Interview with Vivian dos Santos / model for our FW17 women's collection
Our Women's collection model chats about NYC, vintage finds and raising her son Lukas.
I met Vivian in Boston right after my son was born. She was working at a local kids shop and I was struck by her passion for useful and beautiful baby and children's things. It would be not even a year later that I would start Misha and Puff and Vivian would move to NYC and open her online shop: Sugar on Snow. The shop is now closed, but her taste remains an inspiration. I was thrilled when she agreed to be the face of the MP fall17 women's collection!
Shop the collection HERE
I asked Vivian a few questions last week. Read her thoughtful answers on being a mom to 11 year old Lukas, traveling with kids, living in NYC as well as a list of her favorites for babies and kids.
"A lot of parents think life is over when they have a baby that it’s all feeding schedules and naptimes I’m more inspired to want to be that kind of mom who could strap her kid on her back and do anything."
Vivian and her son Lukas
Favorite places in your neighborhood / Brooklyn / NYC in general. With kids?
We live in a neighborhood with so many good restaurants, so going out to eat is one of our favorite things to do. It’s nice to become a regular somewhere when you have kids. It’s more fun for everyone. We love Frankie’s, Prime Meats, Hibino and Lucali for pizza, it’s so special. I love the atmosphere.
If we go to Manhattan it’s for a museum or Film Forum. They have a kids screening every Sunday, Now that Lukas is older we try to make it on other days too. His favorites are Film Noir. The last time I went there alone I watched the French Connection. I have another secret movie theatre I go to, it’s in a hotel. We snuck in together to watch James Bond. That was fun!
Our favorite museum is the MET! Never get tired of wandering in there and it’s basically free. The Museum of Natural History is also great! I need to take Lukas there more… The Frick Collection has an age restriction of over 12 only but we snuck in there too and it was worth it. Doing some “sneaky” things is fun.
We are so lucky to have Pioneerworks in Red Hook. There are telescopes, a beautiful garden. We love it there! We started going when Lukas wanted to build a time machine because they were having a talk on time travel… They regularly have these science events. A lot goes over his head but I think it’s always good to challenge kids just enough. It’s so important for him to see how much is possible... with thinking, with science and art. He’s had the opportunity to hear a lot of interesting people. We stay up late talking. He tells me he loves our “Life Talks” I think kids don’t always have the words to express themselves but they do wonder about amazing things.
It’s important to get out of the city though. It took me a while to feel it. I need the ocean and love to go back to the North Shore in Massachusetts it’s my favorite. Or even just jump on a train and go to the Rockaways, I love the beach when it’s cold. If I can escape and go sailing anywhere, I’ll get on any boat.
Describe your parenting style:
I am strict. I think there are certain things to be strict about that lay a foundation for everything else. Like manners. I know a lot of people would say I’m old fashioned. I’m appalled to see kids screaming at their parents and running around restaurants. That kind of stuff. I see a lot of parents don’t feel in charge, they want to be friends with their kids, they don’t want to be like their own stuffy parents. I had Lukas when I was 18, we are so close in many ways, it’s hard to just be his mom but I need boundaries. It gives them a lot more security if you have authority and at least pretend you know what you’re doing. Make rules and stick with them. Have boundaries. But always balanced with warmth and affection. That said, there’s a lot I’m not strict about like routines, I just basically always took Lukas everywhere and it’s been very good for him to become adaptable that way. A lot of parents think life is over when they have a baby that it’s all feeding schedules and naptimes I’m more inspired to want to be that kind of mom who could strap her kid on her back and do anything.
What was your upbringing like and has it influenced you as a mom?
I spent my first years in Brazil with my grandmother. It was like growing up in another time or outside of time and that’s probably why I never feel like I can get with the times! I have great memories playing in the garden and being doted on by all these older women and beautiful cousins. The only playdates we had were with the Japanese neighbors. That combination of cultures made such an impression on me too. I love to look back on the magic of that time but that separation was not good for my relationship with my mom, I don't think she ever recovered from not getting to be with us when we were so young, she wanted to be. I couldn’t give up that time in Lukas’ life to go to school and pursue a career. It was too high a price to pay. But we understand so much more when we become parents too… We compensate for things and hopefully realize that is a gift too.
We weren’t a super tight family in a typical Latin way. They weren’t traditional at all. I grew up with seitan and organic food and a working mom. It was kind of quiet. I like the energy of multiple generations being around. I missed that stuff from Brazil.
