Behind the Brand: Minnow

Behind the Brand: Minnow

In celebration of Minnow’s exclusive capsule for Maisonette, we take a closer look at the California-based swimwear brand, plus chat with its founder, mama and designer, Morgan Smith.

Written By Alexandra Willkie Pasanen

You have two children, Theo and Georgia. Tell us a little about them.

Theo is 3 years old and a talker. He’s very strong-willed, assertive, and the outgoing one, at least for now. My baby girl Georgia is 18 months old. She loves attention, and to be held and cuddled – who can blame her!

How did you end up in Southern California, and what do you love about your life there?

My family ties to California run deep! My parents are high school sweethearts from Laguna Beach. They married and raised our family in their hometown. I moved to New York City after college, but after my husband and I got engaged, we moved to Santa Monica. Then, when Theo was born, we decided to move further south to Newport Beach, where both of our families live.

There are a lot of amazing aspects to raising kids at the beach. I love that the whole family enjoys being here; it feels good for all of us. Winter or summer, we are down on the sand around 3 times a week, letting the kids run free. Even if it’s chilly, it feels good for your spirit to be near the water.

I assume that proximity to water inspired you to launch your brand?

Funnily enough, I actually came up with the idea during a month-long home exchange in the UK. My family and I took a weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast, and I needed a swimsuit for my then 14-month old son.

It’s mid-July in London – notorious for its massive children’s clothing offering – and I couldn’t find a single swimsuit that wasn’t covered with decals or slogans! I thought about the swimsuits I had back home, and realized they all felt like real “finds” – items I’d sourced on Etsy or in vintage shops. In California, finding a pair of trunks that hit above the knee was tough! I remember thinking: why is it so hard to find something classic, clean, and simple?

We came back from our trip and I got to work, eventually launching Minnow in 2016.

How does the line reflect your personal style?

I love a timeless, classic look, but also value the fresh, modern element so inherent to California style. But my philosophy on children’s style? Babies should look like babies! Let’s embrace their sweetness with soft colors and understated designs. Little boardies for boys that show their knee dimples; pinafores and soft ruffles for girls. A triangle top bikini for a baby just isn’t our brand.

Was it important to you that the collection be designed and produced locally in California?

It was, for lots of reasons! My background is in product marketing, so creating and defining the brand felt natural, but the production and manufacturing components were new to me. It was therefore even more important to have local vendors so that I could learn, create relationships, and keep a close eye on the process, from start to finish. Having vendors nearby means I can ensure product quality and working conditions are top-notch, and can more easily stay involved.

Plus, I assume being local allows for a better work-life balance. How do you schedule your day?

Being a mother has created a new sense of drive in me. I am much more efficient with my time when working. I focus and get things done in a tighter time frame because I have to: your time is more valuable when it belongs to your family.

I try to schedule my time so that when I’m working I’m truly working and when I’m with my kids, I am 100% present. I often work in the evenings when the kids have gone to bed, so I can spend more time with them during the day.

I think it’s incredible how many businesses are catching on to importance of providing a work-life balance. I certainly realize that as an employer, and it’s been important to me to create a balanced environment at Minnow. We can rewrite the rules. I want to be with my children and I want to work, and feel grateful I get to do both.

Finally, what would you say is the most important part of building a successful brand?

I’m a big believer in authenticity. Be true to who you are. Stay consistent. Consistency builds trust, and trust builds customers.