Oh, Baby!

Alum’s fashion business delivers style

Pattern topThere are those “aha!” moments of brilliance that Oprah likes to talk about. And then there are those like the one Erin Marino Robbins ’89 had. She likes to call hers a “ha ha” moment.

Erin Marino Robbins ’89
Erin Marino Robbins ’89

Picture her. It’s 2005. She’s pregnant with her first son, Brody, wearing tight maternity jeans that have become the staple of her wardrobe because she can’t find maternity clothes that she likes. She has to go to the bathroom really bad. Yet, she is lying on a bed in her sister’s house stuck—in her jeans.

“She physically had to cut me out of a pair of $200 maternity jeans—purchased just three weeks earlier—with a huge pair of scissors,” recalls Robbins. “That day Brody & Cole Design was conceived.”

Ha ha!

Funny and smart, Robbins is president and designer of Brody & Cole, her online boutique that specializes in clothing a woman’s body in all its incarnations, including pregnancy.

“My designs are intended to make every woman feel beautiful, regardless of body shape or size, through the use of high-quality fabrics and versatile styles,” she said.

At Wheaton, Robbins majored in economics with a double minor in philosophy and drama, which has allowed her to advance her practical, as well as reflective and creative sides. “Economics, philosophy and drama may seem unrelated on the surface, but they turned out to be just the right ingredients for shaping a confident, creative and analytical businesswoman,” she said.

Her company is a prime example of how to turn a solution to a problem into a successful business venture.

“I had designed clothes for myself before I was pregnant, so I pulled out my sewing machine and made a few simple pieces that worked with the wraps, jewelry and shoes already in my closet,” said Robbins, who lives in California. “In my mind’s eye, the clothes needed to be multi-functional and nurturing to my personal fashion sense, while meeting my pregnancy needs. Soon friends were asking me to make them a tube dress or halter top. Over the next four years, as my sons Brody and Cole were born, I tweaked the designs and imagined new concepts.”

Her career path since Wheaton was not a particularly linear one, she notes. “I traveled down several roads before finding my passion, which I think everyone should search for in their work.”

Her first job was at a consulting firm that launched and guided start-up boutique marketing firms. Then she was a marketing director for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, which inspired her to pursue an M.B.A. at Boston College. While in business school, she launched her first entrepreneurial venture, ELM Public Relations. She specialized in marketing communications for the hospitality, technology research, publishing and music industries.

“Eventually, like many women, I found myself making choices to strike a balance between career and family, as I juggled my two young boys, marriage and my aspirations as a businesswoman. That’s when the really creative thinking came into play. My public relations clients required a high level of attention that I could no longer continue to give, and I had other ideas dancing in my head,” she said.

“After much thought, I made a giant leap into something I’d always wanted to do—clothing design…. Surprisingly, this choice is a perfect assimilation of my education, past work experience and creative energy.”

It has worked out well. Brody & Cole has received a design award from “The Baby Planners,” a Los Angeles consulting service for expecting parents. And, on a fun note, her company was selected to dress a news traffic reporter for KTLA-5, based in Los Angeles.

More online: Her online store is at brodyandcole.com.