Natalie Alcala certainly cuts the figure of a powerful fashionista: elegant, edgy and current. But, as a recent mother and founder of Fashion Mamas and Kids Fashion Fair, she's proving maternal instinct and warmth have a spot in the style industry, too.
Although she worked corporate jobs, the young LA native couldn’t stop writing on the side. Live journaling took up her time during lunch breaks, and after meeting the editor of Blackbook magazine, she jumped at the chance to send in mock-ups and test stories. Her freelance career began there, and eventually she climbed the ranks of Racked.com all the way from associate editor to senior editor. Shifting the site to covering all things fashion, she also freelanced for big names like Elle and Vogue. Though leaving corporate stability was scary, Alcala’s passion and impeccable eye urged her toward a full-time spot in fashion media. Now, her voice in the industry is irreplaceable.
When she became a new mom, her innovative streak found another home in Fashion Mamas. Read on to learn how she cares for baby and biz all at once.
SBS: What was the nexus of Fashion Mamas?
Natalie Alcala: I was never the person who said I wanted to have a baby. It wasn’t that I didn’t like kids. I’m just a feminist, so I thought I’d just go with the flow. When I was pregnant, though, I felt euphoric. My friends laughed at me being the happiest person! Usually I’m an anxiety-ridden person, but the pregnancy chilled me out. It was like the universe told me I could cruise and create.
As soon as he was born, I felt happy and fulfilled. But I didn’t feel supported. It wasn’t because other mothers didn’t get it. All mothers get it. It’s hard, it’s crazy and it’s wild. But I didn’t feel I was allowed to be so passionate and thinking about my job or if I could get to fashion week!
I realized I needed a tribe that understood our industry, the demand of a career where it never stops and where your talent is unique. So, I looked around me: There were so many kids around, and I noticed so many women around me.
Then I slowly became a connector. Eventually I thought, it’d be great if all these rebels could connect and support each other. I wanted a place where we could talk not only about a babysitter or where you could get a specific clothing rack, but a place where the shoot for the clothing rack was the same as where you needed the babysitter!
SBS: How did you take that seed and grow it?
NA: When my son was three months old, I created the Instagram account for Fashion Mamas, and it caught on. It’s weird because when you have a kid, you can get so much more done. It’s urgent: I have to do this before he wakes up. Whenever I have a free moment, I feel antsy. I feel this is a calling.
The launch party was all friends of mine. They didn’t know what to expect or what was coming. But they could meet other cool friends in the industry. As I hoped, they all connected. Then I decided we should make a proper application process so now you can apply online. Membership grants you access to members’ only events, a secret Facebook group, a directory of experts, and an online portal for rewards. We’re now at 350 members!
SBS: How do you fit fitness into your crazy schedule?
NA: I always tell my mamas, if you’re feeling unmotivated, create a box right next to where you get dressed and fill it with just your fitness clothes. That way, you have everything ready. Getting excited to wear a new fitness look helps me stick to my goals. I felt like a phony wearing my yoga pants but not going to yoga! So, I get my workout in and then I feel more legit. Now I do Pilates and Pure Barre and I’m always wearing my Sticky Be socks!
SBS: What are your tips for creating a group similar to Fashion Mamas?
NA: Anyone interested in being an entrepreneur, let alone creating community support, might get scared when they realize how much work it is. It’s scary and that can intimidate people from the get-go. But to get traction, you have to commit. It pays off! The biggest issue is similar to being worried people won’t come to your party. But instead of feeling worried, turn it into being on fire. Keep getting creative and keep offering new programs in the community. Make sure the members are happy and excited.
You don’t want to drift from your mission statement, but you also want the programs to evolve. Stick to the original story behind your brand: That’s what they came for. But don’t be afraid to evolve. They love to see a story unroll.
I also believe if you’re going to work with a community of people, it can’t be about you anymore. Once you’ve gained followers and fans and members, make sure it’s about them at all times. Don’t do anything with a specific brand just because they paid you a lot. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your fans and followers.
SBS: What would you tell fashion and media hopefuls in today’s workplace climate?
NA: I always tell hopefuls to tag your favorite publications in what you do, especially on Instagram. If I was at a new store that just opened, I’d post a photo, caption, and tag the brand. Maybe they would pick it up because I broke the story! When I first started, I was like a fly. I just loved breaking new store openings …finding those exclusives before I was even hired. I would try to catch attention on social media. You’re not sure of the return but it’s more direct return than the type of response you might get from googling e-mail addresses and looking through LinkedIn.
Also, in a more old-school way, the subject line of your e-mail and cover letter is everything. Work for it by being detail oriented. You can then combine approaches by sending them mock-ups and a great cover letter or those type of things, while also showing them you’re hip through social media.
SBS: What are some unexpected successes you’ve noticed as a result of Fashion Mamas?
NA: What’s really interesting is a lot of our designers had never embarked into the realm of kids’ fashion. They never thought they could do it before they had kids. But soon they realized, ‘Oh, I can create tiny versions of adult clothes!’ That doesn’t equal Super Man capes. That’s what you would actually wear. The group has shifted their jobs, and they’re doing a ton of that work.
SBS: What new skills and traits have emerged within you through motherhood and Fashion Mamas?
NA: Time is so much more valuable, and there’s no time to be aimless or have a second guess because you have to go pick your kid up. You can’t dwell on what’s right or wrong, so instinct is key. That said, I’ve noticed our girls make stronger choices because they feel confident. There isn’t another option.
SBS: What obstacles along your journey have surprised you?
NA: Once you have a child, you can’t say yes to everything anymore. Before I had my son, everyone knew me as someone who did everything. I was at every hot party and would fly to Paris for a surprise show. I loved and respected that lifestyle. I always wanted to get that interview and cover that event.
I don’t feel any FOMO anymore, but that type of lifestyle is something you don’t value when you have it. Now, I can’t play anymore. I have to be respectful of the process and prioritize my little guy. I go out twice a week, which is even a lot for some people. But missing my son’s bedtime…I can’t enjoy myself out there knowing that. My mental state adjusted. I don’t want to be out there, because the guilt will set in. And it’s so worth it.
SBS: What wellness routines keep you able to handle the huge array of tasks on your list—including mama duties?!
NA: When I wake up, before I look at my phone, I meditate for 20 minutes. The stillness allows my brain and body to float. Focusing on my breath is enough to get lost, and I need that…or I’m a pain in the ass! If I can’t get it done right away because my son is crying or something, even if I just sit in my car at some point, that can change everything.
Also, what I put in my body is key. I’ve been gluten free and vegan for a decade, and I don’t drink caffeine. Instead, I have cacao in my diet. I put it in smoothies. I love all the superfoods like acai, hemp seeds, chia seeds and maca for brain power. Most importantly, I don’t care if it’s a placebo! I feel it in my body right away. My challenge is drinking enough water. I’m working on that.
Natalie’s LA Favorites:
Healthy Restaurant: Crossroads
Splurge Restaurant: Sage Organic Vegan Bistro
Calming Activity: Meditation
Fitness Studio: Pure Barre Hollywood
Fitness Apparel: Year of Ours
Luxe Clothing: Opening Ceremony
Cool Shopping Spot: Melrose Trading Post
Nightlife Spot: The Nice Guy
Children's Clothing Spot: Kids Fashion Fair
Fitness shoes: Nike
Natalie’s SBS Mantra: Be Strong! When you're strong, you can overcome anything.
What's the best, zaniest part of being Natalie? I'm as Type A as they come!