Mumus get a bad rap. In fact, I’d venture to guess if you ask most men and women their thoughts on the garment, they’d say that they think of it as little other than a tacky, bright, loose top worn by pregnant women or those trying to hide their figure. Leave it to some stylish California girls to completely revamp what we thought about the mumu. Show Me Your Mumu, designed by two friends, Cologne Schmidt and Cammy Hebert, was founded just about a year ago and has expanded at an incredible pace. Now stocked in dozens of boutiques across the country, we spoke to Schmidt about how they cut their mumus to flatter the female figure, how they went from selling to their friends in 2010 to selling in Barneys Japan in 2011, the impact of appearing on the Elle reality show Stylista, and more.
The Fashion Spot: What's your background in fashion?
Cologne Schmidt: I started gravitating towards the fashion industry while I was in college at UC Berkeley. The creative and business aspects of the industry appealed to me, so I began interning at fashion magazines, and working for stylists. I started my own small label online, and then moved to NYC and began freelance blogging and working at the Calvin Klein Showroom.
At the same time, my roommate Cammy – who was working in the showroom of LaRok, Patterson J. Kincaid, and Elizabeth & James – and I, started Mumu from our mini Nolita apartment as a side-project. Inspired by a last minute weekend trip to Miami, where we only had our purses to pack, we realized something was missing out of our closets. We needed a lightweight, fun, throw-on garment that could act as a mini dress, a top, a bikini cover up, a nightie… thus, the Mumu was born.
tFS: How are your mumu silhouettes different than the traditional one? Where do you see the company expanding?
CS: We have an obsession with loose flowing clothes, that don't swallow you up and still flatter your shape. Vintage mumus are pretty amazing, and our mumus are 'mini' versions. They are short and meant to be worn with a slip as a mini dress, or with jeans, tights, shorts, or a bikini. We began with this one-size-fits-all piece in many prints and fabrics. We have now expanded the line to include racer-back tanks, top-slips, short shorts, wide legged chiffon pants, bell-sleeve tunics, and more. Mumu is a lifestyle brand – we will always be expanding and evolving, but keeping the Mumu concept of fun, throw on, comfortable clothes that can be worn day or night, to work or to the beach, to brunch or to bed. We call them 48-hour clothes, and we like girls to have fun in our clothes. We are bringing in crop tops, maxi skirts, ponchos, and other top secret pieces very soon! We also would LOVE to bring in a floor length vintage mumu body as soon as possibe.
tFS: How have you been able to attract a relatively wide distribution in such a short period of time? Any tips?
CS: Yes, Mumu has been very busy this year! We will be in around 100 boutiques nationwide, including Planet Blue, Wink, Hemline, Revolve, and Barney's Japan, and last year Mumu only existed in our apartment on Mulberry Street. After building enough confidence from our increasing online demand, we decided to take Mumu to the trade shows, and invest in a booth at Coterie in NYC. A tip I can give is to start small, and make sure you have a product that people really want, and feel out who that customer is. There is A LOT of work involved, and it isn't just about designing and making fun clothes – although that is the fun part of it. It is mostly about running a business, and learning a lot along the way!
tFS: Can you highlight some of your celebrity mumu inspirations?
CS: Brigitte Bardot in her golden years, Rachel Zoe, Little Princess, Aladdin, and Jasmine, and the little girl from Secret Garden.
tFS: What's the biggest struggle being a new-comer trying to develop a fashion label?
CS: So many steps are involved in running a fashion line that people don't realize – fabrics, production, shipping, inventory management, marketing… When you are small, you do it all. And there is also brand recognition. In the beginning, no one has heard of you, so it is a little hard to get attention. If you believe in your brand, and don't get discouraged by the little setbacks, it will come!
tFS: How do you go about picking your fabrics?
CS: We mostly use a custom semi sheer poly-chiffon that doesn't wrinkle and flows really nicely. We are very particular with our prints we choose, since the prints really make our pieces so unique and fun to wear. We remake a lot of vintage prints, and we try to choose a good assortment to appeal to everyone. We also like to pick strong and timeless prints, so you can wear your mumu for years and years. Mumu also loves a good crochet or lace.
tFS: What do you say to the person afraid to wear a mumu?
CS: Our mumus can be worn so many different ways – belted or baggy, long over leggings, tucked into jeans, over a bikini… We tell people who are afraid of our mumus to look at our website and tell us if they are still afraid, and then we tell them to try a tank, then.
tFS: You appeared on the fashion reality show Stylista, has this helped or hurt your career? Did it affect your perspective on working in fashion in NYC?
CS: Stylista pulled me out of my California college life and introduced me to the intensity of New York and the fashion industry. I immediately moved to NYC after the show, because I fell in love with it while filming. It made me realize it was where I needed to be and I would have never started Mumu with Cam Cam if it wasn't for that. I also met amazing people in the industry through the show – especially a few of my casemates who I have stayed close with and have helped me in the industry. However, I will say, you definitely don't have to take fashion as seriously as the show makes it seem. Mumu is much more fun-spirited and laid back than most people view the industry. We laugh a lot at Mumu, and try not to let anything get too serious. We're making mumus here, nothing to frown about!
tFS: Have the mumus been more successful in certain states versus others? If so why do you think?
CS: To be honest, we've got a pretty good representation all over the nation. Mumu style is very California, very Venice Beach, where Mumu Headquarters is, however, we are probably most popular in the South! I think our line is appealing to all states because we offer such an array of prints and fabrics. We have a vintage-inspired boho vibe, but our pieces are staples in any closet. And moms love our clothes as much as twenty-somethings! It's the versatility of Mumu that makes her so popular – I’d say it's her best quality.