By Heather Niccoli
We’d like to introduce you someone who knows what it means to be true to yourself and someone who is indeed, a true lady. Some call her a fashion maven, some call her a retro lovin’ beauty, but at the end of the day, she calls herself Mandie Bee. Owner and fashion designer, Mandie runs Heart of Haute- the worldwide known boutique for rockabilly, sweetheart and retroesque clothing.
One of the first things we asked her was how she managed to be so creative! “I stick my hands in way too many cookie jars and I have a hard time completing everything I start because I’m a creative being. However, I find life to be more thrilling this way. I experience so many different types of people and ways to express myself every week it seems. Aside from running a fashion business, I’m also a musician, a part-time Astrologer/Tarot reading gypsy soul, an artist, a gardener, a mid-century aesthetic enthusiast, and a yoga bum. I live in San Dimas in a tiny yellow house which I dearly named, The Honeypot, with my 2 cats, London and Franki,” says Mandie.
With vintage style dresses, skirts, blouses and accessories, Mandie’s fashion line is everything every woman is searching for: pieces that make you feel glamorous and beautiful. We love that the site features women of many shapes and sizes, something you don’t see too often when shopping. “I am less concerned with a lady’s weight or size than I am with how she looks and feels in our garments,” says Mandie. “My customer’s sizes range from a dress size 2 to 18.”
It seems to us at HaveHeart that most boutiques who represent women of all sizes make a big social deal of it, when it really should be the norm. We were eager to ask Mandie why she represented all women and if she felt it was a responsibility. “I never think of it as a responsibility,” she says. “I just do it. I see a beautiful girl and I say “here, wear this” *click click click*. I know we’re going to sell dresses in all sizes because our dresses fit well across the board. Two of the top comments we get on our garments is always first: the great fit and then quality. I honestly don’t differentiate my customers or models from one another because of their size. I really think we need to stop thinking about the size in the tag and just wear the things that fit and LOVE our bodies just the way they are.”
Here, here we say back to that! (Can you see why we made her a cover woman?)
One thing we always try to be at HaveHeart is real. We know that it’s definitely more glamorous to shout from the rooftops that women who run their own businesses are just sipping coffee, looking cute and can handle anything. The truth is, real life is um… real. We asked Mandie how she balances being a boss and what she loves about owning her own business. “Sometimes I find it (being a business owner) to be both a blessing and a burden. Yes, being a boss lady comes with its rewards like knowing that no one can fire me. I have complete creative freedom. I don’t have to punch a time clock. The cons however? I have a personal problem with delegating. I’m terrible at it because I want everyone to like me rather than come off as an authoritative figure. I’m also responsible for 18 other people and making sure we stay in business so I can keep them employed. Overall, I can’t complain too much. I am a very lucky girl and I am grateful to be in the position I’m in,” she adds.
Since Heart of Haute is so amazing, we knew there had to be some kind of cool story as to how Mandie developed her amazing sense of style! “When I was in high school, I was really into the ska scene,” she giggles. “So this was late 90’s and early 2000’s. Along with that scene came the fashion. The kids in the ska scene wore a lot of different things and there was cross over with the rockabilly scene. It was really a fashion nightmare. I guess I was just more drawn to the dresses that girls would wear. And those hair-do’s. Eventually I learned who Bettie Page was and that opened another door into understanding the subculture. Thrift store and vintage shopping was the cool thing to do, and so did it. So essentially, my first look at vintage fashion was from going to ska and punk rock shows in Orange County when I was young. My take on the aesthetic matured just as I did. The mainstream trends of today just are not nearly as classy as the 50’s and 60’s. Both women and men dressed with care. Jazz. Art. Serious modern movements were happening in history that structured the way we live today. There’s something about nostalgia that makes us feel like we’re a part of something. It’s endearing. It’s like we missed out on something and we have a chance to re-live the moments we never got to experience when they were happening. It’s the reason there are events like Viva Las Vegas and Tiki Oasis. It’s the same reason so many people were invested in watching Mad Men. Thousands of people agree with me and I’m glad we just ‘get it’. I sometimes think I was born in the wrong decade.”
