When I was introduced to Francesca and Lysanne of Frannie & Lilo (We the Mamas) back in the fall and learned about their new company, I can remember thinking, yes, yes and more yes! I read their story and knew that their idea of building a community of mamas supporting mamas was something I wanted to whole-heartedly support. As I learned more about Frannie & Lilo and the charities they donate to (read more about this below) I felt immediately connected with them and couldn’t be happier to share their story.
I am absolutely in love with this brand; the story behind it, the contributions they make to charities and the fact that their incredibly soft clothes are all made right here in Canada! I think I may have bought a Tee for all of the little ones on our list this Christmas and we love ours so much!
Loss and mental health are both topics that are sometimes difficult to talk about and even harder to share with the world. Frannie & Lysanne are two strong mamas who bonded over their common struggles with both child loss and mental health and decided to make it the mandate for their company to empower mothers dealing with these issues while contributing to charities that will bring about support. I am so happy to introduce these two wonderful women as this month’s creative career moms!
- It’s such a beautiful thing to see so much creativity come out of the sadness that stems from loss, and the two-part story that makes up We the Mamas ( both Frannie’s and Lilo’s) are just that. Can you tell us a little bit more about your story(ies) and how We the Mamas came to be?
FRANNIE: I felt very lost and lonely after losing my son Phoenix. I identified with being a mother, yet had no baby to show for it. It was a dark place to be and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Even after the birth of my second child Bodie 18 months later, it wasn’t any easier to talk about. Miscarriage and child loss are such taboo subjects despite it affecting 1 in 4 women. I always felt I wanted to give back and help women in similar situations. To use my voice to help open the conversation and create a community of support for others. Although Phoenix only lived for a few hours, his impact on my life and others is so much greater than I could have ever imagined.
Lysanne and I met at pre-natal class, our sons were born 10 days apart and we bonded over our shared struggles with our mental health. Since then we have become best friends, neighbours and now business partners. In fact, we probably see each other more than our own husbands. We both didn’t want to (or in my case couldn’t go back to) our jobs. We wanted more flexibility around spending time with our families and we felt we had the skills and passion to start Frannie + Lilo. In fact it started over brunch on Father’s day.
LYSANNE: I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder for a couple years before I became pregnant and met Frannie. I was plagued by nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and a deep depression that prevented me from working or going outside. It nearly ended my life. Thankfully I had the support of some amazing mental health care providers, a psychologist, psychiatrist and a couple of therapists who helped me get better. When Frannie and I met, we really connected over our common struggle with mental health issues. We were able to talk frankly and openly about our experiences and provide support to each other during the difficult postpartum period after our sons were born. We both believe in being very open about mental health and that’s how We the Mamas started. We wanted to create an online community of women who could feel safe talking about child loss, miscarriage and perinatal mood disorders. And we felt a t-shirt was the most effective way we could connect people and raise money for charity at the same time.
- As someone who loves Canadian made clothing and brands, I was immediately drawn to We the Mamas. Can you tell us some more about this aspect of your company?
LYSANNE: I covered the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh as a journalist for CBC. 11-hundred people were killed there while making clothes for Canadians. Meeting the victims and their families forever changed the way I think about clothing and how it’s made. When Frannie and I discussed making t-shirts, it was never a question in my mind. We needed to know where our clothes were made, who is making them, and how they are being treated. Since we were new moms and we were starting a small business, we didn’t have the ability to travel back and forth to a place like Bangladesh. Therefore, we decided making our clothes in Toronto would make the most sense for us.
FRANNIE: All of our products are made from start to finish in Toronto. That means; knit, dyed, cut, and sewn here and we even print the tees ourselves. It’s important to us that we source our materials locally. We have a great rapport with the people we work with and we know each and every one of them personally. After seeing how the Rana Plaza collapse effected Lysanne, it is even harder not to think about the sort of world we want to leave behind for our children. We can’t control how all companies operate, but we do have the ability to make our own choices that we hope our children will be proud of.
- In addition to being a Canadian brand, you are also a company that gives back, donating a portion of every shirt sold to child loss, miscarriage, and perinatal mental health services. What made you decided that this would be a mandate for your company and what are some of the charities that you are currently working with?
FRANNIE: For me personally, loss has been so much a part of my journey, there was never a question that we would give back, just how. We bonded over our shared experiences with anxiety and depression and have both benefited greatly from therapy of many kinds. We know how important it is to get help, so we want to do what we can to help others do the same.
LYSANNE: It was a part of our business model from the beginning. Our goal is to create a movement of women supporting each other in loss and mental health. We know first-hand how important mental health services are and how difficult and expensive they can be. We donate to the Mount Sinai Hospital’s perinatal mental health program where both Frannie and I have received care. We also donate to Molly’s Bear, a charity that gives weighted bears to women who have to leave the hospital without a baby. Recently we have supported The Shoebox Project, a charity that give shoeboxes full of personal care items to women and mothers who are living in shelters.
- As a mother of two I can completely understand the idea of community and how important that is as part of your motherhood journey. I love this idea of a “mama movement” can you tell us about this and its connection with your brand?
FRANNIE: The Mama Movement is saying that we are more than a t-shirt company. We are a movement of women and mothers supporting each other through the highs and lows of motherhood and the hard journey many of us face to a birthing and raising a healthy child.
LYSANNE: We want to bring women together and talk about the struggles we all face in our motherhood journey. When I am walking down the street and I see another woman wearing her mama shirt, we can look each other in the eye and know that we share the same struggle.
- While motherhood and owning a business both have their challenges, some women often find that motherhood can be inspirational and provides them with a new creative perspective. Did you find that motherhood itself inspired your company and creative ventures?
FRANNIE: Yes, without question. We have both faced struggles as mothers. We have shared in the highs and the lows. We like to think we give open and honest accounts of how motherhood has been for us. If we hadn’t become mothers at the same time, we would never have met and we would never have been inspired by each other to start the company. There is something really nice about a partnership and having someone always there to have your back.
LYSANNE: Absolutely, after becoming a mother my priorities were completely different. My son inspires me every day to be a more loving, more giving, more honest and all around better person. We the Mamas is a product of that.
- We the Mamas is so much more than just a brand, it truly is a motherhood movement! What are your hopes for the future of the company? Is there anything we should keep an eye out for in the future?
FRANNIE: World domination, haha! No seriously. We are both very ambitious individuals, always looking for the next project or adventure. We feel we make a great team and anything is possible if you truly put your mind to it. We are very excited for the projects we have coming up. We only started Frannie + Lilo seven months ago and it’s been quite the whirl wind trip so far. We can’t wait for whatever comes next.
LYSANNE: We have recently started our own boutique marketing agency focusing on The Millennial Mom. We’re working with some amazing new brands to help them build better relationships with our demographic. We’re also really excited to be offering our digital strategy, social media management, and media relations skills to help others who are building their businesses. What’s next? You can be sure we have lots of surprises up our sleeves for the next year. Stay tuned!
Head on over to my Instagram Page for an amazing giveaway featuring Frannie & Lilo coming up this evening!
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