While many entrepreneurs start their businesses with customers in mind, Isabel Garretón started out thinking about her suppliers. Twenty-five years ago, she created her self-titled upscale children’s apparel line to give underprivileged moms from her native Chile an opportunity to raise themselves up through the work of their hands. And what beautiful work it is. Garretón now employs more than 100 artisans who specialize in hand embroidery, hand smocking and dressmaking.
Soon after she and her physician husband settled in Los Angeles, Garretón became a mom, and her priority became making her home a safe and inviting place for her three girls to flourish. “I knew I wanted to be there picking up my children from school, in the same way I wanted to be available for their sports and their school trips and what it takes to be a mom of several children,” she says.
Garretón makes this possible for other moms as well because her employees work from home as they take care of their children. They create heirloom-quality, handmade apparel that not only is fair-trade and ethically sourced, but also preserves a traditional art form. Garretón says her line is for those occasions where you need “something special” that makes a statement and upholds the virtue that family matters. On her website, www.isabelgarreton.com, there are dresses and accessories for communion, weddings and christenings, as well as everyday looks that are whimsical and intricately designed with mostly little girls in mind.
Being an entrepreneur gave Garretón what she calls the biggest gift anyone could offer, control over her schedule. Despite working many late nights to make it all work, she says she doesn’t regret a thing.
Daughter Veronica, now head of sales and marketing for the company, agrees that the journey has been more than worthwhile. “Having [our mother] there to read a book and do homework, but also to see her running a business and traveling with her to Chile to see how it all pays off, gave us a sense of the importance of doing something that has meaning beyond just working,” Veronica says. “That’s what inspired me to follow in her footsteps.”
The flexibility also helped when Veronica became a mother. “The uncertainty of being available for others’ business decisions was what moved me away from architectural lighting into the family business,” she says. And business is good. Isabel Garretón designs can be found in top U.S. children’s boutiques from Dottie Doolittle in San Francisco to Adrian East in New York’ and in such department stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman and others, as well as online at www.isabelgarreton.com.