Menu

How 3 generations of women created a clothing busines that celebrates textiles—and tradition

The children’s clothing company uses a supply chain that values timeless quality (and adorable styling). 

How 3 generations of women created a clothing busines that celebrates textiles—and tradition
Photo by Jessica Jacobson

What does it take to go from business idea to lady boss?


This new column features an entrepreneur, who happens to be a mom, each week—walking us through the process of how you too can take your ideas from dream to reality.

If you missed our last article featuring Lorene from Glitter and Spice, a teething jewelry company with wicked growth, on how testing and prototyping helped her hack her success, you can read it here. This week, we’re discussing the third step every entrepreneur needs to make on her journey: Building a supply chain.

This week brings something special: Two generations of lady bosses, a mother and daughter, working together to create a business that’s uniquely theirs.

FEATURED VIDEO

Cynthia Bennett, and her daughter Meera Bennett, have created Devon’s Drawer, a children’s clothing line that combines old school whimsy with high-quality craftsmanship, while honoring the working families their company employs.

With looks like that, what’s not to love?

Cynthia has a long personal and professional history with textiles; she learned the art of clothing design from her mother, great-aunt, and grandmother, and has a degree in Costume History and Textile Arts.

Her daughter Meera works on marketing and communications within Devon’s Drawer.

Devon’s Drawer (named after Cynthia’s grandson, Devon), began four years ago when Cynthia went home to take care of her own mother.

It was there Cynthia discovered a closet chock full of the most beautiful clothing. There were wool dresses from the 1950’s and 60’s, sequined cashmere sweaters made in Hong Kong, and custom made dresses made by local dress makers. The fabric, the textures, the quality of craftsmanship stunned her. It was a type of beauty that was missing from the current world of throwaway fashion.

And it inspired a children’s clothing company based on the values of timeless quality (and adorable styling.)

What began as up-cycling items for her grandson has grown into a brand that values quality over quantity, and clothing that tells its own story, woven through the very fibers of the fabric.

And from the inspiration of Cynthia’s mother’s wardrobe to dressing little Devon—That’s three generations represented in the business, if you’re counting.

Isn’t that magical?

Today, Devon’s Drawer is carried in a dozen retail locations across North America. The brand is cherished for its beautiful fabrics, unique cuts, and commitment to ethically produced products. This year their sales are projected to grow by 40% over last year—powerful stuff, especially considering the business began with zero startup capital.

I chatted with Meera and Cynthia about how and why they created the brand, and the work that was involved in creating a supply chain they could be proud of—

What does Devon’s Drawer do/make?

Cynthia: We make children’s clothes and we use natural fabrics to do so.

Meera: My mom does all the design, and I’d say she does most of the grunt work. I help with the branding and communications. But my mom’s clothing line was really inspired by her family. She had to fly home about five years ago because her mother was sick. She started finding all these beautiful baby clothes –

Cynthia: No! It was her clothes! In her closet! Not baby clothes.

Meera: Right. So then she started using them as inspiration for making clothes for my son, Devon. Now I have two kids: Devon, and then Emily who just turned one. But back then it was just Devon.

Cynthia: I had already decided a long, long time ago to design clothing for women. But it got really complicated, really quickly, and I couldn’t find the balance. Meera was a young baby at the time and it was really hard. After a couple of years I just couldn’t find a way to make it work. At that time I lived on Saltspring Island, which was two ferry rides from Vancouver.

Meera: Mom was a total back-to-the-land hippie.

Cynthia: And, Vancouver didn’t even have a design scene back then, so I was literally doing this on my own. And I had NO idea what I was doing. So at that time I said, “I’m choosing motherhood.”

These days there’s a lot more information out there for starting a business. As well, I was really young, and back then I didn’t have the “Why?” at that point.

Did the two of you start the business together?

Cynthia: Well Meera was the one who kept telling me that I should be doing this. She was there from the beginning, along with my other kids, but she’s really come into the foreground in the last year. She’s worked hard to create a warm voice for Devon’s Drawer that had been missing.

When your company

needs to grow, what do you look for in a good fit employee?

Cynthia: Somebody has to really get what we’re doing, and

they have to have the right skillset. For example for us, we make wool coats,

and sewing woolens is a dying art because most people these days like to make

clothing out of knits. They also have to LOVE the stuff. They have to take pride

in their work, and want to share in our success. We are looking to create a

real connection with our employees.

We are looking to create a real connection with our employees.

We spend a lot of time together so we have to not only enjoy

each other’s company, but also work efficiently together.

Communication both verbal and written is actually huge as

well. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s not. With things being so fast

moving, and me travelling often, understanding each other becomes a priority.

Meera: The other thing I’ve really noticed with those who

you’ve created a long-term working relationship with, mom, is that you guys

really build a community with Devon’s Drawer. They’re really invested in your

success, and you’re likewise invested in their success. You’re both building

each other up.

Cynthia: Absolutely. Community is really important in

everything we do. Our employees are part of our community. It’s not a one-way

street.

What are all the

components of your supply chain, and how does everything fit together?

Cynthia: For me, the biggest focus is the actual fabric, and

I spend a lot of time, more than I should, on sourcing fabric. Because for me,

that’s where the inspiration for the pieces comes from.

My background is in textile history actually so where the

fabric comes from is a priority for me. So if I’ve got someone who’s doing

organics, I have to know where it comes from, who grew the cotton, and where is it

being processed, all the way through.

