I recently had the pleasure of asking Grace Portillo a few questions about herself, and her brand. She is the rad mom behind Saxon and Sunra. An adorably hip kids clothing line named after her daughter and stepson. She founded the company just over a year ago, and it already has quite the following. This is no surprise, her designs are the perfect combination of modern cool and too cute for words. These are the kind of pieces your kids will pass down to their kids and so on. No "mom I cant believe you dressed me in that" here, just beautiful, timeless pieces.
Not only is Grace creative, she is caring, a portion of your purchase goes to help stop human trafficking. A good heart, great designs and quality craftsmanship, sounds pretty perfect to me.
- Can you tell us a little about your background? Are you a Los Angeles native?
I'm actually not. I was born, and spent the first year of my life in Queens, New York. My parents then hopped over to the West Coast and we lived in LA for a few years until we made the move that will probably be their last. We moved to the Palm Springs area. The Desert is where I have spent the majority of my life. In that hellish little valley that's also a complete paradise haha.
- Was having your daughter Saxon your inspiration for starting a clothing line or was this something you were always passionate about?
Starting a Women's clothing line has always been an ultimate goal for me. I went through different phases of trying things out that interested me, but in the back of my mind, I always had a little fire burning for creating clothes. When I was a little girl I would cut up and alter my clothes. I would even staple things back together or hand stitch, as best as I could, to make new from old. Saxon however, inspired me to start making baby clothes. I never imagined myself making clothes on such a tiny scale. But when she came along, she definitely pushed me in that direction.
- On your website you talk a little about trial and error, are you self taught? Or is this a broader trial and error referring to your business as a whole or life in general?
The trial and error I speak of has to do with being mostly self taught. I took half of a sewing class once haha. I've never been one to thrive in a classroom, to be honest. I find myself learning best when I'm alone, submerged in my work. Trying, failing, and getting better. However, I do think that trial and error is a big lesson in every arena of life.
- When looking for fabrics/textiles what draws you in? How would you describe your aesthetic?
I tend to be drawn to neutral textiles. However I also can't resist a handwoven Ikat, or vibrant florals. I have designs in my head constantly and I love when I find a fabric that completes that design, as imagined. I think my aesthetic can be described as classic silhouettes with a playful twist.
-What most influences your designs? Music, art, places ..
The Desert, the jungles of Honduras, indigenous peoples, Cumbia music, Southwestern culture, my collection of crystals, the ocean, Captain Beefheart, Johnny Cash, and beautiful plants to name a few. I think everything I've ever experienced, and surrounded myself with, read, listened to, and seen influences my designs. Either consciously or subconsciously. I think one of the things that plays a lot into what I create, is my own personal taste in clothing. A lot of times my garments are actually things that I would wear myself. I'm constantly storing ideas, colors, textures, etc. that attract my interest and allowing them to manifest into the garments I create.
- Do you still do all of your own manufacturing or have you had to employ others due to demand? If that is the case, what was that process like for you? Was it difficult to find makers to meet your standards?
I've gotten to the point where I definitely have had to employ help. I would have to cut sleeping out of my life if I had not. Finding a seamstress proved to be a very hard task. I tried a handful of people, but never felt completely satisfied with their work. It's hard to find someone who is going to care as much as the business owner does. This is my life's work and I was not willing to compromise the quality of my garments to save myself a buck. I finally found a seamstress who exceeds my expectations. She's a rad girl and not only is she very talented, but our views about fast fashion, the fashion industry in general, and American made businesses are very parallel. It makes it easy and enjoyable to work with her. However, even though I do have help, I still like to sew up a handful of orders on my own. I have a hard time not having a hand in that because I love doing it so much. Even if eventually I'm not doing any of my own manufacturing, I'll still have 5 projects I'm working on at home. The nitty gritty is very satisfying to my creative urges.
- As a mother and a designer how do you juggle your time to find the right balance in life?
It always sounds better in theory haha. The stay at home mom who owns her own business. It's not always easy. As with everything, it's been a lot of trial and error. I think I've gotten to the point where I maintain a pretty consistent schedule that includes time spent with Saxon, and working. I schedule out my days and weeks and try to stick to those schedules as closely as possible. But I've also found it very important to not burn my candle at both ends. Giving myself days off that I dedicate to my family and friends are very important for me. I don't always get a gold star at multitasking, but I try my hardest to learn from my mistakes. When I feel like I'm being stretched too thin, I take a day off and drink a mimosa. Or two.
- For you what are the most rewarding attributes of being a small business owner, and being made in the USA?
Like I said before, the nitty gritty really allows me to fulfill my creative needs. I love that part of being a small business owner. I started this company from nothing and so far I've had my hand in every area of the whole process. Growing with my craft and my business is very rewarding. Aside from that, owning a small business in this day and age, allows me to see my product/customers in action. Instagram is an awesome platform for connecting makers with consumers and I feel lucky to be a part of that.
I'm a strong believer that we as a society need to work on bringing back more jobs to the American people, and I'm glad that I've been able to give local people work, even though I'm operating on a minuscule scale. As my company grows, and as I expand into other projects that I have planned, I'll continue to do that. I plan on always producing my products, ethically and consciously. There's nothing more rewarding. Making money off of my passion was never a priority, and I feel very grateful to do what I love, for a living. I'm gonna go ahead and say that I feel pretty #blessed.