Chicago-Based Creative Mama Jessica Zyla On Her Top Tips for Raising Kids in the City

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Photos: Jessica Zyla

Creativity can often be a fickle thing, and for some mothers it can be a challenge to keep the juices flowing with #mombrain. From what we can tell, Chicago-based Fashion Mamas member all-around creative Jessica Zyla has clearly kept her design-minded gray matter going strong: In addition to launching the intimates lines of labels like Catherine Malandrino and C&C California, Zyla has helmed her own business designing competition swimwear and costumes (how rad is that?) and just recently launched a consulting studio focused on all facets of design and development.

Here, we get to know the Windy City-based mama — read on to find out why she's all about ditching the stroller, her best advice for entrepreneurial moms, what clothing labels she's currently dressing her little one in, and more.

What do you do, and what has been your career journey thus far?

I am a designer with over 10 years experience.  I went to school for fashion design and landed in intimate apparel when I graduated, which I really loved. I started working professionally less than five days after graduating and I've worked for small companies in private label and branded license product with national and international distribution. 

I have been involved in every aspect of the design and development process including concept design and color forecasting, silhouette design, graphics/print design, cad, technical design and fittings, pattern making—you name it! Over the course of my career, I have launched numerous intimate apparel brands for the likes of Catherine Malandrino and C&C California.  For a couple years, I also ran my own business making custom competition gear for female fitness competitors. That was totally different than my more corporate job and really fun! I made competition swimwear and themed competition costumes. 

Now I have started my own consulting and freelance business, Suite Creative Studio (if anyone needs help with design/development for their brand, please get in touch!) in addition to launching my own intimate apparel brand. I have gotten into photography in the last few years as well, which is such a great creative outlet. 

What is the name and age of your little one?

My daughter's name is Gaëlle. She is 11 months old, almost 1 year. I can't even believe it! 

What is a typical workday like for you, from the moment you wake up?

I usually get in an a.m. workout to get my day started. From there my days vary. They are typically one or a combination of computer work, pulling together inspiration, working on hand sketches or computer renderings, making patterns, sewing samples, and communicating with vendors and manufacturers. Evenings, I try to spend some quality time with my daughter before she goes to bed and then a little downtime for me, which often includes a glass of wine, editing photos, or hanging with my husband. 

What are your best tips for raising a child in your city?

Having a network is key. Take advantage of what's around you. I love taking my daughter to the parks near by, museums, the lake front. Being outside everyday is so important for her. Forego the stroller when possible. It's so much easier to get around the city with her in a carrier and I think it makes for better bonding. 

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Favorite organizational tools/apps that help you balance work/mom life?

I can't think of anything I use more than Notes. I am constantly making lists and reminders. Probably only second to Amazon Prime. 

Current favorite kids clothing brands?

I love The Bonniemob for adorable, playful pieces. Organic cotton staples from H&M conscious collection and Primary are great. Zara kids line for cute fashion without having to make a huge investment, as she is still growing out of things so quickly.

Current favorite grown-up clothing brands?

This one is tough. I admittedly have never been loyal to brands, but more about finding pieces I love in my travels. My favorite pieces in my closet have been found while traveling in Italy, or in Hong Kong (mostly Korean brands). I did just buy a couple of new faves from Cynthia Rowley and I have been living in my Levi's 501s.  I also like to buy pre-loved/vintage.  

Beauty product you can't live without?

Juice Beauty tinted moisturizer with SPF30.  Life saver to expedite my beauty routine on days that I have about 30 seconds to get ready while my daughter waits impatiently. And it's void of chemicals so I don't worry when Gaëlle tries to kiss and eat my face! 

Best advice for women who want to succeed in your field?

There is no single "right" path to success. Like many things, the most important, and sometimes most difficult part, is just getting started. Network like crazy and value relationships. It is a really small industry and you never know who you may end up crossing paths with again throughout your career.