I like to work with people who have more vertical supply chains so I feel confident about the fabric.

To me that’s key. It’s the basis of what we do, and in fact,

“the Why” of what we do. The textile industry is one of the biggest polluters

of the planet. I could go on about this topic but I won’t.

I spend a lot of time on buttons, too. Where are they from?

What country? If they’re made of shells - how were those shells collected?

Meera: Were shells are happy? Did they have friends?

Cynthia: And sometimes plastic is a better option! It’s

true! I spend a lot of time trying to balance it all out.

Meera: You spend endless time sourcing fabric mom, but I

feel like once the fabric gets to you that your supply chain is fairly tightly

integrated. You have the fabric arrive in LA, have it dyed in LA, then it goes

to your factory, also in LA. And then they ship it from the factory.

Cynthia: Yes. There’s also a couple of other things that

have to come together before the pieces head to the factory for manufacturing.

First we have the patterns. The idea for the pattern goes from me to the

pattern maker, and then we test out that piece. Then, it gets graded – which

means sized. Once that’s completed then everything gets cut, again here in LA. Meera’s

right; once everything’s here in California, it does all get done in a two mile

radius. It’s a huge unique point for us.

Meera: It’s really important to us to have pieces that are,

as much as possible, made close to home.

Cynthia: It’s funny; it’s sometimes like a game of

telephone, you know the children’s game? Every time you let go of something and

let someone do something for you, they add their own little bit. So I’ve kept

it really tight because I don’t want things to vary to any large degree. Like,

a quarter inch difference on a collar, on a kid, makes a huge difference.

What would you say is the biggest difficulty in creating and sustaining your supply and manufacturing?

Cynthia: It actually has a lot to do with confidence. I need to have confidence in my work, all the way through the process, and not give up on my vision. Several times I’ve had the thought, “Oh they must know more than I know.”

So my biggest difficulty is believing in myself, while not being stubborn. It’s a fine line.

What process do you take to vet your suppliers and manufacturers?

Cynthia: I look to see what work they’ve done. And instead of going on what they say, I call up their other customers and ask them about their experience. Because people tend to tell you whatever they think you want to hear.

I want to know if they were reliable, if they were on time, and equally as important, how did they treat you, as a contract? How was their communication, and how organized were they?

I have to make sure they’ve worked with people that I respect.

Meera: And I know one more thing you really look for is having everything made in America as much as you can.

Have you ever had any major manufacturing disasters?

Cynthia: We had a problem with one of our coats last year and didn’t notice until one of our stockists mentioned that there was something wrong. I really respected him—the store owner—and he sent the coats back. We looked into them when we received them back and the sewers had sewn the collars on a quarter of an inch off. That makes a huge difference on a child’s coat.

My production manager wanted to know if I would continue to do business with that particular store and the answer was, of course, yeah! He spent a lot of time going back and forth. He really worked through the issue with me. Those are the type of partnerships I’m looking for. He’s basically at the end of my supply chain, but so essential to our success.

How important would you say confidence is in creating a product line and starting your own business?

Cynthia: It’s really, really important. And there’s a really fine line between confidence and vanity project. I can’t tell you which we are yet.

Someone said to me recently, “That sounds like a wonderful creative outlet.” And it’s not. It’s not a creative outlet, it’s a business, that happens to be creative.

The confidence I have in my design is there. The confidence I have in developing a business is there. But I can’t do it alone, and that’s where community comes in.

My kids are the closest I have to remembering what I said when I’m feeling less confident. They remind me of where I am going, and what the company is about.

Meera: As an entrepreneur, you will get told “No.” over and over and over again. But sometimes people say yes.

Mom: As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly creating your own world.

How does being a mother impact the way you run your business?

Meera: It’s made me much better at multi-tasking. Although sometimes I worry that I’m too good at it and I’m doing too many things at the same time – not putting enough attention on any one thing. I feel like I’m doing a lot of things off the side of my desk. Which is good and bad!

And the other thing is, that being a mom has given me a lot more sympathy towards other moms that I’m working with.

I understand if people don’t get back to me right away for example – I get it.

Cynthia: I’ve been a mom for so long now! I remember when I was at Meera’s stage, multitasking all the time. I found that now I really enjoy doing one thing at a time. I got so into multi-tasking at one point that I almost couldn’t do anything unless I was doing ten things at once.

Now because I don’t have kids at home any more I’m finding it really great to be able to focus on one thing at a time.

I also have a lot of empathy for people who have working families. I know what that’s like.

Is there any one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring lady bosses?

Meera: Mom and I were talking about this question before the interview and kind of laughing about it.

Because if we can do it, I think literally anyone can.

My mom made all of our clothing growing up, so she already had the skills. But she had zero start up capital. She had an idea of what she wanted to do, but she had no money to do it. So she got very clear about her vision that she wanted for the business early on. She had to!

So I think anyone can do it, but you need to have a very clear vision of what you want. There’s going to be so many things that could potentially sidetrack you.

Cynthia: I agree. Having a very clear vision, and maybe, don’t quit your day job until you have to. At one point you’re going to be so crazy busy that you can afford to let that job go. But at the start you’ll need some way of funding your vision.

For me, it took a long time to come to the “Why.” I’m not talking about superficial things. I mean really - Why do this as opposed to anything else? Knowing that early on is important.


Join Motherly

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

FEATURED VIDEO

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less
Life

Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

Keep reading Show less
Life