Morgan Hutchinson is a woman on a mission, determined to provide nursing and non-nursing mamas alike with chic and versatile post-baby clothing. Despite the fact that she’s still marching forward with gusto, Morgan undoubtedly deserves to bask in her success as the founder of BURU—a Kentucky-based shop devoted to making motherhood significantly more stylish. All of BURU’s pieces are infinitely wearable and interchangeable, thanks to the empathetic entrepreneur who thoughtfully curates them! Today, Morgan is sharing her brand’s birth story (and much more!).
Written by Carrie Waller
First things first. Tell us everything we need to know about BURU. When did it get started, and what does the unique name mean?
BURU is technically my second child, born of an idea I had when my real baby was only a week old. It was the idea that true nursing clothes are unnecessary if you curate the right ready-to-wear collection. I loved breastfeeding, and luckily, it was a fit for Olive and me. What I didn’t love was going back to maternity stores to shop for clothing that was easy to nurse in yet stylish. I was ready to be back in the brands and silhouettes that I loved pre-pregnancy.
On a hunch that other mamas felt the same way—and filled with confidence that we could find enough ready-to-wear brands to sign on to our idea—my husband Brett and I headed to our first market in New York City (when Olive was 8 weeks old) with the intention to scout. Scouting turned to buying, and we wrote orders for our first season (fall 2013) for a website that was yet to be built. There was a lot of work done from February to September, to say the least!
One thing we did have with us going to market was the name. (We needed business cards to get in!). We had lived in China for almost four years (our daughter was conceived there), and we loved the idea of bringing a little bit of that experience into this new venture. In Mandarin, when the characters “BU” and “RU” are put together (“BURU”), it means “to breastfeed.” Though the name is specific to nursing, we focus on curating a collection for all aspects of the mom lifestyle.
What inspired you to create wearable, high-fashion style for moms?
I am really interested in the post-pregnancy phase, a sector of the market that no one is really talking about. Pregnancy is beautiful—magical, really—and dressing the bump deserves all the attention it can get. But, in reality, dressing for motherhood lasts far longer than dressing for the beautiful bump phase. I needed clothes in which I could breastfeed for 14 months, while I wore true maternity clothing for less than 3 months.
As moms, we fight a lot of fashion battles. It’s important for clothes to be washable, versatile, comfortable. We need the best ‘bang for our buck,’ which is why BURU shows how to style every piece three different ways. We need everyday essentials and statement pieces. And, last but not least, we need to feel fabulous.
You currently live in Kentucky with your husband, Brett, and daughter, Olive. What is it like to start a high-fashion business in a small town? And how is it different from living in New York or Asia?
Very different. While Murray, Kentucky is my hometown, I had lived elsewhere (in big cities) for almost 17 years before we moved back. Murray is two hours away from an airport. It’s a tiny bubble off the beaten path, but it’s a bubble of love. The amount of support and encouragement we have received is remarkable. While starting a fashion business in New York is exhilarating and, in many ways, easier (the industry is there), cultivating our ideas in quieter surroundings has allowed us to think outside the box and dream big without a lot of distractions. It has also been nice for Olive to be surrounded by family—specifically her Momo (my mom), who adores her. I don’t know that we will always live in Murray, but I can’t think of a better place to land (after Beijing) to have a baby and start a business. Sometimes you just need to mix things up—and going from 25 million people to 25 thousand will do just that!
We adore your chic look—both fashion- and décor-wise! How would you describe your personal style?
First of all, thank you! I have a lot of fun dressing myself—and our interior spaces. I think my style is feminine with a touch of whimsy. I don’t take anything too seriously. With fashion, I like color. I like to mix color in interesting ways, and I would wear a hat every day if I could. With interiors, I also like color. (Shocking, I know!) Our home is an eclectic mix of furniture, textiles and art that we have collected along the way. We make it a point to pick up a piece of art or furnishing from every trip that we take. I love that because our home reminds me of all of our adventures.
You work as a successful CEO, on top of being a wife and mother. How do you juggle it all?
