Laura McCarty doesn’t mind embracing the messier parts of life. Her children’s clothing line, Sullivan Yates, preaches this mantra. Made for play, the clothes, which are all ethically made a state away in Tennessee, feature classic designs that are both beautiful and functional. The jumpsuits, dresses, joggers and hair bows are made to last.
Although the clothing brand boasts a lighthearted look, the story behind Sullivan Yates is much deeper than hand-sewn fabric. Named for the baby girl Laura and her husband lost in 2016, Sullivan Yates celebrates the life of Laura’s daughter, who passed away from a rare disease several moments after birth. We sat down with Laura to learn more about Sullivan’s story and how it influenced her to design a clothing line meant to celebrate the joy and wonder of both childhood and motherhood.
Tell us about why you decided to launch Sullivan Yates.
I just had it on my heart to start some kind of company in honor of Sullivan. The very first time I decided to actually do something, I didn’t know what it would be. Then, I felt like the Lord was so clearly leading me down this path of starting a children’s clothing line. So, we launched Sullivan Yates in May of this year. Our goal when we launched was that we really wanted to show just the tremendous joy that children bring and what a blessing they are to us. That’s kind of a little snapshot of why we started.
How has losing a child personally impacted your story?
Honestly, losing Sullivan has completely changed me and changed my perspective on life. I think she really taught both me and my husband to embrace every moment and to cherish the time that we have with each other, because no second is promised. It’s the weirdest feeling, talking to moms who have lost their babies as well. Whether it be infant loss or miscarriage, it’s like a piece of you that you hold so close and love with all of your heart isn’t here. Even two years after, I think it still doesn’t feel real.
But you chose to turn that story into something beautiful. How did that come about?
It’s a tragic story, but there is so much more to it, and there is so much joy that has come from her life. When I think about her, I think I’ll always have parts of me that are sad, but more parts of me will be grateful for the time we did get to have with her. We got to hear her cry, she looked us in the eyes, and we had moments with her that we will always cherish — even if it was just for a short time. I think she has molded me in every way. She’s helped me look at others in a different way, to look at other children in a different way. I have such a heart now for moms who have a hard time getting pregnant or just getting their babies this side of heaven. I think she has just brought about a new perspective and a new hope. She’s changed us in every way.
How do you think society could do a better job of supporting women who have walked down this path?
When you’re walking through infertility or you’re walking through child loss, you just feel so alone. You feel so overwhelmed. People will tell you, “You’re not the only one who this has happened to,” but it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like you’re all by yourself. I think it’s so important for women to know they should reach out to other women who have lost babies. There needs to be an open forum for women to say, “Hey, this is what I’m walking through, and I need someone to tell me it’s not just me — that I’m not alone and slowly but surely, things will get easier.”
I think sometimes society can be so, “OK, it’s over. You have to move on and keep going.” And, I do believe that you have to pick yourself up and keep moving, but with that said, that doesn’t mean you’re forgetting your babies, and that doesn’t mean you’re leaving them behind. You take them with you.
Tell us about the clothing. How would you describe its overall look and style?
They’re classic pieces with a modern twist. My goal is that they are wearable pieces that kids can roll around in the dirt in, but also be presentable if need be. They’re definitely made to live in. I’ve tried to pick fabrics that wear well, that wash well, that are friendly to babies’ and kids’ skin and that can be sort of turned into heirloom pieces. If parents really love them and take good care of them, then their next child can wear them as well.
They have fun prints, and they’re fun-colored fabrics. I feel like our kids are made to stand out, and they’re only kids once, so the clothes are made to embrace childhood. I just hope kids are able to have fun in them.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself through launching Sullivan Yates?
It’s been so rewarding. I feel like I started out with this idea and something that I really didn’t know anything about. I did almost an entire year’s worth of research before I launched Sullivan Yates, and I’ve had a great group of people who have poured into me, and I’ve been very vulnerable in figuring out how to be honest with the things I don’t know much about. All of that hard work has paid off, and it’s been so rewarding to see these ideas and all these dreams become a reality. It’s really come full circle for me. I have learned that even if something is scary and I don’t know anything about it, that I can work really hard and get there.
Describe your perfect weekend. Where would you go and what would you do?
I would go to Florence, Italy. Florence is my favorite place on Earth! I would go and eat gelato at every meal. I would explore the city and bring my film camera, snapping pretty photos and honestly just plan the whole day around meals.
What is your favorite Birmingham restaurant?
It’s a tie between Bottega Café and GianMarco’s. Both are so good!
What’s your favorite resource that you would recommend to young mothers?
After we lost Sullivan, one book that really hit home for me and honestly changed a whole lot of my life is a book by Christa Black Gifford called Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength. In the book, she talks about how she lost one of her children, her second baby. It’s a book about how we really have to work on what’s in our hearts and express what comes into our lives, and not let our hearts be destroyed by things that have happened to us. That we really have to get ourselves together and work through those things and talk about them in order to be better people. I definitely recommend it to moms who have experienced loss, but it’s also just a great book in general.
What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver
What is your best piece of advice?
“You don’t have to be incredible at something to be great at something.” It sounds like it contradicts itself, but really, whatever your talents are — at whatever level they are at — when fully given to the Lord, they can be used far beyond what you ever imagined.
Name three things you can’t live without.
Ice cream, mascara and toenail polish
Laura has since had a beautiful baby girl, Miller McCarty. To learn more about Laura and Sullivan Yates, visit sullivanyates.com.
And thanks to Mary Fehr of M. Fehr Photography for the fabulous photos.
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