UrbanMommies talked to Charlotte Jenkins, on how she balances motherhood with a public and demanding role at Toronto’s fashion hot-shop, GOTStyle.

Best of all, she gave us the inside scoop on how moms AND dads can play the part of parent of the year, without adopting the ‘look’.

At work, Charlotte has tackled everything from “glam stuff to the not-so-glamorous” for all three of GOTStyle’s retail platforms. Between “problem-solving, getting things done on the fly, as well as fixing things… It’s definitely prepared me for being a mother. Well, nothing can prepare you for being a mother, but…”

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UM: Has finding the balance between mom-life and fashion-life been an easy transition, or do you feel like you’re still looking for balance?  Did it happen the way you planned?

CJ: I actually found the first 6 – 8 months really quite easy. My baby–Lily–slept, she chilled out, she didn’t cry. I remained connected with my industry through emails, phone, whatever. I was still at home, but it was easy to multi-task.

But when she started crawling, it was impossible. At that point I took a step back, and just focused on my family. Because it’s very hard, when they are crawling around, to email. I found myself making some mistakes, so I cut everything out. I didn’t expect it to be like that; I thought it would get easier as she got older, and it actually got harder.

I went back to work after a year, and I’m having an ok time balancing stuff right now. Your family comes first, your career second—or depending on the day, flip it. Then you just kind of run out of time for social, health and wellness, vanity, that type of thing. I’m lucky. I have a lot of resources at my disposal, but still – I’m her mommy and I want to be there all the time. Before, I was trying to do everything and it wasn’t working, so I was doing nothing.

My new strategy is I focus on three a week. Family and career are always there, then this week I’m focusing on vanity – nails done, hair done, spa appointment – all those lady luxuries. Next week, it’s social – I’ve got dinner reservations, events lined up, that type of thing. My calendar is planned to December.

I don’t want to sit here and say that I’m perfect, because that’s a lie: it’s not believable. Anyone who has a kid, you know what you see online, socially, or on TV is not realistic. You just see the person having a really good day with their kid for one day. You don’t see what happens when they go home.

UM: Do you have any mentors or role models in the fashion industry that you look up to?

CJ: Actually, there’s a few “Fashion Moms” in Toronto who I’ve been following for a long time because we carry them in our store. They are at the height of their careers and they have toddlers. Jenny Bird—who is a big Toronto jewelry designer, sold internationally now in 20 countries, has distribution all over the world, and has a 1 ½ year old at home. Amazing. Another is Ela [Aldorsson] from Ela Handbags. She’s a designer, and she’s killing it. Her bags are amazing, I’ve been to her place a couple of times doing handbag buying for the store—and, you know, she’s happy, her kid’s happy, they’ve got a good thing going. Also Alison Slight. She has an events company, Candice&Alison, they do some of the biggest events in Toronto. She has a 3 or 4 year old, and is definitely still rocking her career. Going out to events, producing events, and really still staying connected. I can relate more to Toronto success stories and women in Toronto who I’ve known for 10 years… just seeing how they manage their careers through having a baby.

UM: You’ve recently launched GotStyle Women. Did your own style change when you were pregnant, or newly post-partum? Did you find yourself rethinking the needs parents have in order to function and stay fashionable? 

CJ: Oh, 100% it changed. So many of the clothing items I own do not work with carrying a baby: heels, strapless bras, off the shoulder tops, crazy jewelry. I was all about high fashion: I loved statement pieces, really wild, out there, fun impractical items.

I don’t want to be the mom who’s not participating in anything because my outfit’s not allowing me to do so. You have to be functional with your clothing and still look good,

so I stick to quality over quantity. I buy luxurious basics that look good and fit really well, like premium denim. I want to wear really current, cool stuff: high-rise, great washes, really flattering and they don’t fall down when you pick up your kid off the ground.

Shoes – I had to reconsider my entire footwear collection, because you can’t prance around in designer heels anymore. So, great sneakers, cool loafers, nice leather boots, that type of thing.

Handbags – I loved a clutch before. Now I can’t carry a baby and a clutch, so I carry cross-body everything. It’s big enough for diapers, toys, a ball, snacks, and wallet. But that’s where you can get away with doing something a little more fun, because you’ll be wearing designer jeans and a tee shirt every day. It’s nice to add some personality with your handbag or your shoes.

One thing I did learn from my celebrity mom-crush, Kourtney Kardashian: tight turtlenecks with everything! You never have time to do your hair, so wear it in a messy bun up on top of your head, then put on a tight turtleneck. I’ve got sleeveless ones, black ones, white ones, chunky ones… They look super sophisticated, and no one would know you got dressed in like 5 minutes.

