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it's Beth from Ses Petites Mains

Wednesday, 17 December 2008 by Irene Hoofs

Ses Petites Mains... 'little hands' is the name of the gorgeous fashion label for children founded by Beth Miles...after working for design houses in NY for many years and growing up learning to sew, knit and embroider and Beth decided it was time to start her own line of 'tiny chic clothing' for girls and the clothes are still being manufacturerd in San Fransico close to her home ... and today she opened her doors to her home for us ... enjoy!
1.) Hi Beth, thanks for welcoming us into your beautiful house … can you tell us a bit more about your house and with whom you are living here?
My house is a cottage-style Victorian built in 1900 that sits atop one of the highest streets in San Francisco.  Our home was in serious need of love when we bought it in 2001, but from the first moment I saw it, I knew it be my home.   The great thing about a home that hasn’t been worked on is that the original details are still there, but of course, the obvious downside to a home that hasn’t been cared for, well, you know!  It has been really exciting bringing love and light back into it.  I share my home with my daughter, Somerset; our dog, Boris &  our cat, Mouli. 
{Studio desk}
2.) Do you work from home, is that workable for you or would you prefer to have a studio somewhere else?
I do work from home which really suits me at this point in my life.  Having a young daughter, I feel so fortunate to have the flexibility to come and go as the job needs.  I can take her to school in the mornings, work all day and still volunteer to read to her classroom or take her for icecream after school.   On certain days, it can be very busy here-- I may have my assistant working, mothers coming and going with tiny fit models, or a contractor dropping something off.  But it feels very alive and keeps me connected to my family, which is so important to me.  I do have a dream of a lovely, spacious, light-filled studio and tiny store front where I would have the opportunity to meet my customers and create special pieces right in the store.  That will be my next step.Studio
3.) When and why did you start your beautiful Ses Petites Mains? What are the nice parts of your work and what things would you rather skip?
I started this project in April 2006, after many months of serious thought and deliberation.  But really after years of dreaming of owning my own business.  My background had been womenswear and I loved my career, living in New York City, working for great companies, travelling etc., but its not very conducive to having a life outside of your work.  I knew once I had my daughter, it would be hard to return to that world. 
I enjoy many aspects of the business—it truly is a labor of love.  Having a small business like mine is quite demanding at times and without the passion for it, I could never hang in there.  Finding fabrics, creating stories from them and dreaming up bodies—that is the best part for me.  I find the fabrics, create the patterns and the season starts to come together.  I enjoying the journey of where my first pattern takes me.

If I never had to help organize another shipment of deliveries, well, that would be pure bliss! 

{Images and art in office}
4.) Where do you get your inspiration from, can you mention some artists you admire or other sources you really love to use?
I am definitely a collector of ‘things’-vintage clothing, fabrics, books, china, anything that speaks to me.  Scouring a flea market is one of my most favorite things to do on a Sunday morning.  The Chelsea flea market in New York City and the Covent Garden market in London are places where I have had infinite luck at finding treasures.  I adore photography and find an ample archive from my own family’s memories.  The photos of my mother from when she was a child in the 30’s and those of my older sisters from the early 50’s--I find endless inspiration from the clothing and spirit of their time. 

I really appreciate figurative pieces – paintings, sculpture, etchings.  I used to sit forever in life drawing studios.  I appreciate the live form and think it is why I always love fittings.  It probably also explains my complete adoration of Modigliani.  There’s a boldness to his work, in form and color that really resonates with me—I am definitely NOT afraid to use color or mix patterns.  Other artists that I appreciate would be Chaim Soutine, Felix Sherman, Constantin Brancusi, and Ruth Asawa.


{dining room}
5.) Such a great dining room, can you tell us a bit more why you decorated it like this and about the art on the wall?
The yellow walls just make the room so sunny & vibrant.  I love the big table where friends and family can squeeze around.  (I suppose that is a remnant of having grown up the youngest of 7 children).  I found the antique horseshoe chairs at an auction and then added the modern red version as a mix of the old and new.  Plus they are such a great color of red.  Again, a bit of Modigliani on the walls and then work that is more personal—some etchings that I did, art I bought when I was travelling and many pieces that my daughter Somerset created.  


6.) Speaking of the dining room … who is the cook in your house and was this kitchen already there, the sink is fabulous?
That lovely old sink has been the source of many renovation headaches.  I found it in a salvage yard in Oakland – it was a hospital sink.  I just fell in love—it cost a fortune and weighed even more.  I thought my contractor would never speak to me again.  But we hung it on the wall and have been loving it ever since.  We literally built our entire kitchen around it!  I cook, although it is not my first love, but I do completely enjoy baking.  If only we could eat chocolate chip cookies all day long!  However, because organic farms & farmers markets are so accessible here, I have become much more interested in cooking. 


