She grew up with a love for fashion and has been making children’s clothes since she had a child of her own. I loved my morning coffee with Leda Jackson, the founder, owner, designer and well, everything behind Pixie Lily. Classic and simple, yet so utterly chic, Pixie Lily‘s”tiny couture creations” have graced the wardrobes of babies and children (including mine) since 2000. For moms who love timeless looks for their little ones and appreciate the quality of a hand stitched piece, Pixie Lily is a dream come true.
As we chatted at Dallas’ irresistible new spot, Bird Bakery, perhaps the most surprising thing I learned about Leda is that she does not have a cell phone! I admire her work ethic, her parenting, and of course her taste in children’s clothing. Obviously talented – graceful, refined, and sweet are a few more words that I use to describe her. Basically, an all around class act who I look up to in this industry. I hope you enjoy this Q&A and value her advice as much as I do!
How, oh, how do you run a household, family, and booming business without a cell phone? Have you ever had a cell phone? What made you decide to live without one?
I was briefly and unhappily tethered to a cell phone once for a few months. Trying to run a business and a family is hard enough without feeling that business is always lurking, even when I leave the office. When I am at work my nose is to the grindstone and when I’m at home I need to be home mentally as well. I don’t have the discipline to ignore emails and calls so not having a phone allows me this great luxury.
What inspired you to start Pixie Lily?
When my daughter Suzanne was born in 1996 I wanted to make some very simple gowns for her and I was able to do this with my limited sewing experience. I like things that are very simple and unfussy. It’s so easy to lose a baby in a style with too many details…ribbons, smocking, embroidery, ruffles. Rachel Zoe said that she thought Pixie Lily captured “little black dress” style for babies. Rachel was able to verbalize exactly the look I wanted for little ones. It’s about them, not the design. I want your babies and children to be noticed first, the outfit should be a distant second to them.
I find it intriguing that you run this business on your own and that you do it so seamlessly. What is your advice to a mother and business owner trying to do it all?
The only way it looks like I do this seamlessly is that I have yet to allow you to peek behind the curtain. I had a knock down drag out fight with a teenager this morning and I can’t even remember what we were arguing about…yikes! I wish as working mothers we would all begin to recognize that this is hard. My single best advice is learn to say NO and then say it frequently. I started to divide mommy chores into two groups: the things that would impress other mothers and the things that were really important to my children. So I’ll turn down a request to provide monogrammed cupcakes for a class party but will never forgo driving on a field trip.
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
Momma always picked us up from school. She described this as the most important 15-20 minutes of the day. Good, bad or horrible the pent up emotions and frustrations of a school day come to the surface during the ride home. There were days when each of my children climbed in, the door was closed and the tears started falling. When they saw me and were back in the cocoon of family, they could let down. I’m so grateful she shared that with me.
Did the way that your mother dressed you as a child carry over to the way you dressed your children, and into your designs?
I wore smocked bishop dresses with little white peter pan collars from a shop in Charleston called 82 Church Street. The smocking was only geometric. They would have died before they smocked a jack-o-lantern, cartoon character, truck or mascot. It was a very English look. The dresses were all short, nothing below the knee and certainly not mid-calf. These were our play clothes so we had to be able to run around in them. The dresses were handmade locally and all came with a little hang tag signed by the lady who did the smocking. 82 Church is sadly long gone but I have employed the signed hang tags with my own line. I thought it was so important for clients to understand that these clothes are held and embroidered or crocheted by very talented artisans in Colombia and Peru. I want to make sure that these ladies are celebrated.
Your children are 20 and 15. How would you describe their style growing up?
Suzanne (20) is a student at Bard College in the northeast so her style is definitely what I consider “liberal arts lazy” complete with nose ring (don’t sweat the small stuff, friends). As a little one, she dressed in many of my vintage dresses and visited the Magic Kingdom in her bishops and t-straps with ankle socks. Chisholm (15) is a clone of his preppy Dad but as a little fellow he adored dressing up. He once came in my bedroom on a Sunday morning and asked if it was time for his “finery for church”. Both of them certainly understand the importance of dressing appropriately for the occasion,even if it means a temporary removal of the nose ring.
My little guy is starting to get choosy about what he wears and its making me nervous! Any advice?
Children just need lots of guidance, especially when it comes to dressing for the occasion. You really need to reinforce that what they wear on the playground isn’t OK for church or synagogue or dinner out and this takes lots of time (example: arguments with tears about 10 minutes before you need to walk out the door). I always tried to present my children with two appropriate options so they were able to choose but it was with assistance. This is especially important with the pre-school and kindergarten Pixie Lily age-group.
How would you describe your personal style and how is that reflected in the clothes that you design for children.
I’ve definitely picked up the vintage bug and am in love with my friend MK Quinlan’s site seelinevintage.com. I like simple classic clothes and lots of color.
What are Five Staples you think every child should have in their wardrobe?
- Plain white cotton briefs for boys and eyelet panties for girls
- Navy and white knee socks
- Little red Keds (nothing says childhood like the red Keds)
- Plain white cotton cardigan
- Navy T straps
I personally feel the need to buy Pixie Lily sailor suits every season for my boys. They are fabulous! What are your favorite pieces to design every season?
Goodness, if only it was as easy to design for little boys as it to design for girls. I want Pixie Lily to fill the gap between the tiny construction worker and Little Lord Fontleroy looks. I died a thousand deaths when I saw an infant in jean leggings the other day. My children didn’t know jeans existed until they were in grammar school. Boys need to wear shorts, shorts, shorts. I don’t think I’ll ever do long pants again for Pixie. Why? The sailors and aprons are always so perfect!
What are Saturday Mornings like at your house?
I hate to rub it in but with one in college and a 15 year old son, Saturday mornings once again belong to me. I can sleep late and still enjoy a coffee and paper in utter silence. You will all experience this bliss again, I assure you.
It was a pleasure to meet your Husband, Edward. What a friendly person and such a gentleman. Does he play any sort of role in your business? Do you bounce ideas off of him? It only took a few minutes of being around you both to tell that he adores you and is so proud of what you do!
If I didn’t have Edward, there would certainly be no Pixie Lily. He doesn’t work with me but he has trekked to pick up shipments when delivery was not going to allow me to make important deadlines and brought me lunch when we were in shipping frenzies. He is a well of support and encouragement and never fails to sing my praises. It makes me so happy that you picked up on what a special husband he is.
I’m dying to visit Charleston again. When I do, what are a few places I should be sure and visit?
I always love to tout my special neighborhood Cannon-Elliotborough. 86 Cannon is one of the newest and most elegant inns in the city. You’re within walking distance of Chez Nous a fabulous french restaurant in the most romantic little house….perfection. Sugar Bake Shop is right down the street when you need a little sweet treat or iced coffee and you can grab a sandwich to enjoy at Artisan Meat Share before heading to an amazing museum house, The Aiken Rhett House.
A huge heart felt thank you, Leda, for taking the time to chat with me. It was such a special treat for me to spend time with you and introduce you to my boys while they wore your designs!
What I Wore:
What Leda Wore:
Dress: Vintage from seelinevintage.com
What the Kids Wore:
Thank you to my sister Kimberly Whitman for stopping by to say Hello!
Photography by JerSean