UM: It’s really a throwback to Audrey Hepburn, right? As a mom, I totally get it: She was running around and didn’t want to think about getting ready.

CJ: Exactly! A lot of great ballet flats, nice, simple skinny jeans, black turtleneck, hair in a bun: that was her iconic look, and now it’s like my “baby look.”

When you have a lot of things in your closet, it can get overwhelming when you’ve got about 5 minutes to get dressed. So you have to cut out half of it. I just have the key items in my closet, and I have [another closet] where I have all the red carpet stuff. I wear it so seldom; I don’t need to see it every day.

“Guys don’t have time, guys don’t like shopping,” that’s the generalization. Of course, there are men who love fashion, but the other 75% couldn’t [necessarily] be bothered. In the last 10 years or so, men have taken more of a special interest in their appearance. GOTStyle exists to make the guys’ shopping and fashion choices easier, more convenient – one stop shop.”

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UM: Let’s talk about dads for a bit. In terms of style, is there an “Iconic Dad” style you’d like to see fathers everywhere aspiring TO? 

CJ: You don’t have to give up [style] just because you had a kid and you’re married. Dress up, dress cool, dress classic. One [celebrity] dad I like is David Beckham… he’s still married, he has 4 kids; he’s very effortless, casual and cool. He layers: denim and leather, plaid and tees. He looks like he’s trying, but he’s not trying that hard. He’s got a good style—but I wouldn’t call him an iconic dad yet.

UM: What are your Top 3 things absolutely NO guy should still be wearing? Is there some way to convince my husband to let go of the type of jeans he wore in the 90s, or am I off base wanting to sneak those into the recycling? 

CJ: So many… But the first 3 I think of are the old sweatshirts from college, old white dress shirts that are dingy, and old shoes.

Every guy has his own style… but they struggle with what looks good on them versus what’s “in fashion.” So when we work with men we say, “load up your basics.” Break down your wardrobe; replace all your old stuff. Guys don’t throw things out. They feel like if they spent $300 on a shirt 6 years ago, it’s still relevant. It’s not.

UM: Can you break down the 5 essentials for a dad to stay looking stylish? Will the same 5 work for all body types? 

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CJ: I don’t think any dad is looking to be a fashion trendsetter. He doesn’t want to think about style; he wants it to be super easy, comfy, and enough room to carry his keys, wallet and smartphone. It’s more about having clean, crisp, fresh things:

Basics: black and white tees, couple of great thin knit sweaters, couple of great blazers that fit perfectly, which go with everything, in clean, solid colors. Gorgeous.

  • Great denim: great for every guy. Premium denim. But fit is the most important thing. Guys with their jeans hanging on the ground: it is the worst look ever. We have tailor shops in our stores and tailor everything for everyone. No one is going to be off the rack, its impossible.
  • Shoes: stay current and updated, because guys never update their shoes. Out with the old, in with the new.
  • Jackets/Coats: often guys just wear whatever jacket with everything. So a coat being seasonal, appropriate, and tailored is such a great add-on to what could be a basic outfit.
  • Solids: not just solid blue shirts, but a good navy suit, great grey pants – Mixing solids in with the patterns will keep you looking very put together, and is a great way to wear the crazy prints in your closet.

The only time you get into fashion that doesn’t work for any body type is when you go really trendy. Keep it clean and simple, and then add 3 or 4 trendy fashion pieces each season you rotate in and out.

This year, what are really popular are rock band tee-shirts. Not the original tee-shirts from the 80s and 90s; these are soft, well fitting, good tees with cool graphics and good colors. Some guys have a harder time juggling family, baby, career; they lose focus on all of their hobbies from when they were younger. They are a little more nostalgic, so you can play into that with fashion. Just don’t wear your acid washed jeans or your old college sweatshirts!

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UM: Tell us ONE thing that any dad can add to his outfit to give it a style kick? One thing for the moms?

Your jeans and tee, or jeans and button up and your blazer are like your meat and potatoes. Some guys don’t want to be wild in their shirt and pant choices, and that’s fair, that’s normal. But an accessory is something you can switch out all the time and you always have other options. Shoes, coats, and then if you commute, carry a good, leather, cool bag. You actually meet more people out in the world than you do sitting at your desk, so your shoes, coat, bag, your scarf and gloves – people see that.

The same is true for [both men and] women: Your coat, your shoes, and your bag go a long way. And everything else can be simple – as long as it fits you well.