Mommy & product developer at Ralph Lauren

Here is my interview with Kendra Matthew, product developer at Ralph Lauren. I interviewed her in NYC, where she lives with her partner and 1,5 year old son. I was curious about her life in the city that never sleeps, about her career path and how she combines her full-time job with motherhood, especially now that she’s pregnant with her second child.

When you were growing up, what was your dream job?
When I was young I always pictured myself as becoming a lawyer. Somehow over the years it evolved into a career in fashion.

What did you parents do?
Both my parents always worked in the hotel industry. My mom worked as a hotel manager. My dad has always been involved in IT.

Can you tell us about your education?
I have a bachelor’s degree in International Fashion Management from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. My Masters degree in Economy & Management, specialized in luxury goods, I obtained from Mod’art International in Paris.

What made you excited to work in fashion? 
I have always loved fashion and styling from an early age and used to model as child. When I moved from Aruba to Amsterdam, I met Dutch fashion designer Percy Irausquin. Irausquin worked for Christian LaCroix in Paris, and after that started his designer label under his own name in Amsterdam. He offered me my first internship and truly introduced me to the Fashion world. I helped with the production and execution of the runway shows, and creating the collection. I created and supervised production for Fashion Week samples. It was quite a small company and I learned so many things during my internship. Unfortunately Percy passed away in 2008 at age 39, as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Read full interview with Kendra

Did you speak French before you arrived in Paris?
If you want to work in a company in Paris you have to be able to speak French as it is very likely that French will be the company language. When I moved to Paris I didn’t speak any French, so I really had to learn it. The French want to help you, if you make an effort. I had a private tutor in Paris and took classes at the Ecole l’etoile in the 6th Arrondissement, a good school with small classes.

Did you find it hard, finding a place to live in Paris?
This was a stroke of good luck. When I was interning at Percy Irausquin we went to Paris together for fabrics, there I met an amazing designer and his great friend Laetitia. She put me in contact with her cousin who coincidentally was moving out of her studio (owned by her fiance’s family). They became my extended family in Paris and we still keep in touch. In many ways Percy was not only a great friend and amazing designer, he absolutely was a mentor and inspiration.

And then you went from Paris, to Amsterdam and finally NYC..
Indeed! I moved from Paris back to Amsterdam, where I worked at the headquarters of the Dutch luxury department store Bijenkorf. I started out as an assistant buyer Men’s and Ladies footwear and leather goods and after that became Product Group Manager Assistant for menswear, kidswear, toys and accessories. Besides that I was the General Coordinator for Bijenkorf’s Inspiration campaign. I also supported my product group manager in the amazing project of introducing new luxury brands and shop-in-shops of brands like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry. I enjoyed my job and had very motivating and amazing colleagues, but I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to move to NYC and further pursue my career in accessories and fashion at Ralph Lauren.

That sounds like a dream, moving to NYC and working for Ralph Lauren.
Yes, the past year has been surreal and I’m really grateful for the support I get from my family, friends and colleagues and the opportunities that have come my way. Being able to establish our home and watch our family grow in this amazing city is an absolute dream come true.

What is your job title at Ralph Lauren?
I am a product developer and production manager for the luxury scarves, gloves, jewelry, and hats. I really love working together with the design department and creating products that fit our brand and customers in every way. It’s an amazing company and we have a great team. It is a privilege to be able to work and learn in such a professional, successful and talent-filled environment. This is the most rewarding part of my job. That, and of course, when I see the product on the runway!

What advice would you give to people who would like to work for an international fashion brand?
Go for it! Nothing is impossible. There are many opportunities in the Fashion world. If you are dedicated and have a professional attitude there is no doubt you will succeed.

You’re working full-time, the mother of a son and expecting your second. How do you manage everything? I am very happy to have the opportunity to be able to further my career and raise a family together with my partner; this is only possible with a support system in place. We have a nanny and she’s just great! Groceries etc., thankfully, can all be done online 24/7, so I save time where I can. And now we’re expecting our second son and are so very excited! I will continue working after he’s born.

How do you find balance between your work and your family/friends? What do you do to relax? I really enjoy my job and the team I’m working in. That motivates me to advance my career. Weekends are dedicated full-time to my family and in the evening I try to be home in time to put my son to bed and prepare dinner for my family. To relax we like to watch tv-series occasionally and after my pregnancy I plan to go back to Pilates.

What are the advantages NYC brings to a mother?
NYC is the city that never sleeps! Thankfully I can do food shopping at any time, before or after work. So I can pretty much organize my household shopping and groceries with ease, that is a true convenience and I gladly make use of this.

Do you have any specific advice for moms in NYC?
New York is a very inspiring and amazing city. The food, museums, playgroups, classes and school choices are endless which I have come to appreciate even more now as a mother. There are great online mommy groups, depending on the area you live in, that are a valuable source of information and offer good opportunities to meet other working moms.

Do you ever go out of town during weekends to unwind?
We try to go upstate every weekend as a family and relax and recharge by the water. I love cooking for my family and friends and we love all activities that involve being outside, enjoying the weather and nature, and especially the sea. Our son is crazy about the water and adores sailing.

What do you enjoy most about living in NYC?
It’s such an inspiring city and so grand! Everyday I’m amazed by the city’s fast pace, and how many people live here. It’s truly bursting with energy and creativity

Travel guide Kendra / NYC

Food shopping: Dean & Deluca

I love Dean & Deluca! It’s great for a coffee-to-go and they sell delightful, freshly made sushi and salads also.

Travel guide Kendra / NYC

Shopping: Ralph lauren

I love the Ralph Lauren POLO store, so beautiful.

Travel guide Kendra / NYC

Cupcakes: Little cupcake bakeshop

Delicious homemade cupcakes and pastries in Nolita, simple and cute.

Travel guide Kendra / NYC

Lunch: Tartinery

During work days, when I do have a moment to grab a bite, I like going to Tartinery and have an avocado tartine, so delicious and easy. They have a counter you can sit at to have a quick lunch.

Travel guide Kendra / NYC

Lunch: Bread

I just love the simplicity and everything they have is delicious, great for a casual lunch.

Travel guide Kendra / NYC

Favorite hotel: The Mercer

Great location, nice ambience, and the food is really good.