So how did she bridge the passion of fashion to actually owning a brick and mortar store? “I was about 20 years old and a sophomore in college at Cal State Fullerton. I was taking something like 21 units as a music major and had hardly any time to hold a job. To make a little extra money, I sold vintage dresses and up-cycled thrifted garments on eBay. I also liked to make my own dresses, so when I wasn’t doing homework or sleeping, I was at my kitchen table with the sewing machine. I would wear a dress out for the weekend, and then sell it on eBay the following week sometimes for as much a $100. My mother saw what I was doing and suggested we try to start a legitimate business. We started with 3 basic styles and a little tote bag and sold out items on eBay every week. I should mention here that my mother, Teresa Becker, has a professional background in the fashion industry. Working as a successful designer for major department store brands in the late 70’s and 80’s, she’s mastered the art of dress making. She and I are partners and the main designers at Heart of Haute. She handles more of the production side of the business while I manage media, sales and marketing. I inherited her entrepreneurial spirit.”
Another awesome thing about Mandie is that she’s a singer in a 1960’s soul band called The Moan. They’ve played at the House of Blues among many other amazing venues and have quite a following. “I love singing back up in The Moan because I can make my hair as big as I want, wear the cutest dresses, and dance all night,” she says. If you’re not familiar with soul music, it takes a special, talented sort to sing it! And The Moan’s shows are packed with a serious soul punch. Has Mandie always been this talented? “I’ve been singing since I was a young one. I studied vocal music all through high school and then proceeded to get my degree in music from CSUF as well. In all my years with music, I’ve had the chance to sing and perform with a huge variety of groups including a Gospel choir, Vocal Jazz groups, my own rock bands, reggae bands, studio work for friend’s bands, the list goes on… I was born to sing and there will never be a time that I won’t be singing,” Mandie adds.
Owning a fashion company and being a singer can mean pressure to look a certain way… if you don’t have the right support or backbone. We asked Mandie how she deals with this, especially since she’s located in the heart of Los Angeles. “I put more importance on being healthy than being a skinny girl. I mean, I’m a real lady with curves. There is fat on my body. I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and it’s there. Hello tummy. Luckily, for me, I am aware that my brain is way more interesting than my body. If it’s a matter of attracting men, I’ve not had any problems with that. If it’s a matter of impressing other women, I don’t even feel like competing. Beauty is more than an aesthetic, it’s an essence.” We went further to ask how she got this level of confidence: “Self love. You have to be nice to yourself. This may be easier to some than others, but everything is a practice. I’ve learned this because I have always been a black sheep in almost every social circle I’ve been a part of. Naturally, I’ve had problems with self-esteem because of this, as I’m sure others have felt. I don’t know what other people think of me sometimes, but at the end of the day, why do I care? I’m kind to everyone I interact with. I am honest and trustworthy. I would be my friend if I weren’t me. I’ve become highly independent and I like it just fine. If I’m ever unhappy with some part of myself, I do something to change it.”
So what’s in store for this fashionable songbird’s future? What are her dreams?
“To never stop wanting to do something. I had a big dream for my company and my music and I seem to have developed both of those things rather well, so now I’m just working on the next big thing in my life. I’ve been doing the photography for my company for over a year now, and the quality of my photos have immensely improved since my first photo shoot. I would say mastering fashion and lifestyle photography is next on my list. Frivolously? I want to live in a mid-century home so I can decorate it and have killer parties. What else? I want to be a world traveler,” she says. “Ultimately, I want to be surrounded with extraordinary experiences, positive and humorous friends, good music, and wake up happy every morning.”
Before we exit the interview, Mandie tells us she’s got one last thing to say and holds up a book to recommend our readers. “Everyone woman should read, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. It’s about 500 pages of folk tales from antiquity and around the world with the authors analysis and commentary. These messages are guides for the feminine which, in the last year, encouraged me to make the evolutionary step from being a ‘young lady’ to becoming a woman. I thought it was worth sharing with everyone,” she adds.
Mandie Bee is the kind of woman you see walking around with that coy smile on her face, the kind of woman that shines with happiness from within. She’s the kind of woman who is always putting together sweet sample packages of her line to send to friends, and the kind of woman who would give up her afternoon if it meant helping you out in some way. We are proud to have her as September’s cover woman and in line with her generosity, she’s giving all HaveHeart readers a discount on her clothing line. Just type in Haute10 when shopping for an exclusive 10% discount. She’s pretty amazing, we say.