While on her honeymoon, Egyptian-French fashion designer Mariam Yehia decided to take a leap of faith to change the course of her career. Before launching her womenswear label, Mrs. Keepa (the moniker inspired by her husband’s nickname), Yehia worked in real estate but handed in her resignation to enroll at ESMOD Dubai. The mother of two, who toys with playful prints, flowing silhouettes and 70s-inspired cuts, hails from a family of designers. Her older sister, Yasmine Yeya, is the founder of one of Egypt’s prominent bridal couture houses, Maison Yeya, and when she was a child her mother would make all of their clothes. Between raising a family and running a business, the designer still finds time to showcase her personal style on her 86,000-strong Instagram page, incorporating key fashion-forward pieces into her on-the-move wardrobe. Vogue Arabia catches up with Yehia on how she manages a work-life balance.
How did you approach your career when you became a mother?
Starting a family was one of the main reasons for pursuing my dreams in fashion. I started when I was pregnant with my first baby, Isabelle – who is almost two years old now. Back then, I had the luxury to change career plans and freely approach my fashion line. Now, the scenario is a bit different. I have to rework my buying schedule to spend as much time as I can with the kids.
Do you have to constantly work at the work-motherhood balance, or does it come naturally?
I definitely need to work on it constantly. Things are not as easy as it looks on social media. A working mother’s life is a never-ending roller coaster and it is one of the biggest challenges I have faced in life so far.
What do you find are the biggest challenges young working mothers face?
Each mother has her own unique challenges depending on the nature of her work. In my case, it is the traveling part, as it makes my daughter mistrust my devotion towards her. Every time I am back from a work trip, I have to rebuild that trust between us.
Who is your role model when it comes to parenting?
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a role-model parent. We all have our weaknesses and strengths when it comes to parenting.
What advice would you give entrepreneurial moms?
Be easy on yourself with feeling guilty and don’t let it be a setback on your career drive. Guilt is something mothers tend to live with, whether a housewife, an employee, or an entrepreneur. We all question our motherhood skills at some point, and that’s normal. It’s part of being a good mother, who is keen to offer the best she can give to her kids. Take advantage of being your own boss and work around your schedule to spend as much quality time with your kids as you can.
If you could send a future message to your grown-up children, what would it be?
“I apologize if you ever needed me and I wasn’t available. My occasional absence was for good reasons, as your dad’s and my main objective was to provide you with the best life we could. Try not to judge us for any mistakes, as being parents is a challenging job, but we did what we knew best and thought would serve you the most. Love you always and forever, and thank you for being our main drive in life.”
Name 3 things you always carry in your bag when you’re out with your kids.
Extra pacifiers, Dettol wipes, and Kinder Joy eggs for incentives.
What are your go-to brands for children’s clothes?
H&M and Baby Shop for pajamas and onesies; they have the best cotton. As for the dressier pieces, Jacadi and Petit Bateau are my favorite brands in terms of style and quality. I also buy from outlets, as I am totally against paying big amounts for baby clothes because of their short life span.
Has your style changed since becoming a mother?
I didn’t change my style, and I refuse to. I do admit, I have become more practical with my shoes. I am more inclined towards wearing flats and comfortable heels, especially when it’s an outing with the kids involved. Flats were never an option before motherhood.
Finally, do you have any plans for Mother’s Day?
No specific plans so far, but I will definitely make sure not to have any work commitments so I can spend a full day with the kids and Daddy.