Out of Office is a regular feature of brands we love—and we think you will too! Each of the brands we highlight must meet three criteria: 1) have a woman in charge; 2) create sustainably, responsibly, and thoughtfully; and 3) fit in with the lives we’re actually living. Read on to find out more about this week’s brand, the lady behind it all, and the advice she has for women everywhere.
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Lali Kids was a natural choice for our first Out of Office feature. HealthyWay is a St. Louis-based company, so we’re always excited to shout out brands from our hometown! Lali Kids, which was founded in St. Louis in 2013, is a fresh, sustainable clothing brand for girls 6 months through 12 years old.
The company is named after a nickname founder Kinnari McDevitt’s grandmother used to call her: Lali, which means “little darling” in Hindi. Now, McDevitt focuses on creating playful clothing for little darlings everywhere, with silhouettes and prints inspired by her childhood in India.
McDevitt, a former engineer and a self-described obsessive of artisan textiles, is the brand’s chief designer: She hand-draws each print herself! Occasionally, she’ll find artisan textiles, like hand-woven jacquards, in markets in India that they can use as well; she says, “It’s all about layering different textures and colors to tell a story.”
The prints are then set by a print designer and screen-printed by hand, leading to playful imperfections and unique details in every piece. The workers in their primary factory in India are mothers whose work with Lali allows them to earn a fair, living wage and spend time with their families—Lali is an example of clothing that’s good for everyone involved.
On this side of the world, McDevitt and her team of just three employees are responsible for design, prototyping, shipment, and marketing in their St. Louis studio. The brand, which launched their first collection in 2015, has come a long way in just a few short years. You can now buy Lali clothing at more than 60 retailers in six countries, including Anthropologie(!), and they’re working on their AW 2018 collection, which will include their first little boys’ line.
Lali perfectly combines one-of-a-kind fabrics, fresh Americana style, and fun pops of color reminiscent of saris in Indian markets in dozens of pieces you’ll feel good putting your little darling in.
HealthyWay’s Picks from Lali Kids
We love this sweet Maggie dress (great name, by the way) in Blue Jambdani; its swingy silhouette is perfect for running around on hot summer evenings. Have a smaller darling? The Baby Ari set in Blue Jambdani uses the blue fabric from the dress and couples it with hot pink bloomers. This pair would be perfect for a big/little sis photo!
If your girl’s the type to play hard, get her into the Embroidery shorts in peach or chambray to pair with whatever shirt she grabs that day. Or scoop up the Polly playsuit, which will look adorable over a onesie or t-shirt or all by itself.
Don’t forget the accessories: Their tassel bracelets come in blue, green, and pink so you’ve got all your bases covered. We also love the Jacquard purses for holding little treasures; we’re particularly partial to Aqua Dot.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Q+A with Kinnari McDevitt
What’s your why behind the brand? What inspired you to start Lali Kids?
I worked as an engineer for a big corporation and felt miserably uninspired with the routine and structure of it. I had an undying thirst for creativity that was not being quenched.
My childhood was spent in India, where the textiles and artisan crafts are like none other, and right around the time I got married, my husband and I made the trip back to that gorgeous country. That’s when it all clicked.
I felt that there was a gap in the children’s market for clothing made of unique artisan textiles. I didn’t even have kids at this point, but I wanted to bring the beauty of my own childhood into the U.S. market.
And, you know, be my own boss.
Walk us through your typical workday.
Our work days vary a lot depending on where we are with a collection. Most days, I wake up with my 2-year-old son’s happy chatter as my husband is getting ready to leave for work. I have my morning chai and get the little guy ready for school.
Alex, my design editor (and best friend), drops him off while I start calling our manufacturers in India. I deal with our supply chain, design, and production, and she takes care of shipments, prototyping, and a bit of everything else! One minute we’re planning a color palette, the next we’re greeting the FedEx driver and reviewing samples from India.
Lunchtime is very important to us, and I am usually the chef for all of our meals. After the break, I go pick up my son from school and while he takes his afternoon nap, Alex and I try to get more work done. We wrap up our day around dinner time, my son goes to bed, and I head back into the studio.
