Kick-ass Women

let me start out by saying that switzerland is not the easiest country to meet new people and make new friends. (though talking to other immigrants in a variety of different countries, this seems to be true of many places.) however, i have been fortunate enough to bump into a few people here who i really clicked with, and maya certainly is one of them. a corporate career woman turned entrepreneur, with an impeccable sense of style and a warm, kind and happy personality that not only makes you feel accepted and appreciated, but is contagious as well. i was so surprised to hear maya’s answers to my questions below (because if there was ever a reason to bring back the kick-ass women series, maya is it) when she mentions her much-loved aunt and how she was able to inspire joy and happiness around her. that is indeed such an admirable trait, and one that maya has definitely inherited or carefully cultivated in herself.

maya and her team recently redecorated the showroom of maya’s business MY LITTLE ROOM, an online concept store for kids and parents who prefer to live in style. (you get why we met, right?) anyhow, i visited the place shortly after it was ready to take a few photos of maya and her gorgeous work environment (can you believe working in this place?) i hope the photos will inspire you as much as the showroom inspired me to make some changes to our girls’ rooms! running your own business isn’t easy anywhere, but in switzerland there are so many more challenges that are just not as hard or relentless in belgium. i have nothing but admiration for this woman who had a dream, turned it into a vision and a reality and lives a happy and fulfilled life because of it. her advice to other women (or just others in general) is heartfelt and loving, and i don’t want to keep you from it any longer.

what is the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?

with time, i have learned to trust my instincts. sometimes facts and figures or extensive analyses provide you with information on what you should do, when your gut feeling makes you want to move into a completely different direction. i had a tendency a few years ago to only trust data based information to back up my decisions. although i still think it is important to get hard data in any business, i have learned to listen much more to my instincts in order to make important decisions. and so far, it has proven to be a very wise choice.

if you could only give one piece of advice to anyone, what would it be?

do what makes you happy and do not compromise too much. life is short. don’t get caught in a job or a life you are not enjoying. you have the ability to make the necessary changes. don’t shy away or be scared of them. the journey can be bumpy, but it’s worth it. seven years ago, i was working for a big corporation, had a very comfortable salary, a job that i was very good at, but i was missing a purpose and excitement. when i decided to leave this job and start MY LITTLE ROOM, a lot of people around me thought that was crazy. the first two years were indeed very challenging with a lot of stress and hard work (and my current salary is not even close to what it was back then), but i never regretted that decision, as i am doing something i love and that makes me truly happy.

what would you like to be remembered for?

i would like to be remembered as a person who always tried to spread joy around her. in my family, with my team, with my friends. we all have our problems, but the most beautiful people are the ones who spread their happiness and their joy wherever they go. i’ve learned this from my aunt who sadly passed away six months ago, and who was one of these people. never complaining, never sad, never down, although she did not have an easy life. the joy she spread around her was contagious. she filled the space with laughter and « légèreté ». i think this is the most wonderful thing you can give to people, and it is also applicable at work. having a happy team, for example, is essential to me. there is a great atmosphere at my little room’s offices in geneva, as i think everyone feels valued and listened to. there is a true ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude that is one of the reasons of the company’s success.

what is the biggest accomplishment you wish for yourself in your future?

my biggest accomplishment would be to have my three sons become three kind, generous, empathetic and caring men. i would like to look back and say ‘i have given them the right education, i have made the right choices’ and be proud of the human beings they have become.

photos by stephanie duval

i only realized fairly late in life that not everyone thinks pajamas are essential to leading a good life. it’s simply one of those things that i have never questioned once – as a kid, as a teenager, as an adult and now as a mom – it’s just a given that at any point in time i have a few nightwear options to choose from, adapted to the season and different from what i use as ‘home’ or lounge wear. i blame my mom and grandmother, who ran a lingerie boutique together while i was little, and in fact my mom has worked in the lingerie and nightwear business in some capacity for most of her life. when it comes to flannels and undies, i’ve always been pretty spoiled.

so i guess i must have been about five years old when i first learned about this brand called PLUTO. in nightwear terms, it was what dreams are made of – elegant, beautiful and with wonderful little details. i set it in my mind that when i would be an adult, i’d only wear pluto around the house. then as a journalist in my twenties at a press conference, i met the daughter of the founder of the brand, an kluft, who led the family business into a new era. i looked at the company in an entirely different light now, never having fully realized or appreciated how special it was that pluto was in fact belgian.

fast forward a couple of years, to when an kluft and aline walther launched PLUTO ON THE MOON. imagine pluto as the grown up, elegant sister who has her life entirely together – then pluto on the moon is the quirky and opinionated little sister who enjoys life to the fullest and explores every opportunity on her path. she’s adventurous, a little bohemian but still making things happen. needless to say, i fell head over heels for the new brand, with which i identified even more than with pluto. during my first pregnancy i completely relied on pluto on the moon to feel pretty and comfortable in and out of the house, and the items i started wearing then are still part of my everyday casual wardrobe.

but enough about the clothes – you’ll need to check them out for yourself! what i really wanted to do was give you a little insight into the brains and lives of the ladies behind the brand, an and aline. together they are the perfect combination of business and creativity, and seeing them work together in their atelier – exchanging banter and dead honest opinions – was a treat. i hope their views on life will provide a as much inspiration to you as they do to me.

who has been a mentor to you throughout your life or professional career, and how?

aline – three amazing, strong women very close to me, who all worked in the fashion industry. my grandmother had two beautiful boutiques; she inspired me to be independent and strong, to create my own business within my own environment. she is the best dressed woman i know! my mother passed on to me a passion for clothing; at a very young age she taught me the wonders of pattern cutting & sewing. working on something together with her was magical: an intimate playtime. she still helps me today – thanks mom! and lastly my mom’s younger sister is fun, active, modern; she worked for maxmara for a while and was always traveling to milan, paris… she gave me the bug that got me interested in the fashion industry.
an – life, human beings, the world… they are all my mentors. opening my eyes and ears has given me most insights, very often at unexpected moments. careful listening, asking and understanding the what and the why are always very important to me.

what has been a challenge you didn’t think you could overcome, but conquered anyway?

an – i can remember difficult, stressful, painful situations but i always believed there was a solution. the most difficult part to me is that it is not always clear where and how it will end. but step by step, most difficult situations can be taken care of.
aline – oh i love a good challenge! i’m a bit of a hothead at that level! my father always told me: si tu le veux, tu le peux! so i just go… sometimes things don’t work out. it can be painful, but you learn a lot from it.

what is the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?

aline – to be true to yourself. as a freelancer you ‘re often asked to step into a different world. it’s confusing sometimes, but i learned to create the environment that fits me, learned to listen to my gut and follow my instincts.
an – concerning my professional life: that taking time to think things through and discuss them with the right people helps in clarifying and very often gives me great ideas. on a more personal level i know i can feel at home and good as long as i am surrounded by the people i love.

what are you trying to teach yourself right now?

an – growing vegetables in my kitchen garden. running twice a week. living a more healthy life.
aline – mindfulness – fancy word… i know! i just live a bit too fast, so i want to try to be more in my body and less in my head.

if you could only give one piece of advice to anyone, what would it be?

aline – do something real: something you really believe in, something good, something that will last.
an – think positive, it makes life so much nicer.

what would you like to be remembered for?

an – i find it more important to live in the here and now.
aline – i don’t want to be as pretentious to think i will be remembered for something i created or did. moments with the ones i love are what i hope will be cherished.

photos by stephanie duval


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my name is stephanie duval, and i am a storyteller. this blog is where i share my favorite stories about design, travel, fashion and the nice things in life.


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