high quality gender-neutral basics she wished her own son owned. Hence, Miles and Milan was born! Below, we chat with Shennel on building her business from the ground up, learning to embrace the chaos along the way and how real her hubby actually keeps it, plus those damn toddler food wars.
Q: You’ve worked for some really cool brands (Levis, Converse, etc.) in the past! What made you take the leap from retail exec to kid’s clothing designer?
A: As a first time mom, I was drowning in worry over every little thing development wise. Why isn’t he rolling over? How many words should he have at this month? Mom guilt is real and cruel. On top of that, I went from being a very punctual person to always late and that drove me crazy. In an effort to keep my family on time, I started foregoing my usual fashion sense and dressing my son in wear and tear clothing with obnoxious prints. Meanwhile, I adopted a sleek uniform of classic tees, ripped jeans, and a fedora (to hide bad hair days, of course). I would get compliments on how great I looked and, in the back of my mind, I was thinking how this took no time or thought at all, but I felt comfortable and confident. I saw a gap in the industry for no-fuss, quality basics to create the same effortless look and, thus, Miles and Milan was created! Taking it a step further, I combined milestone development content for each size level to keep parents informed of the stages ahead and hopefully ease the worry as their own children mature.
Q: Leaving the security and comfort of the corporate world with a little one must have been tough. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a Mompreneur so far?
A: So many! Working for corporate has its stresses, no doubt and, if you love what you do, you never really leave it at the office. Founding a company has all the same stresses, but the only difference is you’re the pioneer! Everything starts and stops with you. Every day you have to ask yourself if you want to keep going to find the “promise land” and set up camp or quit the journey. The self-motivation it takes to build a dream and be present at home is a major challenge and honestly separates the dreamers from the leaders. You’ll eventually find out which one you are.
Q: Describe Miles and Milan in a few words.
A: Dreamy soft, timeless, no fuss clothing in three colors (black, white and grey). The perfect mix and match pieces to create an effortless uniform.
Q: All your clothes are manufactured in LA (your home). Why is this important to you?
A: I’m a bit of a control freak and somewhat impatient (working on that). I like to be able to be a part of the process and quality control as it’s happening.
Q: Everything is insanely soft! Tell us, what’s your secret?
A: Thanks! I care a lot about feel. I can pick out my styles in a basket full of other brands just based on touch. All the fabrics are enzyme washed and softened before we even begin the sewing process.
Q: You originally created the brand with gifting in mind. What makes Miles and Milan the perfect present for a new mom?
A: I appreciated every single baby gift I got while pregnant, but I noticed a common theme: pink or blue and ballet or baseball. Nothing really fit my household style. I knew my friends knew me and what I personally liked, but this was just the industry norm. When you give Miles and Milan, not only are you gifting quality, but you’re also giving the parent a blank canvas to style as they wish. You can pair our pieces with a tutu, tie-dye pants or a leather jacket; its not predetermined. PLUS, I’ve added the milestone cards to help new parents discover important clues about growth and development ahead.
Q: Fave brands to pair Miles and Milan with?
A: We are the new classic so I like to pair high and low, from Stella to Levis.
Q: Fave womenswear brands for yourself?
A: Monse, Alexander Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim
Q: Biggest Miles and Milan moment to date?
A: There are so many moments that I didn’t give the proper celebration they deserved! I’ve decided to make more of an effort to be in the present and celebrate everything. Right now, I’m most excited about my first ever Miles and Milan Mommy Meet Up at HATCH in Santa Monica on 4/20! My goal for this day is to create a safe, inclusive and educational space for moms to learn from each other and experts, discover new products and most importantly, SMILE!
Q: First person you go to for business advice?
A: My Husband! He is my rock, and we are brutally honest with one another. We don’t sugar coat things. He will tell me if something is bad or if I was wrong in my approach, and I know he means no harm. I love and appreciate that.
Q: In an interview with Forbes you mention how funding is way more challenging for black women. How has this influenced your path? Are there any other unique challenges you’ve faced as a woman of color (or simply as a female) in the fashion startup world?
A: Fortunately, I have been able to bootstrap my business to date and haven’t had to seek outside capital. Still, as I go out looking to build my brand and partner with other companies or influencers, I can’t help but notice that most faces don’t look like mine and there are instances where I’m not invited to sit at the table for one reason or another. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have the support of the people that are in my corner (regardless of color) and for that I am forever grateful.
Q: Best (or worst!) parenting advice you’ve received?
A: Best: Let them be kids. Stop trying to build mini soldiers. I am very type A and orderly, but I’m learning to embrace and add a little chaos to our home from time to time.
Q: Any epic #momfail moments that stand out?
A: Yes! People are lying if they say they don’t. I fight my son every day on the importance of eating his meals, and at the same time I probably consume one whole meal a day based on tiny bites here and there.
Q: If someone only knew you from social media, how would they describe your life/experience as an entrepreneur? If they could see the reality behind the scenes, what would they see instead?
A: Chic with a little added humor. Behind the scenes there’s lots of humor, and I’m really good at organized chaos.
Q: Favorite local store?
A: Does a coffee shop count? I only shop online.
Q: Favorite local restaurant?
A: Somni in LA. It’s insanely delicious and beautiful.
Q: Favorite local kid’s activity?
A: Ladybug Music. My kids love music, and I love to see the development through rhythm and sound.
Q: Fave Miles and Milan item right now?
A: I’m loving the romper! It was just featured in Cosmo as a great Mother’s Day gift for new moms.