Photo Courtesy Yona Elishis & Daniella Kuhl
Interview

YONA ELISHIS & DANIELLA KUHL

08.13.12

Incorporating their roles as mothers and businesswomen, Yona Elishis and Daniella Kuhl run Matooka, a couture clothing line for children. The designing duo donates 10 percent of profits to infertility research and to families undergoing costly reproductive treatments. This month, Matooka hits Saks Fifth Avenue.

Interview

What does “Matooka” mean?

Matooka means “sweet” in Hebrew.

How did you two meet?

Our husbands are friends so we met through them, but it turns out we have a lot in common. We’re both lawyers turned designers and both one of six sisters. We are now neighbors, business partners and the closest of friends!

Where are you based?

We design out of our hometown Toronto, Ontario and purchase many fabrics and trims here. Our production facility is in Allentown, Pennsylvania and we ship from there. In short, designed in Canada, made in the USA.

Does your distribution go any further than the US and Canada?

Yes—we sell all over. Panama, Dubai, Korea—every season we expand out internationally which is great!

What made you decide to break into the fashion industry?

Having our own daughters. We felt there was a niche missing in the market of upper scale children’s clothes that were more fun and easy. We try to strike the balance between whimsical but sandbox friendly.

How much of a role do your own children play in influencing new designs?

Very much so! They are our biggest critics and when they won’t take something off, we know it’s a best seller.

What kind of clothes did you want to wear as children?

Both of us always loved fashion and the bolder the better—sparkly tutus and the sort—but as a kid, you also want to be comfortable and not feel constrained by what you’re wearing. Basically we wanted to feel special but still comfortable.

Would you ever consider branching out to dress older consumers?

Probably not. We love designing for children and feel there is a niche in the market for clothes like ours. There are already so many wonderful designers for womenswear and we’d rather shop than sell!

How do you balance work and your girls?

There are 8 girls (and one boy) between us! Balancing is always difficult, but we try to involve our kids in the design process—get their feedback, have them model for us and that sort of thing. It helps that they have a thorough understanding of what we are doing. At the end of the day, we’d like to think that they are proud of us and they definitely look forward to the new clothes each season.

What’s the biggest challenge when designing for children?

Probably the fit. A 6 year old can still have that baby tummy or they can be beanstalk skinny. We try hard to work with different styles that fit different kids’ body types.