When I first thought of ‘My one big busy life’ series, it was to show how other women do the ultimate juggling act of working and raising children. Given my background, my natural interest is women in the creative field or those running their own business.
I’ve made many friends who, as I got to know better, turned out to be in the same boat as me. What’s their secret to this mummy juggle/struggle, I always wonder. So many of them make it look easy. One of them is the lovely Amanda May, who used to manage a fashion brand and now runs her own company, Cinematastic. I caught up with Amanda to find out how she does it all.
1. What’s a typical day in the life of Amanda May like?
Coffee in my husband’s Lady Liberty souvenir mug from our first trip to NYC and a little breakfast. Cuddles with Violet and maybe a story or an imaginary tea party after getting her dressed. Tristan (my gorgeous husband) drops Violet off to nursery on his way to work. I jump onto my laptop to catch up on emails, look for interesting things on Twitter (I like to read and retweet!) maybe a few minutes on Facebook and a scan of my Google News alerts. I will usually have a meeting scheduled somewhere, like lunch at my client Bloody Gray. I take the bus whenever I can because I’m a bit of a London bus buff. I really like sitting on the top deck directly above the driver and watching the city go by, plus I never miss an email or call this way. I always have my netbook on me so I can work from wherever. Violet needs picking up early pm and then we’ll go on a playdate or to the park or duck pond. After that I’ll make dinner, I make most meals from scratch and she likes to help mix and choose ingredients. We have a sit down family dinner most nights. After dinner Violet gets ready for bed. Once she is asleep I usually prop myself up on the sofa and either work or catch up on fashion news. I also enjoy a bit of TV before bed. I wish I could say I watch really smart stuff but I’m honestly into pretty rubbish telly!
2. Tell me a little about your company Cinematastic.
Cinematastic is a consultancy, I started it a year ago when I left my job running a fashion label. I do a lot of pre-production work for catwalk shows, branding consultations, stills and video production, and sponsorship negotiations for special projects. I also work with larger production companies on a freelance basis.
3. Like what you do with Aminaka Wilmont?
Yes, I worked with Aminaka Wilmont on the pre-production for the AW12 show. I spent some time with them in the studio and they are just wonderful people. We discussed the objectives they had for this season and looked at ways that I could help them achieve what they forecasted for via introductions and out reaches to people in different parts of the industry. I had the pleasure of introducing them to the team at CLM which led to the legendary Sharon Dowsett for Maybelline NY looking after make-up and Panos Papandrianos for L’Oreal Professional on hair. The show was absolutely gorgeous.
4. Do you work from home?
My office is at home but I try to spend as much time with my clients as possible, being a part of the office culture is really important in understanding what’s important to a brand.
5. How do you juggle work and family? What’s your secret?
The most important thing is being realistic with my time. Knowing how long something will take and planning for that, making sure my day is balanced. And my husband is amazing, he’s so supportive and involved.
6. What do you find most challenging as a working mum?
Well, when Violet was about one year old the bubble burst and I realised I just couldn’t have it all. I was working more than full-time hours and trying to be really hands on with her and it was totally and utterly exhausting. I was shattered and because I could never give the energy I wanted to either role I felt like a complete failure, a fraud. I realised then that no matter what I was doing I would feel conflicted. If I was at work I felt guilty about not being with her, missing her growing up. Once I left my job I found myself yearning for the challenges of my career and worrying about the ground I was losing by being “out of the loop”. My compromise was being really honest with myself about what I needed to do to feel good about how much attention I paid to both. It took several months but now most nights I go to bed satisfied that I have done my best on all fronts.
7. What do you do to relax?
I find cooking extremely cathartic and I love entertaining. We have a lot of house guests. I also love taking long epic bus rides across London to visit friends with Violet. I find travelling extremely relaxing.
8. How did you start working in fashion?
An amazing woman called Roseanna Plutino, who runs the best creative agency in Canada. Plutino Group took a chance on me. She gave me my first job assisting a stylist 14 years ago and I am still on her books. We have a project coming up in Toronto and New York in November of this year.
9. You love vintage fashion. How did that passion begin?
It was the ’90s and I was a grunge kid. I used to go to the Salvation Army to find stuff all the time. The work of David Sims during that era had a huge impact on me. I remember wanting to look like Winona Ryder in Reality Bites and cutting my own hair with kitchen scissors. Then a couple of years later the film Clueless came out and the fashion blew my mind. It was such a game changer.
10. Tell me about the handmade cheongsam and the Todd Oldham bomber jacket you are planning to pass on to Violet.
The cheongsam is gorgeous, I keep it hung on my bedroom wall. One time when I was working on the film Totally Awesome I had a party back at my place with some of the cast and Dominique Swain really wanted to wear it. She was really disappointed it wouldn’t fit and I had to explain it was for a pre-teen. It’s probably smaller than an American size 0. I think it will be sweet for Violet when she’s like 11 or 12 with some opaque tights and low heeled mary-janes. The Todd Oldham jacket actually belonged to someone very special to me. By the time it was passed on to me I was already too mature for it, I would look like Edina Monsoon in it! But I LOVE Todd’s work and I think he’s had a fascinating career so I held onto it. I’m sure one day Violet will love it.
11. What would you say is your biggest achievement?
I basically dropped my whole life in Canada in 2007 and moved here knowing only a handful of people. It was REALLY hard. I struggled a lot, got chucked out of my flat once, had to work at a pizza place to support myself whilst trying to build a portfolio. I lost heart and cried myself to sleep all the time. But I stayed and I worked hard and I never gave up. I jumped on every opportunity that came my way and I was lucky to fall in love with the man I eventually married. My life did a complete 180 degree turn. And then just when I thought I had it licked I went and quit my job and decided to start my own business. My life has been a giant roller coaster but I’m so proud of the fact that I have always been true to myself and followed my dreams.
Follow Amanda on twitter on @cinematastic