Iniam--Lisa's maiden name spelled backwards--is a one-stop destination for fabulous contemporary style. Lisa's well-edited selection of on-trend labels makes you feel like you are getting the best choices of everything that is available in department stores and online, with the added bonus of some seriously sophisticated customer service. Lisa and her staff will tell you when the coat you loved on the mannequin isn't doing justice to your curves, or that the skinny jeans you picked might be a little bit too skinny. She also will somehow magically produce the perfect shoes, necklace, earrings to go with absolutely anything you show her--and she will always, always keep your price-point in mind.
To boot, the girl is an amazing mother. She somehow manages to full-time parent her 2 1/2 year old, nurse her 4 month old round-the-clock, and run Iniam--from the buying, to the storefront, to the finances--full time.
In the interest of full disclosure, Lisa is a good friend of mine. I am still trying to figure out how she has that good lighting wherever she goes (and how she got her 2 1/2 year old to eat vegetables, for that matter...). One day she will let me in on her secrets.
So many women talk about opening a boutique: How did you actually make it happen?
I had been itching for so long to do it. It had taken ears for me to finally quit my job and take the plunge. I wasn't scared of the risk, it was just finding the right time to do it. My dad was my biggest supporter and really gave me the extra boost to go for it.
It's an untraditional career, especially for an Indian. Did you meet resistance from your family?
My parents never pushed me to do any particular career. I'm sure they would have loved it if I had become a doctor but they wanted us to pick careers we were happy about. At my University, fashion design was under the school of natural science. Taking chemistry classes was a requirement because we were expected to learn the chemical makeup of the textiles. Of course that scared me off--and I didn't pursue what I should have. It took ten years for things to come full circle for me.
What's the hardest thing about being a boutique owner?
I know it seems so glamorous on the outside and I wouldn't trade it for a minute. But all the budgeting and financial work can become very tedious. It's the biggest part of the business; running and analyzing reports is a huge part of my work.
And the best thing about being a boutique owner?
Is it terrible to say the clothes?! Ha! That is definitely a perk, but the best thing, at this point of my life ,is the flexibility it has offered me and my children. It's because of Iniam that I am able to be with my kids as much as I am. Beyond that I have met and made friends with so many talented and wonderful people! With all the ups and downs, this has been one of the best experiences of my life and I can only hope it continues to remain so.
What about your children makes you laugh?
What doesn't make me laugh? I have two boys. The eldest is 2 1/2 and pretty much everything he does makes me laugh. The latest segment in his comedy act goes like this: “Mumma, let’s talk about it! If you do poo poo in the potty, you get ice cream?” My second child is 4 months and is just sweet and cuddly. It's nice because the oldest won't sit still for a second.
What's your favorite family ritual?
Saturday mornings. My husband and I get coffees, my eldest grabs a chocolate milk, and we all head to Noah's for bagels. Simple, but great.
Most frazzled mom moment?
Oh my god, are there moms out there that have non-frazzled moments?? All of mine are frazzled.
What do you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about?
I often wonder and hope that I'm raising my kids right. There are so many books and methods on how to raise kids. Before I had my children, I thought about all the things I would and would not do so that they would grow up "perfect." There are so many things to think about: Organic versus non-organic, daycare versus Montessori, time out versus spaking. The list could go on forever I pray that I will make the right decisions in raising them...
Do you worry about raising your kids to be "Indian" or with "Indian values"?
I never really thought about it as two separate things. I want my kids to refer to being Indian because of their Indian values. I am already a diluted version of my parents and their history/heritage. My kids will be far more diluted. It's not enough for me to say I am Indian because of being born into a family who's grandparents and forefathers came from India. I feel that today in the multicultural country we live in it's those values, tradition, religion that really allow us to refer to ourselves as "Indian."
How do you try to inject Indian culture into your kids' lives?