{Joy things on table and vintage camera}
7.) What truly brings you Joy, what makes you happy?
Hiking along the headlands in Marin, taking in the amazing coastline of San Francisco.  Being near the ocean.  Listening to live music.  Drinking really good coffee or margaritas (best ever in Mallorca!).  Making yule log cakes for Christmas Eve.  Watching my daughter tap dance.   Being a parent.


{Somerset’s bedroom}
8.) This looks like a princess room … did Somerset herself help you to decorate the room, what does she really like and does she ‘help’ you sometimes design a new collection?
Her room had paint literally falling off the walls when we first moved in – it was a sight!  With the assistance of much protective gear,  we stripped the walls, painted the floors red and made a lovely nursery.  Now that she is 6, she is the director of her space.  She frequently asks to rearrange the room, in a really thoughtful manner…she is clearly taking it all in and thinking of how best to position her things.  She now reads on her own, so she asked that her bed be moved to the side so that she can lie in bed and have immediate access to her favorite books—any and all Patricia Pollacco books, Harry Potter—only the first 4 years, as it got a bit too scary after that—and Amelia Bedelia. 
Her bed was the best find at the Chelsea Market. 
She has always loved her dolls, her stuffed puppies and lately discovered a great love of tap dance.  She is big into playing dress up, so we create lots of costumes and now she sketches what she likes and we sit together and figure out how we can make it.
In lots of ways she helps me with a collection, she may tell me that she ‘wants a long dress.’  So I think about how that could work and what would make sense for me.  She is also really particular about fit, so I know that if she is comfortable in something, most will be also.  I find that if she really likes a fabric that I use in ses petites mains, it will ALWAYS be a best seller.  Her opinions about fit and what I see her choosing to wear, always impact how I design and what I design.  She is a wonderful designer—whether she knows it or not.


{Somerset’s play corner and dresser}
9.) What kind of toys does Somerset love to play with and what things do you encourage her to play with?
Somerset loves her babies, making music, riding her bike, dancing—ballet & tap-- and sidewalk chalks.  We made a garden for her when I was pregnant and she has loved discovering it over the years.  She has a great affection for rolly polly bugs and butterflies of which we have tons in our yard.  I feel really lucky as a parent because she is so open to many of the things that I enjoy—the outdoors, cooking, art.  I have encouraged her do whatever she feels like, and to remind her that she is a creator.  I hope that is something that she carries with her in life. 


{daybed in parlor}
10.) Do you also sew your own pillow covers … do you use your creative skills for your own interior accessories as well and where do you shop for fabrics?
I did create those cushions on the daybed…all those fabrics were from ABC Carpet & Home.  I lived around the corner from that gorgeous store when I lived in nyc and visited every weekend!  That daybed was found there too—the whole thing is my little homage to my life in nyc!  I’m the type of person who is always thinking  “I can make that!”—its hard for me to purchase things when I feel like I can create them in my own way.  But now I have such less time, I am becoming a bigger consumer. 
I have always loved Mood Fabrics in NYC, I tend to wait until I am in the city and do all my shopping at once. 


{The Garden}
11.) How important is a garden for you, are you often sitting outside and does nature inspire you when designing new collections?
The outdoors have always been important to me.  When we bought our home, I had just left New York City and had no outdoor space.  The garden had not been loved in close to 30 years, it felt like a crime to have abused it as such.  We stripped it of everything—weeds, garbage, it was disaster.  We used the bricks from the old interior chimneys of the house and layed them as the patios, we planted every kind of plant, hung swings -- just became immersed in it.  I still feel that lovely energy everytime I am in it, its like the space is saying ‘thank you’.  I love the quiet of the garden, the light streaming through the trees, the smells, the birds.  The color of things in nature is inspiring for me, and the textures—you will always see them in my collections.


{dollhouse and Somerset}
12.)… and finally what is your magic tip to start something for yourself, work from home and combine this with being a mom?
Creating ses petites mains has been my most rewarding work experience thus far.  Having my own line was a dream I had since I can’t remember not having it.  In starting ses petites mains, I took a huge leap.  I produced a small production run—without having a single order or wholesale account-- and started to show my work locally at design events in San Francisco.  I don’t know if I would recommend my ‘method’ to others, but it completely paid off for me.  I was signed on by a rep within a couple of weeks and it all just started moving from there.

There are lots of occasions when things don’t go as one would hope—the fabric doesn’t show up, the store order gets mixed up, my web site crashes on the eve of a huge bit of press!-- but I just never give up, I never stop believing that I can do it.  And through that belief, my business keeps growing.

I have a background in design and advertising which has been hugely important—ses petites mains is the weaving of all my passions and skills into one tapestry.   And being a mother makes it all a bit more hectic but at the same time gives me the greatest clarify.  At a certain point, no matter what is happening, I have to put it down and go volunteer in the school library--you certainly can’t leave twenty 1st graders waiting!

..Ses Petites Mains..

..Ses Petites Mains collections..

..Ses Petites Mains online stockists..

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