Still I have a lot from them. My mother had taste, she made sacrifices to always give us the best of everything. I can’t remember not being aware of quality. I am that way with Lukas and that’s from my mom. My dad was a history and english teacher. The one thing he never said no to in a store was books. My best memories of my dad are of driving in the rain with loud classical music and we would go to bookstores or the library and stay for hours. He made sure we were ladies and he was very strict about grooming and manners. He was always giving us history lessons and testing us. We had no TV until 5th grade. It was definitely boring at times, and life wasn’t easy as a child of immigrants but my imagination was endless. We had the best games… For that alone I wouldn’t change it for anything. I really believe in giving kids a lot of time and space to be bored to come up with their own games, to not disturb their reality, that our role as parents is to give all the resources, books, art supplies, musical instruments, any tools you can manage to open their minds and support the imagination they’re all born with.
Both you and your son went to Waldorf schools, him for preschool, and you for high school. Talk a little about his experience and yours. Which age do you think is more beneficial for a school like that?
I like Waldorf because it takes the whole being into consideration. It’s guided by an acknowledgement that we’re not only physical bodies, so it’s not just an academic education. Everything is considered. I take issue with a few things for sure but I wish this holistic way was the approach everywhere. Kids spend so much time at school… Whatever your beliefs kids are fragile and new to everything, for me it’s important to think about how you want the world to unfold for them. In general schools are dirty, cold, structured places I don't think that’s nice for a small child at all! And nowadays there’s homework. So much pressure it doesn’t make sense at that age. How does that teach them to want to learn? Waldorf kindergarten was all cozy, baking bread, free play and nature. I wasn’t ready to put Lukas in an environment I myself can’t stand. That first experience will make an impression on the child about what it means to be away from you and to go to school. When kids have a place they like to be they can be receptive to their education.
I went to high school at a Waldorf School because that was the only choice my parents offered when I didn’t want to be in public school anymore. I got into my subjects in a way I’d never experienced in school before. The work could have so many components. There was always art, it was never just a paper. It was more rich. In public school nothing I learned was sticking with me. But I had good grades. That’s what you get when the teachers are teaching for test scores. I felt herded. We had so many foreign exchange students at Waldorf, and we all had friends at other schools. That was really fun at that age and gives so much perspective. I made so many friends all over the world, many I visited later with Lukas.
You have such a great sense of style – a great eye for vintage, and design. (now we all need a vintage Gucci scarf) What are some of your favorite pieces / finds:
That’s so flattering, Anna. It’s funny I have so much stuff since I hate shopping! I get irritated with salespeople, I don't like being helped at all.
Some of my favorite things I got just giving a friend a compliment and they’ll say “oh this old thing, you like it more than me you should have it!” It makes it so special. My best friend’s grandmother has a whole room of shoes my size… Imagine! I get a lot of people’s grandmother’s stuff… In middle school a girl I didn’t even hang out with brought me two leather belts from her grandmother who had passed and told me she thought I was the only person who would appreciate them. Those are still my favorite belts one is YSL and the other is Gucci, both from the 70s. I’ll wear something forever.
That Gucci scarf (seen in the photoshoot) is one of my favorites. I saw it on a friend and spent months waiting to find one on Ebay. That artist (Vittorio Accornero) designed many beautiful scarves for Gucci and they are reissuing so many of those prints now. I like it tied up furoshiki style as a bundle. I just wrap my book and a clutch inside instead of carrying a bag… I also collect smaller gauze bandanas from 45rpm. I love the fabric and the way that store smells. My sister gave me a really special one from a series they did this summer, each one features a different scene of bunnies enjoying their summer vacation. Mine has a dark starry sky, the bunnies are looking up at the stars by the campfire.
The first gift Lukas gave me was a silk floral scarf from the 30s. We were at the flea market and I had admired it, so he went back and told the vendor he wanted to give it to me for Mother’s Day but had no money and wasn’t sure what to do. The lady thought he was so sweet and gave it to him! He gives me great gifts, he asked a jeweler friend to make me a pendant out of an antique coin he had, I should put it back on.
Who are your favorite designers?
It’s corny but Coco Chanel, I just love her cinderella story. She had ideas and vision. She created a whole new way of dressing. Her influence is everywhere. I would wear a uniform if it was vintage Chanel suits.
Edith Head designed some of my favorite costumes. She didn’t even know how to draw when she walked into the studio! I love stories…
Everything is starting to look the same. Our visual language seems very harsh and cold. Even if I understand the aesthetic on an intellectual level my eyes are not pleased. I don't like that I have to understand it on an intellectual level. What’s wrong with beauty for beauty’s sake? It subordinates us to nature.
I really loved Lemaire at Hermes so I got some of his collection for Uniqlo this past year… not the same haha! But if he can do that well… I always get to surprise people when they ask. If you recognize quality you can always find it in unexpected places.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Storybooks… History… Movies.... My memories… One of my Waldorf History teachers talked about how memories are not just strung along or filed away, that each one has its own dimension. I like to think of it that way.
Inspiration from Vivian's Instagram @sugar_on_snow :
As a single mom, how do you make time for yourself?