I guess every little bit helps. I make every effort to teach them about religion and prayers. I sing them Indian lullabies, we eat Indian food, and between the grandparents and my husband and I, we try speaking in as much Hindi and Gujarati as possible. I will make every effort to celebrate holidays such as Diwali etc. I must say that here in the Bay Area, I have found to it to be very difficult to give them the culture I had growing up. Of course my mother was the conduit for Indian religion and culture in our home when I was growing up, but there were also so many mundirs and social Indian functions and gatherings. On top of that, we traveled back to India every summer to see family. It is something that I often worry and wonder about.
What do you wish you had done before you had kids?
I really wish my husband and I had more time to travel. We took on a lot of big projects right after we got married and flew right through the "honeymoon" stage. I wish we enjoyed being more carefee. I wouldn't trade my kids for anything but I would have loved to have had more time with my husband, just exploring the world.
Dessert. Multiple times a day!
Ideally I would like to visit one of those health farms in India where ou eat fruits all day and then enjoy yoga/meditation, body massages, scalp massages and body wraps. In between all the pampering I would sleep or read.
-Favorite clothing item?
Right now I'm obsessed with my Gryphon trench coat. It has a faux fur trim. It has been cold and gloomy in the Bay--the perfect excuse to wear it all the time.
-Chocolate or cheese?
What's the biggest mistake women make when buying new clothes?
I often hear my friends and customers say they bought something because they got a great deal on it. It wasn't necessarily something thy loved or that filled a void in their wardrobe. Those items usually end up buried in teh back of their closet.
Any specific issues you see in Indian women and how we dress?
In general, I feel that Indian women don't take as many risks with their style. we tend to stay a bit more conservative.
1. SKINNY JEANS
3. WHITE BLOUSE/WHITE TSHIRT
4. BLACK WIDE LEG PANTS
5. LONG DRESS
6. BONUS – JEWELRY. LONG LAYERING NECKLACES AND I LOVE FUN COCKTAIL RINGS
Where to scrimp and where to splurge in this economy?
In my opinion, if you spend a little extra on a nice handbag and shoes you can fudge everything in between.
DRESS. It's a complete outfit. You don't have to worry about coordinating pieces. Throw it on and you're done. Especially if it's a solid color dress--then you can keep reinventing it with heels, boots or flats. Add some sensational jewelry and change the dress from a day to night look. Most importantly: Learn how to dress for your body.
What are the trends for this season you're most excited about:
1. METALLICS - Add a little something to anything you wear.
2. NUDE COLOR PALETTE – I find clothing in the natural/nude tones soft and romantic.
3. SHEER FABRICS – The best way to feel sexy without having to have it all out there.
4. BLACK ON WHITE PRINT – What's not to like about black & white!
5. GREAT ACCESSORIES –A girl can never have enough. It's the easiest way to change your look without changing your outfit.
What's in your purse right now?
*half eaten banana
*1 unused breast pad (glamorous!)
*3 hair clips and 2 rubberbands
What's something somebody who met you now would be surprised to learn about you before you were married/a mom?
If you could have one magical power what would it be?
I wish I had fairy dust to sprinkle on my kids so that they would both sleep through the night AND in their own beds!
If you weren't a boutique owner, what would you be doing?
I would definitely be in this field somewhere and would love to do some combination of the following:
2.Freelance as a consultant that helped young retail businesses thrive.
3.Manage a boutique that had 3 to5 stores in which I would do the buying/merchandising.
What's new for Iniam in 2009?
Obviously we are aware of the economy and we understand that everyone is tightening pursestrings. We hope to continue helping our customers feel confident and taken care of, within their budgets. We've also re-launched our website and our blog--we would love to hear from your readers, and are always happy to answer any style questions or dilemmas!
Iniam is located at 5902 College Avenue, in Oakland, California. Lisa is happy to field any questions you guys have on all things style so feel free to ask her about everything from skinny jeans to how to find that perfect mom-on-the-go outfit in the comments section, or on the iniam blog.