It wasn’t exactly on Katie May’s radar to get back into the fashion industry. The Lake Forest mom had her hands full with her family—husband Greg and two young daughters, Arabella and Windsor—not to mention an ongoing whole house renovation over the past year.
But after posting images of the pajamas she was making for herself and her girls last year, she couldn’t ignore the encouragement from her nearly 20,000 Instagram followers.
“I started by making myself and my girls’ clothing,” says May, explaining that she started with pajamas because she had a hard time finding pajamas that were cute, comfortable, and affordable and her girls liked sleeping in nightgowns. “When I found that I finally had time to be creative again, I would hop on my Singer sewing machine any chance I got and make them pretty things.”
Her eponymous retail clothing and accessory line, Shop Katie May, was born, and May grew her business slowly, selling pajamas and robes for girls and women, soft blankets, and her organic skin care line, online. The limited selection of items was popular and sold out often (especially around the holidays) with customers wanting more. Her pajamas and robes are comfortable and wearable. “They are made with the softest materials that move with your body while you sleep,” May adds.
May is not new to the fashion biz. As a 21-year-old who had studied fashion design and marketing in Madison, Wisconsin, she opened and operated a retail store there for five years. Called Sukara Sterling (her middle and maiden names), her boutique carried casual clothing, cocktail dresses, and a few of her own pieces.
That was all before her career in marketing (including starting her own internet marketing company) in Chicago, and marriage and children.
So, when the pajama and blanket line started to take off, May wasn’t sure she wanted to get back into fashion.
“I know it’s a crazy industry,” she says. “But I was encouraged to go for it by my followers who have been really supportive. I also wanted to show my girls that women can do anything. I always think of them when I’m working; I want them to know they can be anything they want to be.”
Fast-forward to current day and May is about to expand some of her current offerings while launching a new clothing line.
“I’m bringing back the pajamas, which is why I started doing all this to begin with,” she says.
“They’ll have the same classic cut with a cotton fabric and different trims than you’ve seen before. Also, I still offer all the same organic all-natural coconut based Sukki Skin care products I started with.”
In addition, May says, “Basically, everything else for my clothing line is new. My past collection was pajamas and private label. The fall 2019 collection is all designed by me and it’s a full collection, not just pajamas anymore.”
May says she wanted to make a wearable collection that could cover anything from lunch to lunch or to an event and pair the top with your favorite denim when you want to be more causal,” she says by way of example. “I’m also offering several dresses and skirts and my favorite pair of slacks that give you this sensational feeling like your wearing butter.”
May’s children line—which now includes tops, skirts, pants, dresses, and pajamas—now runs from 2T to size 8. “It’s adorable and not so matchy-matchy in terms of the being the exact same pieces as the women’s line but more complimentary items using the same fabrics and aesthetic,” she explains.
May gets her inspiration from many places, touching on trends a bit but staying classic enough so that customers can keep and wear items for a long time.
“I’m currently crushing over floral prints so you will see a lot of florals,” she reveals. “I’m also loving dainty details like ruffles, puff sleeves, pops of dainty trim, that I then mix with materials like leather. I also love a raw hem so you will see that on some of the silk pieces.
“I’m loving organza right now and have a gorgeous winter blue full organza dress with a slight ruffle hem that would be perfect for a cocktail party. I’ve also married two of my favorite trends: floral and jumper,” she laughs.
May says she’s also excited to be adding a whole new category her site: Dry Mats are a picnic- or beach-style blanket that really keeps your bottom dry.
“I like to say these were created by the mom in me. My kids were always sitting on the wet grass or on a blanket they thought would keep them dry, but still getting wet,” she explains. “So I created a dry blanket that actually works. I sell them in vintage and unique patterns.” To give them an extra pop, May added a signature orange threading detail and some “super funky” trims.
“It wasn’t my intention to start selling them but I had so much interest through Instagram, I knew I had to add them,” she says. “I’ve also added other Sukki Skin products but I do them
in small batches so I have a hard time keeping them in stock. I’m currently working on a master plan for that.”
Seems like all is going according to a master plan that May can’t help but pursue.
“I’m inspired by creativity and people, and I’m thankful for my followers and that people find me interesting enough to want to see what’s going on in my life,” May sums up. “I enjoy being creative whether it be cooking, planning a birthday party for my kids, or designing my line. I encourage every- one to follow their passions and do what makes them happy.”