I just haven’t had time for myself! I’m starting to get out more at 30. Motherhood can be very isolating. Sometimes I wonder what’s going on out there. If I’m honest, I felt like I was missing out in my early 20s that was really hard, feeling like everyone was out, especially dating. I didn’t have much childcare. When I could go out, I had separation anxiety. At this point Lukas is busy with his friends. That’s nice. I love time with my friends too. If I can’t get out they come here. They call my place the dollhouse. It always has to be special. I made goodie bags last time. I put loose gold stars in all of them the kind that get stuck on everything. Now we all keep finding surprises. I like to do that for my friends kids too. Just leave a little magic next to their shoes or under their pillow. Why not! I go on dates, New York is fun, the attention is nice. Realistically I can’t imagine being in a relationship. This person would have to drastically change my life and make a place for themselves. If I start to imagine a scenario I’d like I’m already over it. I’d like a surprise.
What’s been the biggest challenge of raising your son alone. How about reward?
Maybe now that Lukas is older and entering a very different phase I can say it would be nice to have someone back me up on things, but it’s definitely been nice to do it all my way. I get to take full credit. But I think a boy at 11 could definitely use a male figure. I hate to admit I can’t do it all. Lukas’ father passed away recently too and it’s a lot of pressure to really be on your own, I thought I already was but it definitely feels different.
It sounds like you have traveled a lot with lukas - out of the country starting when he was little. Any words of advice for traveling with little ones?
Create a familiar sleeping surface for your baby that you can take anywhere. For us, it was a sheepskin he always used at home too. Wherever we were he had that and it was comforting and familiar and I’m sure that helped him sleep.
I tried to not do TV at all on planes. As soon as screen time begins it becomes too easy and they’ll never be able to entertain themselves without it. I grew up traveling a lot too and we never got to watch TV. I gave Lukas a new toy every time we went on a trip. I gift wrapped it too so he could enjoy opening it and figuring it out. When he was very little I was very generous with breastfeeding. That was just the easiest. Coloring stuff, games and books make time go by, so will a bloody mary or two!
The more you travel the more it becomes second nature. A baby will only care that they’re with you. Lukas doesn’t remember a lot of our trips but I like to think he absorbed something. It certainly taught me and gave me more confidence as a mother to go on these trips and see how everyone else was making it work as parents in different places.
Your shop was so lovely and beautifully curated, and you have a knack for sourcing well considered, quality clothing and objects. What are some of your favorite baby items. What about for kids? Clothes, toys, etc. . .
They say newborns can’t really see, their vision is unfocused, black and white, it’s interesting to me how that develops later, their sense of touch takes priority. Cuddling and keeping your baby comfortable and cozy is so important! To start, I highly recommend a simple silk or cotton pilot cap. A fitted pilot cap imitates the feeling in the womb and is soothing for a newborn. Try it! You can layer it with a warmer wool hat or hood in colder weather. Wool or silk long johns, for babies and older children, will also keep them comfortable since wool and silk are temperature regulating. I loved the brand Ruskovilla. Lanacare and Hocosa are great non-itchy brands too we had so many great things from them. It’s an investment but the idea is hopefully all your friends invest in a few things that you can all swap as your children grow. With their sensory development in mind, I think the key is to always choose natural materials in everything, toys included. we had beautiful wooden rattles that weren't annoying sounding and really helped with teething. I loved our Bjorn bouncer... We took a sheepskin everywhere, now it’s on Lukas’ bedroom floor. I forget the brand but you have to get one that is specially cleaned and baby-safe, not Ikea. I wish I’d had more guidance in those first years when it came to shopping because you end up spending so much to find what works. The perfect stroller blanket, a good sweater, the simple toys, those things really make a difference day to day. I travelled so much with Lukas and got great tips and wonderful things on those trips, when I had my shop I tried to be a source for what I picked up. Less is more everywhere!
Some of my favorite products for kids:
Ruskovilla woolens from Finland. Their sheepskin is really the best.
Ostheimer animals from Germany. It’s expensive to buy a whole set. Our tradition was that Lukas got one every holiday and birthday, it was special. Now he has a beautiful collection.
Our cotton hammock I bought on the beach in Brazil was Lukas’ first bed. He wouldn’t fall asleep without motion! Later he always used it to read
Gold and Silver Rattles from Areaware sound like fairies and magic
Camden Rose Cherry Rattle the best teether.
Lukas is telling me to add their Play Kitchen he loved it!
Board Books by Gyo Fujikawa... I have so many book recommendations!
Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream for diaper cream and chapped skin
Kina Sheepskin Booties the only ones that stayed on, wish we’d had your knit ones too!
Favorite clothes are still
SHOP THE FULL COLLECTION HERE