Playdate for mom: shopping and socializing
By Ami Albernaz
Globe Correspondent / June 4, 2009?
As Gloucester native Ann Andrew recalls, it didn’t take much for her to dream up Mommies Who Shop, the series of suburban shopping events and “play dates” for mothers that she launched two years ago. A former director of merchandising at the now-defunct Sigrid Olsen who’d left her job in 2004 to become a stay-at-home mom, Andrew – creative, affable, and with a finely honed sense of fashion – tapped into two of her big loves, socializing and shopping.
“I think of it as an upscale girl nights out,” says Andrew, 40, the mother of three boys. “I wanted it to feel intimate, to be something that women could dress up and head out with their girlfriends to, and maybe go out to dinner afterward. It’s like a happy hour with shopping.”
Some of the best-known shopping events for women are aimed primarily at the young and single. Shecky’s Girls’ Night Out parties and StyleFixx events, often held in Boston’s South End, gather local vendors and national labels, selling everything from Spanx to handbags to hair products in one traveling bazaar. Mommies Who Shop nights aren’t much different – except they’re held in the suburbs and most of the vendors sell hip goods for kids. Also available: a little grown-up time.
“I have a couple of friends who are new moms and we meet up there. It’s a nice way to go out,” says Jennifer Stevenson, a mother of three in Beverly. “You get a glass of wine and shop around together. And [Ann] does such a good job of finding the unknown designer. I don’t have time to search the Web for the coolest things for my kids.”
Andrew, who worked for Talbots, J. Jill, and Laura Ashley prior to Sigrid Olsen, says websites like Etsy.com and events like SoWa Open Market and Vida’s Market in Greenwich Village convinced her of the viability of gathering relatively small, high-quality local lines into a fashion flea market of sorts.
“I became inspired by this sort of anti-label rebellion,” she says.
Spending long hours on Web research after her kids were in bed, Andrew also became convinced that she could gear the events toward moms. She sought out a mix of designers, tapping mostly Boston-area “mompreneurs” who, in many cases, ply their trade from home and started their businesses to provide something their own kids could use, whether eco-friendly cotton clothing or tutus for dance class.
“I knew I didn’t want to promote national designers. They have enough money to promote themselves,” Andrew says. “My interest was independent designers, local designers. Most are stay-at-home moms who don’t have the means and funds to expose their work appropriately.”
Roughly 30 designers and vendors take part in each event, selling children’s clothing, books, blankets, stylish changing pads, headbands, and onesies with whimsical sayings, like “May contain peanut” (available through the Newport-based LittleChickieWear). And not all the goods are for kids. Some tables are allotted for jewelry, handbags, belts, and other gear for grown-ups. There are also spa services like mini-facials, hair styling, and paraffin hand treatments, as well as wine, hors d’oeuvres, goodie bags, and a silent auction to benefit Plum Cove School in Gloucester. (Admission is $15.)