Veteran children’s fashion stylist and creative director Mindi Smith takes us on a personal journey that led to the launch of her latest venture, The Little Red Planet, a kidswear boutique for the modern child. Junior Style readers are invited to 15% off their first order with code BACKTOSCHOOL15.
JS: How did you fall into styling and creative direction?
MS: Honestly, in 1999 I was living in SF working for Old Navy in Store Design. I went to Burning Man that year and when I came back I’d had a complete change of perspective and realized a desk job was not for me—I always knew it wasn’t but those four days in the desert were eye-opening. I realized I wanted to get near the clothes, near the photoshoots, near to the creative process.
I got a job coordinating the samples for the photoshoots for GAP Kids. At the time, Gap Marketing was a skeleton crew, all in-house – not a lot of people cared or wanted to touch kids fashion or kids styling, and within two weeks I started assisting the stylists on shoots. I learned so much in such a short period of time and wore many hats, from style presentations to castings to production to styling, it was a very multi-faceted thing, learning how to deal with a big merchandising house. It was like grad school.
JS: So how long was your tenure at GAP?
MS: Five years total. I left in 2002 anxious to go on my own as a stylist. I was practically living in NYC anyway, we shot at Pier 59 Studios so often for long periods of time (budgets were huge back then). So I left San Fransisco with a small portfolio and I hit the pavement going from agency to agency. One of my first jobs was with In Style Magazine as a fashion assistant, then market editor and stylist. One day I got a call to style a small editorial shoot with photographer Anna Palma, and shortly after we did Bambini then Target. I signed with her agency and the rest has been a continuous ride.
JS: What do you love most about styling?
MS: The most satisfying thing is solving a problem for the client. You learn to source anything, to fix anything, to do anything really. My styling mantra is ‘everything is figure-out-able” and you learn that early on. Everything is done under pressure, in a short period of time, and in a creative way. In the last few years, I’ve put so much energy and passion into my work— from the casting to the creative direction to the on-set art direction, the styling, the inspiration, everything. Really each shoot is like giving birth to a baby, and all these shoots are like my children.
JS: When did the seed germinate for the store?
MS: Deciding to launch The Little Red Planet was a natural progression from the work I had been doing creatively even though it took me a while to land on the idea. For years I kept asking myself ok, what’s next, styling isn’t the end for me, there’s got to be something more. I started thinking about life purpose and all that—the seed had been planted, I just didn’t know what it was! It was going to be some sort of a business in fashion, and it was going to involve e-commerce and have some kind of social media aspect.
Then last August I went on a meditative retreat to Peru, I worked with shamans, and I meditated on an idea that I’ve always carried around, but never acted upon, which was being able to give back, to align my professional work with my personal values. It had always been something I thought I would do when I had more money, or when I was more established but in Peru, I realised that you can’t wait to heal yourself before you heal others. Giving back isn’t something you wait to do, you can give while you’re building something, those things can happen congruently.
A month and a half after that trip I just kept meditating on this idea of wanting to create, grow, expand, and heal. I just knew those four words were what I wanted to do. Shortly after, I received an offer from my now business partner in a way that was so simple I almost past it by…..do you want to sell clothes? And the light went off in my head, and I said yes, I’m going to create a community, shift the way people shop, shift the way people think about shopping, and I’m going to do it with [my daughter] Marley.
JS: How is giving back part of the DNA of The Little Red Planet?
MS: Our first of many charitable initiatives involves coordinating fabric remnants that will be put to use in a school for young Rwandan designers. We will continue to have service projects like this as we grow and expand, but it’s more than that. I want to help families make small changes in the right direction in terms of how they shop, and the way they look at fashion for kids. I love the motto ‘buy well, buy once’. It’s better to pay more for a child’s garment knowing your dollars are supporting small designers and knowing that piece is going to last. If you buy well, you can hand clothes down to other children, reduce your carbon footprint, and curb excessive consumption. It just makes sense.
JS: How did you get the name The Little Red Planet?
MS: I was brainstorming for hours with a dear friend and I knew I wanted something with the word Mars (Marley’s nickname). Life on Mars was the frontrunner but, well, David Bowie kind of owns that so. Somehow The Little Red Planet came up and I fell in love immediately as it tells a story and that is exactly what this venture is. A journey.
JS: How old is Mars now?
JS: What’s Mars’ role in The Little Red Planet?
MS: Before I even named the store, I went to her with the idea. Two years ago we had talked about moving back to San Francisco and opening up a children’s store, brick and mortar. Mars was excited about that, but when it didn’t happen, she was kind of heart-broken so when I told her about The Little Red Planet she was beyond thrilled. Mars loved the name and wanted to be a part of it, so we created Mars Picks, a selection of clothes she will edit every few weeks. Mars wants to be involved in the production of the photoshoots, the casting, some modelling, choosing the charities, all of it.
JS: It’s basically job training for her.
MS: Yeah. Her father and I talked about how this could be something she grows into and have for herself one day. The kids today are so articulate and compassionate and empathic with such a broader understanding of what’s going on in the world than we did and the whole giving back component is such a natural thing for her to participate in.
JS: Will you continue fashion styling after you launch TLRP?
MS: I will definitely continue styling, but my focus is on The Little Red Planet right now. I will be styling editorials for the store, inspiring the customer and creating shoppable stories on the site. I love styling, it feeds my soul, and it’s important that I keep one foot in that world. I am also offering personal styling services for people who need extra guidance with a picky toddler, or a tween-age girl. I want to offer a different approach to online shopping, from a stylists point of view. We will even be taking studio appointments 🙂
JS: How would you describe your approach to buying?
MS: Purely intuitive. I stick to my instincts and pull pieces I love. I’m not interested in what everyone else is doing or what “matches” with what. Children’s clothing is playful and dreamlike and sometimes drop dead sophisticated and gorgeous. You can go outside the box with kidswear and have fun with it. I don’t want pieces on the site that you can get at H&M or Zara, I want it to feel special and different. Simple and chic is also nice but they all have one thing in common…..good quality, fit and design.
JS: Are there any brands you are especially excited about introducing to The Little Red Planet community this Autumn/Winter?
Shop The Little Red Planet HERE and use code BACKTOCHOOL15 for 15% off your order, valid until September 21, 2018!
Image Credits (from top to bottom):
- Mindi and Mars shot at home by Zoe Adlersberg
- Tia Cibani AW18 campaign styled by Mindi Smith and photographed by Zoe Adlersberg
- Mindi and Mars shot at home by Zoe Adlersberg
- Mars for Hooligans magazine, shot by Zoe Adlersberg
- Mindi Smith styling Tambere for Kid-In magazine, photographed by Maciek Jasik
- SS19 campaign for Submarine Swim, styling by Mindi Smith with photography by Jose Carlier
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All photography courtesy of Mindi Smith.
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