Friday, July 1, 2011
I am posting this because I am proud to have it printed. Also it may share a little more about me in more journalistic terms! Let me know what you think!
Source: Smiley Pete Publishing
Cradle Will Rock keeps kids hip with unique threads
by Tess Simon
June 28, 2011
Lexington, KY - Across the country in Orange County, Calif., Rhonda Smith had established herself as a well-respected children’s clothing designer at her boutique, Cradle Will Rock. The first outfit she ever made was featured on the cover of US Weekly, and the store was frequented by celebrities. MTV even brought in cameras one day to take a tour of the boutique. Yet despite Smith’s incredible success, when she took a two-week vacation to the Bluegrass, she felt like she was home. “I fell in love with Kentucky,” she said. “When I got on the plane to go back, I felt like crying because I loved it here.”
Upon her return home, Smith made the decision to pack up the profitable business and move it with her youngest son, Christian, to Lexington. “I thought it was a good idea to raise Christian here because it’s all-American and it’s different,” she said. “It’s quaint, and everyone knows everyone. It’s a community.”
Swapping her boutique’s bustling California location in favor of a healthy community environment in Lexington was not the first major life decision made with her son in mind. In fact, Christian was the inspiration for Cradle Will Rock nearly 11 years ago. “When Christian was a week old, I was strolling down a main street [in California] and there was a place for rent,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to open a baby store. I’m going to take my baby to work with me,’ and that is how it all began.”
In June 2009, Smith opened her Kentucky location in Victorian Square, but after 15 months, she decided to relocate into Chevy Chase, where sales have picked up and Smith can walk to work.
While the boutique has relocated across the country from its original storefront, its fundamental concept is the same: to provide hip, handmade and often one-of-a-kind clothes for kids.
Smith’s innovation and natural talent for design can be seen in all of her clothing. She began her career with only a couple of sewing classes under her belt, yet she made her first piece without even the help of a pattern, merely envisioning a vintage pillowcase as a dress and pulling out her scissors. Now her craft begins by visiting Lexington’s several antique stores, where she said she “always scores” with items like Chenille bedspreads, vintage hankies, tablecloths and blankets, all of which inspire and inform her designs. Back in the shop, she cuts and sews on a table pulled into the middle of her store, welcoming customers when they enter. She sells everything from clothes for babies and young girls and boys to baby essentials, like washcloths, breastfeeding covers, blankets and silk-screen-printed onesies.
Perhaps even more impressive than Smith’s innate vision for fashion and goal to provide handmade, hip clothing is her strong commitment to support local artists. Smith makes space in her store to feature customizable jockey silk paintings by Jamie Givens, a local painter and designer who also created the boutique’s eye-catching wall murals. The back wall of the store is covered in artwork for sale by William Brown, an artist with One World Art Collective, which assists in the professional artistic development of adults who have been diagnosed with a cognitive disability.
With the reception the business has received in Chevy Chase, Smith has dreams of expanding the boutique to other locations and eventually franchising. A large part of this expansion plan is centered on her desire to preserve the lost art of sewing. She hopes to employ college students, stay-at-home moms and grandmothers who want part-time work making clothes. “I don’t need to take it to a manufacturer in L.A. and get pennies on the dollar,” she said. “I’m not doing that. I’m trying to say, ‘Hey, who wants to sew and help me make kids’ clothes?’”
Though the store operates with the same goals and values as when it was first opened, Smith has noticed a difference in her Kentucky and California clientele that extends beyond celebrity. In Lexington, Smith said, “little girls are little girls. They dress and act like little ladies.” Smith said she likes that compared to Los Angeles, mothers here prefer traditional clothes for their children. This has lead Smith to design more pieces with embroidered initials, polka dots and ruffles. “I love traditional, but I’m trying to put a funkier twist on traditional,” she said.
Smith’s transition to Kentucky has been made easier by her new family of Lexington supporters. Smith showed off a card that a little girl had recently drawn for her of a Cradle Will Rock original dress that her mom had purchased. “I don’t even know these people; these are customers that come in that I’ve just met,” Smith said. “This is a little girl that just loved my tank dresses, and thought they were cool. This,” she said, holding up the card, “this is cool.”
Cradle Will Rock is located at 814 Euclid Ave. For more information, visit www.cradlewillrockonline.com.