Written by A Wild Dove | Photographed by Eric White
The term “Je Ne Sais Quois” was meant for women like Maude Heline. She is one of those impossibly chic French women who doesn’t try too hard but still manages to be standout stunning in that irreverently cool way. It doesn’t hurt that her tall slender frame is complimented by a killer wardrobe of Isabel Marant, Balmain and Maiyet, all former stomping grounds where the designer honed her skills in Paris and New York. After having a baby, Heline decided to launch her own line, Maud Heline, a streamlined assortment of minimalist shirting, featuring clean lines and fabrics like classic Italian poplin and Swiss trims. The entire collection echoes a purist Japanese sentiment, with a hint of French finishing in the way of ruffles, lace and dramatic sleeving. She produces the entire collection not far from her home in Brooklyn, where she manages to juggle full time entrepreneurship and motherhood. We sat down with Heline to talk finding balance through music, story time and French baguettes:
What is your definition of staying balanced? How do you maintain that sense of balance?
Family time and seeing friends definitely is part of my balance. I also do not look at my emails during the weekend. I need a break regularly from the iPhone, otherwise, I am losing the essence of life.
Can you share a favorite routine or ritual with your kids? Any time during the week you love?
I love going on Friday morning to "Story time" at Postmark Cafe in Park Slope with my daughter. Kate, who is singing, is brilliant with kids and has an amazing voice. I get so emotional seeing my daughter dancing, laughing and interacting with other kids that Story Time is almost becoming an addiction! On Sunday morning, I like to have breakfast at Patisserie Colson, a Belgium patisserie that is doing real french baguettes. They make these teddy bear shape financiers, which is perfect for kids. It is a reward for my daughter if she has been behaving well over the weekend.
What's the first thing you do in the morning or the last thing you do before bed?
The first thing I do when I wake up is make a milk/chocolate bottle for my daughter. I also prepare earl grey tea and toast. It is really important for me to start the day with a real breakfast and get some quiet time before the rush of the day. Before going to bed, I usually read a couple of pages of a book. It helps me relax and fall asleep more easily. I like to be transported by a novel.
What is your therapy?
I don't have any but I should. I should be doing more sports or have an extra activity but it is hard for me to get some time for myself. During the winter I got a couple of tennis classes and it was amazing. I would say that my main therapy is to dance to electronic music. Unfortunately, I don't do it often enough.
Can you describe your journey in creating your own line?
Creating your own line pushes your limits and your fears. I have done things I thought I would be incapable of doing and I now feel it is completely normal and part of my daily life. I also feel I know myself better and I know why I am doing it. I was shy of showing the clear aesthetic I had in mind for years and now I know there is a space for it. There is a new strength that has been awakened within me and an unstoppable energy that keeps me going without over thinking too much. Having my own line is to me very liberating.
How do you maintain a sense of reality or being grounded in such a crazy industry?
Well, being married and having a kid certainly helps being grounded. This is reality. And even without having a family, I am a grounded person who grew up in the country in France.
What helps is also to be working in Brooklyn, which is way less hectic than if I had my studio in Soho. Also, working mostly by myself means driving trucks, building wooden racks, moving boxes, going to USPS ten times a week, dealing with the factories...all of this really keeps you grounded.
What's the biggest mistake you ever made and how did you rectify or learn from it?
When I got my first orders, I just had a personal studio in Brooklyn. As my collection was being purchased, I had to create the company really quickly and deal with all the administrative stuff in a second. So my company was born without a business plan, without strategy, just with instinct. It works but I feel I now need to be well surrounded. I have done so much by myself that it is time to learn how to delegate and it is not easy when having a company is like having a second baby. I would say that my mistake is to not lose time to find the right people to help in order to gain some in the future. But it is happening now, so I am learning.
What's one thing you can’t live without?
Who would you invite to a dinner party and where would it be?
If I could mix my friends from NYC and the ones from Paris in one place, it would be dreamy.
Ideally I would like to invite all of them to 58 Gansevoort, which is a place especially created for intimate dinners in the Meat Packing district. The design is beautiful and there is an amazing sound system.