Lots of caffeine and wine! To be honest, I don’t think I’m doing it all that well. I’ve realized that I have to say “no” to things. The biggest hit has been our social life. If it’s not a date night or a BURU event, we are home with our little Olive Bee or working. We love our couple friends, and I love my girlfriends, but in this particular phase of life, we have made some tough choices in terms of what we can and can’t do. There is a season for everything. This is my season to hustle.
What were your goals when designing and decorating your office?
I wanted to create a happy, clean and Olive-friendly space. I like to start with a white palette and then add color with my inspiration boards and accessories. It’s also important for me to keep a bucket of blocks and a snack bag under my desk for the little one!
We love that the BURU blog, Unbuttoned, acts as a fun peek into the lives and businesses of other tastemakers and moms. Why did you first launch this extension of BURU?
BURU is not just about selling clothes. I really want to connect with other moms and entrepreneurs. As a woman, I love to read about other women doing interesting things in a stylish way. I hope Unbuttoned brings an element of that into the BURU experience. I also think that highlighting our brands (many of them are designed by mothers!) tells a story that makes purchases more personal and meaningful.
You recently opened a brick-and-mortar store. How has this opened new doors for your business and brand?
It has been really fun to connect with our shoppers in person. While I spend a great deal of time answering emails, texts, Facebook messages and other sizing or styling inquiries, I love the personal interaction that happens in the store.
We also have a Sprinter van outfitted as a traveling showroom (aka “BURU-to-You!”). It has been a wonderful experience for us to get on the road and meet our customers face to face. An added bonus: I have learned even more about the different struggles that moms face when shopping and figuring out what to purchase. I am so excited to continue learning and making BURU even better!
What advice would you give to moms who are shopping for chic, wearable clothing?
The one thing that I hear more than anything else is, “I love it, but where would I wear it?” As moms, I think we feel like we have to mold to the masses. We forget that it’s OK to be the unique individuals we were before we had a baby. If you love something, wear it. We want our children to be who they want to be and not fall prey to conformity—how about we first demonstrate this philosophy ourselves?
My tip is this: Create a wardrobe of seven interchangeable items—specifically, a flattering pair of dark jeans, a classic trench coat, the perfect white button-down shirt, a day-to-night black dress, a pair of chic elastic-waist trousers, a flattering T-shirt and a statement piece (depending on body type, this piece could be a party skirt, printed pants or a sharp blazer).
Do you have any beauty tips?
Moisturize, moisturize again and wear sunscreen! We are not getting any younger!
What are three pieces from your closet that you couldn’t live without?
1. I love jumpsuits. I like to get a fresh one each season. Right now, I’m loving the black Minona jumpsuit by By Malene Birger. It’s so easy to wear and wash, and when you layer a jacket or sweater over it, voilà!—you’ve got black pants!
2. I’m also living in Bella Dahl button-downs these days. They are so soft, easy to wear and easy to clean. In fact, the more you wash them, the better they look. They fit fantastically, and their understated sexiness looks good on everyone.
3. Rachel Comey culottes. I am SO thrilled that culottes are having a moment. I love pants that show the ankles—and anything with volume is always a favorite of mine.
Where do you see yourself, and the company, in five years?
Since September 2013 (when we launched the site), BURU has continued to grow and develop. Through changes in our branding, website design and even our original logo, we are moving into our long-term vision. We have so many exciting ideas and projects in the works already, and I believe (and hope) that in the next five years, we will grow to become a go-to destination for thousands and thousands of mothers. I see us in a bigger warehouse space with more employees, but I also see myself continuing to answer as many personal emails and phone calls that I can. I love helping our customers find their #momstyle, and I want them to have fun while doing it!
Personally speaking, I might see us with a second little one running around—but only time will tell!
How does BURU act as a flash of delight to moms everywhere?
I am about to turn 35, and I am currently our model. That started out of necessity—a way of using tools available to us to stretch our shoestring budget. But so many of our customers have related to a 5-foot-6-inch (OK, 5-foot-5.5-inch) model in her mid-thirties that we are continuing with it (for now). Eventually, we will replace me with a similarly sized and aged model. But I think moms find a flash of delight by not looking at a 5-foot-10-inch 22-year-old while they shop. I also hope that we are delighting them by offering new and emerging designers who keep things fresh, unique and inspiring.