Beginnings, Endings, And Embracing The In-Between
At Aisle 9 we cover a lot of topics – art + culture, life + style, beauty, work, wellness, food, travel, home, and motherhood – all of the varying elements of being multi-faceted + modern women. At any given time, we’re investing our energy in one or more of these categories. Ya feel? But what happens when one of these areas changes in a major way? What happens when life doesn’t look like we planned? How do we navigate a new rhythm of life?
These are questions inspired by our recent conversation with Tess Labeth Bleich. We are inspired by her latest season [motherhood] and how she is embracing change, shifting gears, and leaning into what makes her, her – something she calls “listening to the tug.” A Northwest Arkansas native, Tess is a long-admired woman in our community. Many look to for her style, grace, poise, and panache [something the French call “savoir-faire”]. In 2011, she founded a women’s boutique in Fayetteville, Arkansas, by that very name, Savoir-Faire. After an eight-year run, during which she welcomed a son, Finn , and daughter, Ellie [14 months], she closed the shop in May of this year. We caught up with her to talk about these major changes, her newest creative endeavor, beginnings + endings, and how she has embraced the in-between.
Aisle 9: Tell us a bit about Savoir-Faire, and how you first got the shop off the ground?
Tess Labeth Bleich: Savoir-Faire was the perfect storm of all of my retail experience ranging from high-end local boutiques to mass market corporate retail. I found my niche by focusing on ahead-of-the-trend clothing and accessories that wouldn’t break the bank. Enter SF — we brought the low price point to Northwest Arkansas and I will always be proud to have done so.
A9: It’s impressive that you juggled motherhood and being a business owner for as long as you did. What unexpected challenges or rewards did you find from the overlap of your two worlds?
TLB: Reward: I can do it all. Challenge: I can’t do it all the way I would like to… and I have to make it okay to say when something has to give. I feel like society puts an immense amount of pressure on women to do it all and do it well. Facing the realization that I couldn’t do everything up to my standards, which are remarkably high, was a humbling yet relieving experience. I found it rewarding to have a great group of women on my staff to execute my vision, which helped me balance both my business and personal life. I should note that motherhood rocked my world in all of the best ways possible. I am the truest form of myself since becoming a mother, and it’s a wonderful feeling.
A9: What were some of your fears when stepping back from a business you built, to focus more on this season of motherhood?
TLB: My fears were similar to those that I felt when opening the shop, yet in reverse. Fear of the process, the unknowns, the perception of “calling it quits” on my career. Closing SF’s doors was as risky as opening them, but I can honestly say it wasn’t nearly as scary as making the decision to take a break. That’s fear.
SF was a really great chapter in my story. That season was full of travel, creativity, and long hours pouring my heart and soul into my brand. Motherhood is quite similar, but there’s less travel, more mess, and two tiny bosses with limited vocabulary. I think of our travels often and sit quietly with them because I cherish them so dearly. I do the same for the kids and enjoy taking this time to show my love to them endlessly. Paris was fun, but do you know how it feels to freely play on the floor with your two squishy children and aim for endless belly laughs? That’s the good stuff.
A9: What advice do you have for women who feel a tug of pursuit toward a different rhythm of life than the one they are following?
TLB: Listen to the tug. It may be telling you something that you’re too busy to see. Whether it’s taking a break from your career or starting something totally new – lean into what your soul is telling you. Also, seek advice from loved ones, professionals, and mentors. Get the support and answers you need to really believe you can make it happen. Finally, have faith that everything will unfold beautifully in the end. After all, this season is a small piece of the puzzle in this story called life.
A9: What’s your regimen for ensuring you’re still getting the care you deserve and how does this fit into your day-to-day schedule?
TLB: I love how self-care differs so much from person to person and during different seasons of life. Exercise is at the top of my list for self care, because it provides so much balance in my life. I make it a point to go to Nooma, a heated fitness studio, a few mornings a week, and it’s one of my favorite things to do for myself. There’s not a lot of glamour when staying at home with the kids, so finding joy in a quiet morning coffee or a glass of wine in the evenings is definitely something I make time for these days. I also love to cook and find it incredibly therapeutic. I realize most of these things I call self-care are probably a regular routine in most women’s lives, but finding happiness in the current season where “all the things” may not be a priority is key to enjoying the ride.
A9: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding motherhood?
TLB: That motherhood will change you. It will transform you into the truest form of yourself. It’s a beautiful [ehh… possibly painful] transition as you step into the most unapologetic version of yourself.
A9: Savoir-Faire Takeaways?
TLB: My greatest takeaway from SF is the relationships made throughout my time in business. My staff will always hold a special place in my heart. I was more than happy to offer SF as a stepping stone in their careers, and now I have girls all over the country flourishing professionally. I cherish the way these young women poured their hearts into SF all while I poured my own into them. Then there’s my customers. From the ones that have followed my career since I started, to the ones I now call dear friends, I am forever grateful for their loyalty and for being a part of my story.
A9: What’s the inside scoop on the SF Edit? How are you hoping to see this new venture evolve?
TLB: The SF Edit is still in the very early stages of becoming a place where I can still be Tess — the creative. It’s a space for me to keep those muscles moving and dive into things that set my heart ablaze like styling, inspiration, art, food, etc. My goal for The SF Edit is to keep it local. Whatever comes of it, I plan to continue to focus on our local community & highlight what NWA has to offer. Whether it’s a stop for coffee, styling at a local boutique, or decorating for the holidays… I want my following to see the experience that comes from supporting our local establishments. It feels nice to know my dollars are going back into our community when I shop local. On another note, I’ve made friends with a lot of business owners over the years. I’d much rather put my money into their labor of love which will not only help our community but support their families too. I know both sides of this all too well. Support your local retailers… it can be really enjoyable and I’m here to show you how I continue to do so.