We are always inspired by women who confront a problem head on and come up with their own solution. McCall Wilder did just that when she opened McCall Wilder Designs. Inspired by christening gowns and heirloom garments, this busy mom of two creates special occasion clothing to treasure for generations.
We love how you took a problem and started your own company to find a solution. Tell us a little bit about what led you to begin McCall Wilder Designs?
Fashion Design was a longtime love of mine, along with the much more realistic field of journalism in the pre”Project Runway” days. So, I focused on Broadcast News at UGA and ultimately ended up being on the launch team for CNN.com, the first news site on the Internet. After my son was born I became a stay-at-home mom. For his baptism we had a beautiful family gown, but it was much too small and I couldn’t find anything well-made and heirloom quality in Atlanta to use instead. We made do with it on his special day. However after hearing numerous similar stories from other moms, McCall Wilder Designs was born to fill the need for timeless, beautiful special occasion wear for babies and children.
We know you offer custom gowns, what else do you offer in your shop?
We have basically grown the business with my children over the past 12 years, as well as my client’s children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. McCall Wilder Couture for Children now offers a bespoke layette, baptism, and holiday collection, in addition to portrait outfits, ring bearer and flower girl attire, and a new fun, funky teen and women’s line. We still do approximately 90 percent by special order appointments and made-to-measure fittings. But, the boutique also has an extensive ready-to-wear baby and toddler section, plus a small offering of casual and dressier items for boys and girls for last minute purchases. We also help clients nationwide with custom fittings by shipping them the same muslins we use in our Atlanta atelier to their homes in order to get accurate measurement. We then work with them via phone and email to ensure a proper fit.
Who taught you the art of embroidery?
I grew up in Athens, but spent quite a bit of time here in Atlanta with my grandmother and her sewing club in Ansley Park. In addition, my great aunts in Albany, Georgia, took such an interest in my love of hand embroidery. They spent hours fine-tuning my skills and teaching me to knit and crochet. I was fortunate to be so close with them all and have such great women in my life at such a young age.
How do you ensure the quality and uniqueness of McCall Wilder pieces when most clothes these days are mass produced?
We still produce our entire line here in Atlanta through one-on-one meetings with our sewing and embroidery team. We remain committed to using only the finest and purest sustainable fabrics, trims and silk ribbons available worldwide and even our linings are produced in family-owned factories that have been in operation for hundreds of years. We create all of our own hand embroidery designs and are constantly working with clients and fabrics to update our choices, whether it’s an intricate three-foot flower vine on a gown or baby bumper or a new dump truck for a school picture john-john! Preserving the lost art of hand embroidery is a core element of our business and we take it very seriously.
We hear you are starting a wholesale line. Tell us a little about what will be available?
We just created MW by McCall Wilder, our first wholesale collection, featuring our same exquisite fabrics, luxury details and fine embroidery. It is also produced entirely in Atlanta and will debut in select fine children’s boutiques and retailers beginning next spring. We can’t wait to announce the locations — it has been in the works for 12 years and all the pieces recently fell in place to be able to offer it along with our bespoke and boutique collections!
If parents or grandparents were going to choose a few special outfits to invest in for their children and future generations, what do you think are the best choices for both girls and boys?
The outfits I treasured and recently began preserving for future little ones myself, in acid-free tissue and boxes of course, are my children’s first picture, Easter and Christmas outfits. I ended up making a gorgeous hand-embroidered gown and bonnet for both of my children and those will ultimately be stored as well. Those outfits from their first years are so special and my nieces wore many of the dresses too. Now, I am slowly cleaning and preserving it all. I know those are the special outfits we will (hopefully) pull out again for my grandchildren one day.
What are a few tips for caring for heirloom gowns and special occasion outfits?
Our main advice: don’t let stains sit or they will set! It’s hard for parents of babies and toddlers to clean their special outfits right away, but it is a must. Sometimes stains don’t appear right away — especially with babies — so gentle hand washing and cleaning right after something is worn is crucial.
With young children and a growing business, how do you carve out time for yourself?
I read as much as possible to “escape” and do one or two private Pilates sessions weekly to keep myself balanced inside and out. I also take a hot bath almost every night to decompress before I cook dinner to one of my favorite iPod mixes.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given?
“Success comes in cans, not can’t’s!”
What are your favorite restaurants for date night?
Kyma is our absolute favorite and they have a special table reserved for us (for almost 10 years). We also love our neighborhood gems Anis, Basil’s and Taka. Consistently great food, service and a romantic atmosphere. We aim for at least one date night a week and just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in August.
What are your favorite “kid friendly” restaurants?
Jalisco, Pasta Vino and Nakato. All are family owned and have a wonderful staff. I try to cook half the week and go out with the family the other nights. We are lucky our kids are diverse eaters and love all kinds of yummy cuisines.
What is on your bedside table?
Two of my favorite family pictures, a chilled LaCroix or Perrier, and ALWAYS a good book (either hard cover or on my iPad).
What books have you loved this year?
I just read all of the Games of Thrones series, The English Girl, and Gone Girl. I love David Baldacci books and anything by my dear friend Emily Giffin. Can’t wait for her next book in the spring!
Do you have a traditional Thanksgiving dish that you serve year after year?
Our must haves are the Tea Time at the Masters’ broccoli casserole and the frozen fruit salad!
If you have friends visit Atlanta for the weekend, what are your favorite things to see and do?
We always head to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The seasonal events and exhibits can’t be beat and makes it seem new every visit! The children’s garden is always a hit with younger visitors, and our new family Christmas tradition is to go for the hot chocolate & holiday lights.
What are three things you cannot live without (excluding God, family, and friends)?
My 4 precious adopted puppies, fabulous music and travel. I am always planning new trips in my mind years before we actually take them! We recently took family RV trips out west and through Canada.
Thanks, McCall! For more information on McCall Wilder Designs visit their website: www.mccallwilder.com.
And, thanks to our weekly FACES photographer, Cat Maxwell, for today’s beautiful photographs.