Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Sofia Kavula
For this special edition of “How I Get It Done,” we’re asking successful women about how they’re making their return to the “office” as new moms work for them.
Ukrainian designer Mary Furtas’s daughter was just a year old last February when Russia invaded Ukraine. The new mom and founder and creative director of CultNaked, known for its ethically made party clothes, was running the operations for her fashion brand in Kyiv when she had to flee to Poland, before eventually moving to London. Furtas hadn’t taken any time off after giving birth, but now she and her team had to stop working.
CultNaked came from Furtas’s desire for sexy but still comfortable after-dark clothes (she loves wearing them herself) and is known for its disco-ready separates like a skin-tight mini skort (that Furtas says is perfect for dancing on tables), vegan leather trousers, crystal-covered tops, and figure-hugging dresses. Since having her daughter, she’s stopped going out as much at night, but hasn’t slowed down building the brand, which has quadrupled in size since she left Ukraine, and garnered a celebrity following including Megan Fox, Chloe Bailey, and Ariana Grande. Here’s how she balances caring for her daughter and her company, all while getting settled and finding a support system in a new city.
On her morning routine:
I usually wake up at 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. Before giving birth, I used to wake up around 6 a.m. to work out, and later have a nap, then every night it was a party. Now I feel so sleep-deprived all the time, and it’s not because my baby’s not sleeping. She’s very manageable at bedtime. But overall, after making a baby, my body is so different in terms of producing energy. It took so much of me that I just cannot wake up early anymore.
I make breakfast for myself and the baby. I eat the same things that she’s eating, usually veggies and eggs or porridge. I give her vitamins and take my vitamins. Then my nanny comes over. My parents are usually around, too — the more people watching the baby, the calmer I am. In Ukraine the whole family brings up the baby; we have a communal thing. I leave her to the nanny and work on my computer. Usually, I have business calls for CultNaked, but am often distracted by the baby walking around, so I check on her. I can have her with me because my workspace is the bedroom.
On managing stress:
I take CBD. After birth, the hormone thing kind of fucks you up. I’ve never been a very high-stress person who panics, but around the third trimester, there’s this hormone jump. I started getting major OCD. I was scared of myself, and of other people. This was the first time I had felt like this. I was so stressed, my skin was paler because of it. But the war starting kind of calmed me down in a way. I don’t worry too much about smaller things when I see the global issues. I realized I have to mentally let things go. I learned how to keep myself together and when I’m feeling too stressed I take CBD and have less caffeine, or take a bath and chill a little, and then I can go on.
On celebrating big wins:
We get big moments, but they’re not as big as I envision. When you develop something, it’s the game. It’s not like I have this goal to dress this person or be in this store or have this number of sales. The most interesting thing is building a team and seeing how the brand grows, making something out of nothing. Five years ago, it was just an idea. At first, I was so focused on goals, but then I realized I actually enjoy the journey the most. I didn’t really have a moment that I would say was a total success. I love to celebrate, but there are a lot of humbling things day to day, and you just enjoy the path you’re on. I celebrate with Champagne and cigarettes and dancing. I’m a party girl 100 percent.
On maternity leave:
When I found out I was pregnant, my brand was four times smaller than it is now. I was working until I was nine months along, from 8 a.m. until midnight. I played the game and it rewarded me. When Leona was two months old, my business was already four times bigger than when I was pregnant. I had no time to chill, it was rolling, and I thought, I can’t lose the momentum that I’ve worked so hard for. Two weeks after I gave birth, I got my pictures taken for Vogue. It was an interview about how to get back on track after birth. I was still big and I was like, My body is cool, I don’t give a fuck how I look, I look good. I did not really get the maternity leave thing, but I was breastfeeding also, which was kind of complicated. I would breastfeed and then my mom or nanny would put the baby to sleep, I’d go to the office, go back and breastfeed or I would pump. It was just a big game of me trying to focus for half an hour somewhere. I don’t regret it because I was at both places at the same time and I managed to bring focus to both places at the same time. But I don’t know how I would do this right now. It’s not like I could do it for a second time.
On good parenting advice:
I just talked to Ashley Graham about this. There are not a lot of people who I can relate to in the industry who are under a big amount of stress. We got honest with each other about how we dealt with the stress of leaving the kids for work. You’re there with them and there’s guilt that you’re not working, and when you’re not with them, there’s guilt that you’re not there. The best thing, we both agreed, is that we should just chill and do our best for the kids and go with the flow. The best thing you could do is chill. Then your baby’s gonna love a happy mom.
Last summer, I felt so unconfident because I had just moved to London. I know very few people here, and I felt so lonely. I didn’t really have any connections. You can’t go into a cool bar because people don’t know you, and no one’s going to let you in. I’m not used to that. In Ukraine, in Kyiv, all the doors are open. Then you come to a bigger space where there are so many people and nobody wants to accept you straightaway. They’re not used to you, they don’t know you. Also, because of the war on the news, I kind of lost this thread. Fashion is an industry where you should always know what’s going on, and I lost this. There was a point where I felt like I didn’t know what to design. Am I still relevant? There was also the baby. I didn’t have a nanny or support system I had. For the first few months, I was just cooking and cleaning. That was the hardest part, but later I got back on track, and I feel the strongest I’ve ever been.
The energy that you have changes with your hormones. There’s this period when you’re just like you’re very you’re kind of, you’re not less ambitious, but this whole sexy, aggressive thing that you have even towards your competitors or towards your own sexuality it softens a bit. I think you might notice it when Rihanna was doing the Super Bowl, you feel that special energy from her. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom and it’s my wishful thinking that she feels like that. But I felt that she was much softer than she was before, even in her interviews. That’s also a phase that I feel like I’m coming out of. I’m just much more adult, calmer, and more diplomatic with people. You grow. Things like that change over time. Way more confident and calm, a different kind of vibe than I had before and I embrace it so much but the ambition never changed. It’s something I’ve had since childhood that I should be this businesswoman, working and getting my own money and house. I was always obsessed with independence. It’s very important to me to have my own career.