Natalie Alcala is a creator and a problem solver. Mother to Diego, 3 1/2, with a daughter on the way, Natalie is also the founder of Fashion Mamas, a members-only network for influential mothers who work in fashion and creative industries. Natalie had the idea for Fashion Mamas when Diego was just three months old—and began as a quest to see if it was possible to put 100 percent effort into both a career she loved and a brand new baby.
“I wanted to experiment and see if I could really give 100 percent to each. I didn’t know where I was going to pull that other 100 percent from, but I knew as soon as I had my baby that my passion for fashion and editing didn’t go away,” Natalie said. “I kept thinking, I love my son to death but I like to do a damn good job. I’m sure there are women out there like me.”
She recognized a void she hadn’t anticipated and experienced fear alongside her happiness. “I cried when Diego was born, and it wasn’t only happiness. I was so scared. I thought, ‘oh, it’s all over. Everything is over.’ So that’s when I went out to start this community, to give women something to look forward to, career-wise, even when they’re so excited to learn they’re pregnant.”
Birthing a baby—and a business
From there, Fashion Mamas was born. The community provides members with a portal where they can connect with women with similar career trajectories or who can offer industry advice. There are also offline events where women can network because, as Natalie puts it, “they’re high caliber women can inspire one another. I don’t hoard my contacts and resources.”
Fortunately for Natalie, the concept was so organic that those foundational early days felt more exciting than difficult. “I remember standing over my kitchen counter one afternoon, bouncing Diego up and down to rock him to sleep while simultaneously designing the first iteration of the Fashion Mamas website. It was crazy but so exciting.”
For the first two years, Natalie did everything herself. She curated the events, wrote every single blog post, reviewed every application for the community, and coded the website. As the business rapidly grew, she learned to embrace the best advice she received from her new community: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Asking for help is inherently vulnerable, which is why it’s so important to Natalie that the community isn’t competitive.
“Fashion, and creative industries in general, are notoriously competitive,” Natalie said. “But once you’re in our world, we want to lift everyone up. And motherhood can feel competitive, too, which is what drove me to create a community for dynamic mothers who are also kind. Some mothers believe there’s a rulebook, and mothers who don’t follow the rules are made to feel less than, even if they may be killing it in their careers.”
Finding the balance
Shutting out negativity has helped Natalie raise Diego while also growing her brand. Her advice? “Every child, mother, and circumstance is different, so there’s no definition of the perfect mother. Do YOU and don’t focus on gossip or Instagram followers or what birthday party your kid was invited to or who launched what business. Stay focused, work hard in silence, and let your success be your noise.”
Now that Diego is 3 1/2, Fashion Mamas has three additional full-time employees, and Natalie’s expecting her second child in just a few months, I had to wonder how close she feels to hitting her 200 percent parent and career goals.
“There’s no real balance—it’s a perfect imbalance. I love my family and I love my career. I’m glad we live in a time where women can be passionate about both. Knowing my best is good enough is all I can do.”