Working in the quiet of the night is really productive and relaxing for me. I feel like I can focus more and get design work done efficiently. I try to make it to bed before midnight, but if inspiration strikes, sleep is secondary.
What’s up next for Lali?
Oh gosh…I have lots of ideas on what we want to do next. We have started to do some production in the U.S. and would really love to have a big studio space which could accommodate that. I would love to create an artisan studio where creative people can come and work—not just us, but a variety of women.
We would someday love to launch a women’s clothing line. After a few visits to the splash park this summer, I’ve got inklings of developing a swim line as well. I want to do all these things tomorrow, but they will all happen in their own time.
If you had to pick just one of your products as your favorite, which would it be and why?
Our Midi Dress style, hands down. This silhouette was based on one of my own dresses that I had made custom made on a trip to India—and then had it scaled down for little girls. Long flowing dresses are what I’m all about.
We’ve carried this design through several summer collections now, and it’s always a customer favorite. It’s just so comfortable and playful.
What’s your best advice for our readers?
If you have a dream to create something, just get started. Take the first step and don’t worry about the big picture.
I never in a million years thought I would own a fashion business. I think when you are reaching out into the world with a lot of passion in your heart, the universe conspires to help you make it into a reality.
Also, if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. If you don’t take a step forward, you will be in the same place. So take the leap.
What was your lightbulb moment, where all the hard work felt totally worth it?
I try to remind myself daily that starting this company is a journey and where we are today is not where we were a few days, months, or years ago. However, when Anthropologie contacted us and started carrying our products, it was a really big validation that we had something unique to offer.
What’s your favorite way to practice self-care?
Ha! Lots of sleep. My goal this summer was to wear clothing that’s artisan made instead of fast fashion and I have found some really inspiring designers. As a mom I try to keep my wardrobe simple, small, and easy to wear.
Occasional massages and pedicures are also really nice. Oh! And actually finishing my cup of tea—half the time I brew a lovely mug of joy and then get busy and forget all about it.
Balance or harmony?
Definitely harmony. I feel like balance is this elusive creature that you have a sighting of once in a while but it never really sticks around. I try to create and look for harmony in all things: where we work, how we organize our lives, and how we design the collection. It should all feel organic and not forced. I feel you lose a sense of harmony when you are pushing too hard for things to work together.
How do you define wellness?
Wellness to me is not about achieving perfection. It’s a day spent doing things at a healthy pace where you have been kind to yourself and others. It’s also about nourishing your body with good food and mind with inspiring environment. Sometimes these things seem a world away, but if you can at least get a nice meal in your belly, you’re doing something right.
What book do you think all women need to read?
A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft. It’s reflective of the female experience and reminds us that our concerns are valid and this isn’t a new fight.
Pick your fuel of choice: coffee, tea, or something else (if so, what?).
Harney & Sons Irish Breakfast Tea, for sure! Iced coffee only when I haven’t gotten enough sleep.
What’s your ideal day off of work?
This is about to sound like the least exciting thing, but I love being at home with my family. It’s nice when my husband takes over the morning baby duties and lets me sleep in.
Also family naps are THE BEST—we eat a big brunch and all pass out for about three hours. That stuff is glorious. Just slowing down as a family and enjoying each other’s company is really nice.
What was your first job?
Oh, this is so nerdy. I was a librarian aid. I taught retired people how to use the internet in the Chicago suburbs.
What has been your biggest obstacle in building your company, and how did you overcome it?
My background is in engineering, so learning how the fashion business works was a significant challenge. It’s one thing to create cute clothes, but a whole different challenge to market and sell it to the right customer. It’s important to try new things, see what works, and not be afraid of failure. I am still learning a lot every day. We still have a long way to go before we can say we know all we need to know!
How do you stay motivated?
Watching our little customers enjoy the clothes we create is what keeps us going. There is so much hard work that goes into a collection, sometimes you forget that your product will even be worn by actual people. It’s really rewarding to see boutique buyers and customers get excited about details that we lost so much sleep over.
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