These Long Island moms work with their children designing diverse PJs, linens and apparel
Going into business is often a lofty challenge. But for some, joining forces with a powerhouse (in this case, also known as "mom"), can make it easier. For at least three Long Islanders, the pandemic was a pivotal point leading them to design-focused careers that bring a new sense of purpose, with the help, and partnerships, of their mothers.
And today, they are absorbing the wisdom (and love) from mom, and on the flip side, imbuing businesses with their own youthful know-how.
As a salute to Mother’s Day, we visited them to learn about what they’re doing, the special relationships they have and how mom helped.
Designer dreams: Julianne Bartolotta
At 10 years old, she knew she wanted to be a fashion designer, and today, Julianne Bartolotta, 26, of East Northport, has arrived. The eldest of five girls, she grew up with the sewing machine a household staple.
She attended college for apparel design and fashion merchandising, ultimately working in the industry. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, she and her mom, Jaqueline, 55, got a taste of collaborating by sewing hundreds of masks.
In November, Julianne launched the eponymous brand of trend-driven, Italian-made women’s clothing. Both are co-founders; she’s the creative director, her mother, the chief operating officer.
Now into her third capsule collection, which in addition to online is sold at pop-ups and trunk shows, her mission is to make women feel “like a light in a dark room.” She says, “I try to give each garment something special: a pop of color, a trendy silhouette, heart-shaped buttons." Prices for their line run from $89 for a silky, ruched blouse to $228 for a luxe Italian sweater.
Mom’s take: “I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for like 25 years, though I did take some fashion classes in college and I’ve enjoyed sewing my whole life … I’m at an age where my children are getting older and there’s more time for me.” Teaming up with her daughter “has really been a dream come true for a mom. She’s youthful and has that energy. I have more experience.” They rarely disagree, although when it came to a catsuit Julianne wanted to include in one collection, she was iffy about it. “I thought it was very avant-garde,” she explains. “We had a little going back and forth on it, and I finally said, ‘When it comes to creativity you get the last word.'”
Message to mom: “My mom is my voice of reason,” says Julianne. “Whenever I am struggling to make a decision, she’s my rock, my confidante, my right-hand woman. She brings peace and level-headedness to everything. She helps me see the big picture. Thank you, mom, for supporting me and my dreams. I’m so grateful for you … love you.” Browse the line: juliannebartolotta.com
The pajama game: PJs for the Culture
Officially launched in October, PJs for the Culture is the result of a partnership between Vanessa B. Streeter, 55, the deputy county executive of Suffolk County, and her son, Dallas Streeter, 24. For years, Streeter insisted that the family dress up in those classic matching holiday pajamas around Christmas, until at one point Dallas said, “Mom, can’t we get pajamas that are representative of us?”
And so they made their own.
Their first collection, with graphics designed by a local Black artist and friend of Dallas', Amiyah Ford, sold 900 units ($30 for adults, $25 for kids) in six short weeks with graphics that included Black Santas, some emblazoned with greetings such as “Happy Kwanzaa” and “Feliz Navidad.”
Occasionally, says Dallas, “We have creative differences of course, not arguments. We kind of break it down.” Coming soon, a line of “educational” children’s pajamas ($26.99) dubbed “Little Kings and & Queens,” that Dallas explains “are an ode to African civilization.” Mother and son both hope the pajamas’ message will encourage conversation and learning.
Mom’s take: “I’m not used to being challenged, and he challenges me. It’s such a great opportunity to work on a business with your child and it’s exciting for us to grow together and share ideas … I look forward to our late-night conversations — he puts a smile on my face every day.”
Message to mom: “First, I want to tell her that I love her, that she’s appreciated and that the work she does does not go unnoticed. It makes me feel lucky to have a mom like this to guide me in the right direction. I appreciate her experience and the conversation we can have where she’s respecting my opinion and me respecting the grind that it takes to be an entrepreneur.” Browse the line: Pjsfortheculture.com
Finding her calling: Orient Linen Co.
During the pandemic, Abigail Collier, 30, moved from New York City to Orient, worked remotely as an overnight TV news producer, and became utterly enchanted by her mother’s store, Orient Linen Co. In July of last year, she officially quit her job of four years, and as her mother, Janet Markarian, 69, explains, “Took the reins.”
Markarian, 69, has operated the Orient Linen Co., set in a historic building (once a barbershop), for some 20 years. Though she is a full-time real estate agent, her background is in textile design and her handmade custom quilts, bed linens and shams have long been coveted by locals.
“It was more of a hobby for her,” says Collier, who now runs the place. She recalls that “During COVID we spent so much time together daydreaming about this. I don’t want to take anything away from her. It was a very good business on a very small scale but I sort of made it official.” To that end, Collier created a website, a mail-order system and a social media platform.
“She brought us into the modern age,” says Markarian, adding that the two often brainstorm, design and sew together. The shop’s profile has changed under Collier’s direction. “It’s more of an atelier now.” Beyond linens (those treasured quilts run up to $225), the mix includes French lavender soaps, Maldon salts, puzzles, baby bibs, aprons, totes and enamel wear. Collier sums up the inventory as “things we both make and things we both love.”
Mom’s take: “I wasn’t able to do the store full time, but I always knew it had potential. It gives me great satisfaction to see that vision sort of pop. Having her daughter involved in the store, “is a dream come true, and I’m not exaggerating.”
Message to mom: “I want to thank her for taking the time to teach me and for being this fierce, independent strong woman who pushes me not only to work hard but to create things of my own and who holds me to high standards." Browse the line: 1100 Village Lane, Orient; 631-521-3712, orientlinenco.com.