The Cleobella brand embraces an exotic bohemian feel fused with a laid back Cali vibe. With a boutique located in Sunset Beach, California and an online shop, the vast variety of Cleobella goods are readily available. Ranging from leather goods to kimonos to itty bitty harem pants, Cleobella products are designed with the globe trotting mama in mind. Let’s chat with the designer and founder, Angela O’Brien, and get a better feel for the brand, it’s inspirations and the lady that started it all.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Do you come from a big family? How many kids do you have?
I grew up in Huntington Beach, CA. I come from a super big family – a big Irish family and we all live within 5 miles of each other. My childhood was all about all of the cousins getting together – we celebrated every special occasion together. I have 2 kids now – a little boy Keenan Case O’Brien who just turned 4 and a sweet baby girl Indigo Skye who is 4 months.
How did Cleobella come about?
Cleobella started a few years ago when my husband and I decided to leave our jobs in Southern California and travel around the world for a year. The trip was designed around the waves, because my husband is a surfer. It was probably the most liberating adventure we’d ever taken. It was great to step away from our everyday norms into a new headspace where we were open to change and new ideas. It was on the island of Bali where I designed my very first signature Mexicana clutch.
What would you say influences your aesthetic the most?
Travel and 1960s-1970s vintage. Seasonally our direction is inspired by a location and we build a story around it. Most recently my husband and I went on a baby moon to Morocco where I concepted our Spring 2015 collection.
What is your design process like for Cleobella?
It’s pretty raw and hands on. I’m not very technical, it’s more about hand drawing styles and working with our pattern makers to bring our sketches to life.
How do you balance motherhood and running your business? What is a typical workday like?
To be honest, it’s a daily struggle because to me motherhood is my #1 priority and Cleobella is my “first baby” in some ways. We’re still a small business. The beauty of running your own company is you can create your own schedule, which right now is a 24/7 schedule and I’m still nursing and my baby girl can be with me daily! A typical workday involves dropping my son off at preschool (2 doors down from the boutique). Then, stopping at the boutique to say “Hi” and check on happenings then drive over to the office (7 minute drive) for all kinds of meetings. We’re a small brands and have so many departments so I’m working closely with our team in all areas of the business, specifically design which is what I’m most passionate about.
Has your personal style changed since becoming a mother?
Yes! It’s more about comfort and having an outfit on that I can run around town in. And if Indigo spits up on my shoulder, I can always grab a sample and have a totally different look. Cleobella and my office are kind of like my own amazing walk-in closet!
What are some must-have items for on-the-go moms that want to look stylish and put together?
The Indi Mama bag is an update of one of our best-selling bags – we got a lot of feedback from moms who were carrying our weekenders as diaper bags so we went ahead and made a diaper bag! Also, our Mexicana clutch is also great if you don’t want to lug your giant bag into a grocery story – this holds your iPhone, chapstick, money etc – all your daily essentials!
What is your favorite…
Time of Day: It used to be nighttime because I’m such a night owl, but now that I have babies it’s first thing in the morning when there all in bed with me. We put on Spofity and have dance parties in bed!
Beauty essential: I’m a Chanel lipgloss girl. I also have this gardenia scented rollerball perfume that I love – I keep one in the car, my bag – anytime I need a little pick me up!
Fall treat: Pumpkin carob chip pancakes on Sundays – I make them every weekend with my son. Also fresh mint tea was something we discovered in Morocco and we’re having it a lot now that it’s colder – with a little honey, yum!
Children’s label: Our Bella Baby line! The line was born because I wanted my kids to be able to wear a little piece of Cleobella. I did baby harem pants for my son and ruffled bloomers for my daughter and then started giving them to girlfriends etc as baby shower gifts – and now we sell them online. They’ve been a big hit so far!
Travel destination: India – what I love about India is that they are not influenced by our Western norms – their culture is all their own an you can’t help but be inspired by it. The food, bollywood, colors, fashion, architecture, etc are so different and beautiful!
Family Activity: We like to go watch the sunset together – we do that every night in Bali and are trying to do it every night here in California. Going down to the beach and watching the sunset finishes off the day right. I love that its getting dark earlier now. It’s such a great way to end the day. Jim surfs, keenan runs around on the beach, and then we eat dinner together!