100% of sales from this limited-edition Catbird necklace will go to The Adventure Project’s work to empower female entrepreneurs in developing countries.
When it comes to celebrating and promoting women, moms—mothers in general—are at the very heart of the matter. If nothing else, motherhood, whether you yourself are a mom or not, is a topic all women seem to be able to talk about endlessly—if only because we have mothers of own, or because of our biological brushes with it. Which is how I found myself in an hours-long discussion with Rony Vardi and Leigh Plessner, the women in charge of Catbird—the first of whom, respectively, is a mom of two, and the second of whom is expecting her first child in June.
The occasion that brought us together? Mother’s Day, of course. And the fact that Catbird is working with The Adventure Project on their annual Mother’s Day campaign. The Adventure Project, a long time philanthropic partner of Coveteur, is an non-profit organization that invests in local businesses and smaller NGOs in developing countries that, in turn, bring jobs and sustainable economic growth to marginalized communities there. A hundred percent of the sales of a signature Catbird necklace released today (!) will go towards the Mother’s Day campaign in question, which will deliver medical kits to 10 female healthcare workers in rural Uganda, who, in turn, will not only supply medical support for their community, but they will earn wages significantly higher than they would otherwise. Talk about amazing celebrating women. Friends, if you’re looking for a meaningful gift for your moms, this is it. And with the beautifully sweet carved hand pendant, it’s one of those pieces that you’ll want to pass down, mother to daughter.
All this to say, when I sat down with Vardi and Plessner at the former’s Brooklyn brownstone, we covered a lot of ground—everything from what it’s like to be a mother, what it’s like to be expecting, and why passing things down (literal things and ephemeral things) is the cornerstone of motherhood, to why entrepreneurship and empowering other women is just about the most moving thing those of us with privilege can possibly do.
ER: Leigh, do you have any expectations about what it will be like to be a mom?
LP: “I have no expectations. I fully expect that whatever I think, it will not be that way. I’m leaving my mind very open. My brother just had a baby, and our mom died six years ago, and once you’ve had something like that, you realize that a life-changing life event is not going to be the way you think it will. With the new baby, I’ll do it; I’ll rise to the occasion because you always have to.”
ER: Have you talked about motherhood advice between each other?
LP: “Over the years, yes, but not specifically now.”
RV: “I always feel like everyone’s path is so different. What I can give advice for is having a baby in a tiny New York apartment. When we had our first baby, we lived in a tiny one-bedroom that was essentially a studio and lived there until my daughter was eight months old. I had this idea of writing about the minimalist baby book. What is the bare minimum that you need.”
LP: “I’m so hungry for that. I so appreciate advice that I’ve gleaned from you over the years, and not spelled out… That sort of advice is so tiresome. Then, it’s not about a dialogue, it’s just somebody [speaking at you]. But that practical advice about how to live in New York City with a baby is what I need.”
RV: “You really don’t need a lot of stuff. You need a place to put your kid, like a chair or a bouncy thing so you’re not holding them all the time. And you need one of those diaper genies in a small apartment. You don’t need a changing table, you don’t need a crib. You need a car seat and a base for a car seat—that was my daughter’s room for the first few months—and it was fine. We took her everywhere and did everything with her. I didn’t have my kids on a schedule, so I took them to bars and work—whatever I did, they did.”
ER: Did you both always want to be moms?
RV: “I went back and forth and didn’t have a strong feeling. Then my dad died very suddenly, and then it was a primal urge. My family was really small, and with my dad dying, it was just three of us, and I got pregnant immediately after. The idea to have a kid like it probably does for a huge number of people. I think it’s really hard to decide on the right time—I’ve always thought that if you wrote a pro and con list, it would never come out pro. It’s not logically something that’s the right thing to do, yet here we are.”
LP: “In my twenties, I was like, ‘Meh, I don’t know about having a baby.’ But I don’t think I thought a lot about it one way or the other. And then when my mom was ill, it was a real push and pull—I wanted her to be there to see that, but it wasn’t the right time for me. And it took me time after she died to put those pieces of the puzzle back together for myself and to feel ready to do it without her. It’s the biggest life decision, but it’s also the most mundane life decision—we’re all here because of it. I felt very much like it was a chain or pearl necklace and there was no link in front or behind me, so I needed to keep it going.”
ER: What’s the most exciting thing about motherhood?
RV: “I seriously might start to cry, but I love being with them so much now and I never thought that was going to be the case. We just went on a family trip to Italy; it had its ups and downs, but far and away, the best part was hanging out with them. And they really like being with me. They’re nine and eleven, and there could be an age limit to that, but now they’re fun to hang out with, fun to talk to, they’re really curious and interesting and they have their own opinions about stuff. I do not want that to end, and to me it’s about how you preserve that without being overbearing.”
LP: “I am most excited about being able to pass on what was given to me.”
ER: Why were you attracted to working with The Adventure Project?
RV: “The thing that is really intensely appealing to me about what The Adventure Project does, and I feel such a synergy to, is that it’s so empowering to women to be able to foster entrepreneurship in another country and the power behind that. As a woman entrepreneur, to be able to be a part of that somewhere else is amazing. The longevity and sustainability of it is what is so attractive to me. It’s not a Band-Aid; it’s a true fix for many communities. I started this business almost 13 years ago, and now I have a big staff, and every once in a while I’ll see on someone’s Instagram that they bought a house, or they had their second kid, or something like that, and while we don’t live in rural Africa, to be able to build a community and foster people’s life story and to be a part of that is such a privilege and so powerful. To be able to extend that out to people who do not have as many privileges is really great.”
LP: “In terms of the necklace itself, we work with a certain palette and scale. We wanted to do something that had a motif and had an emotional undertone, but aesthetically felt like Catbird. We had access to these miniature hands that were carved from tagua nut, and we came up with a necklace that’s a little bit different than what we usually do and a little more figural and Victorian inspired, but also feels like it can sit amongst all your Catbird jewelry, and also give it to your mom and she can wear it with her heirloom jewelry.
“We’ve had a really incredible outpouring of support whenever we’ve done anything that is tied to a specific cause. With our stuff, it’s not a message slapped on top of [a] product—they really work together in tandem. It’s a limited-edition piece, so I hope it sells out so that we can fund the portion of the program we’re hoping to fund.”