How a Female Boutique Owner in Topanga is Creating Community While Supporting Women
Nature and Intent Journal is a digital container featuring inspiring original content and profiles of conscious business owners because we believe that the humans behind brands create a meaningful impact through living their nature and intent.
Monica Zaidman is the founder and designer of Moona Star Collective, a Topanga boutique that lives up to the movement of “women supporting women”.
Monica has come a long way on her journey to becoming a designer - from designing clothes as a child for her dolls to working at various corporate fashion companies. She’s the Founder and Owner of Moona Star Collective, a fashion brand, artist collective, store and gathering space based in Topanga.
We interviewed Monica’s passion and career journey into making her dreams a reality, her conscious approach to fashion sustainability and how she’s co-created a community of women supporting women.
Read on to learn more about Moona Star Collective.
What sparked your inspiration to begin working in fashion, design, and eventually launching Moona Star? What is your intention behind Moona Star?
Monica Zaidman: Wow, it has been a lifetime journey! I have been designing and creating clothes since I was a child, cutting up my own clothes to make clothes for my dolls. My Mom used to watch Romeo and Juliet along with other period pieces, and I would obsess over the costumes and all the details that went into each piece. Looking back, I think this inspired my love for lace and all things romantic. Throughout high school and college, I continued to thrift and re-create clothes out of whatever vintage pieces I could find. After going to art school and fashion school, I started my first label, still making clothes out of vintage in a small studio apartment in San Francisco.
Moona Star was born after I moved back to California from New York and started a family. I had transformed into a different person after becoming a mother and had a new calling. The name “Moona Star” has so many layers. When I first met my husband, he added me to his phone as “Moona”. My Hebrew name is Emuna - which means faith. The name Moona Star is a reminder to live by the cycles of the moon and having faith to follow our stars, and always finding the light in the dark.
What are some memorable moments working in large corporate fashion companies (or the fast fashion industry)? What have you learned in those roles or experiences that inspired your approach to sustainable manufacturing?
Monica: I’ve worked for many corporate brands including opening and running stores, merchandising, designing, training and managing teams. I became disenchanted with the unsustainable and exploitative aspects of the fashion industry in general and fast fashion in particular.
I remember feeling sad about the sheer quantity of everything being made, knowing how unsustainable it all was from the fiber and labor conditions to the amount of waste. I also remember working with a team on adding organic cotton to the season. Many of us worked very hard on this style, but in the end, it was dropped from our line plan because none of the big department stores ordered it. That was when I knew if I was going to design, I would strive to do it sustainably.
How do you implement a sustainable manufacturing process for Moona Star?
Monica: I implement a low-waste manufacturing production process when I design with Hector, my partner in creating patterns. We design pieces on paper first, and then make the markers to the fabric so that almost every bit of fabric gets used and whatever fabric is left gets incorporated into pieces that are designed specifically to make use of it. I'll add or take away a cuff just to save fabric or use fabric that is left over.
At the very end, if there are any scraps left, I use them for small projects such as scrunchies or bags for shipping. I have also recently started giving small scraps to other designers who use them to make eye pillows, scarves or other small pieces. I also design clothes that don't require too many samples. Finally, I make limited quantities of all pieces and sizes, so that most of what I make is gone before the season is over.
What are the three personality traits or core values that embodies the Moona Star brand?
Monica: At our deepest core, Moona Star is intentional, sustainable, comfortable, wearable and above all, beautiful.
Can you share your experience in supporting women's co-ops in Mexico and Peru?
Monica: When I was living in New York, I had a small clothing line that was all about supporting and empowering women. I had the opportunity to work with a non-profit that sent me to Ghana to help teach a community of women basic pattern-making and how to market their designs to ‘the western customer’. We created patterns and catalogs so that they could make pieces to sell in stores and to customers anywhere. I designed some one-of-kind pieces with their batik fabrics and produced a fashion show in New York to fundraise for their community. Today, a lot of these women have jobs making uniforms, and even a small shop. This was a life-changing experience for me because I was able to help women who really needed the support and inspiration.
I also had the privilege of working with women in Mexico and Peru, using the embroidery in my designs. Having access to an international market is not only empowering to these true artisans, but the amount of money they can make for one embroidery order can help support them for an entire season. I dream of going back one day to continue creating and designing with them and to do my small part in helping to keep these beautiful traditions alive.
As I look back, I suppose I have always been called to work with groups of women who help support one another. When I opened Moona Star Collective, I knew I didn't want to do it alone and I also know how powerful women can be when we work together. I love that I have co-created and that I get to be a part of a space that continues to support women emotionally and spiritually in their creative and professional pursuits, and in business.
Who does the Moona Star collective comprise of? How does the collective function in your boutique in Topanga?
Monica: At any given time, I have a group of designers who each contribute toward the store’s overhead and inventory. They also work one day each week. In exchange, they earn 100% of the sales of their products so everyone feels and IS invested in each other and in the collective's success.
The current group includes two clothing designers Camile, Victoria Keen, a jewelry designer Michelle Perez, a tea master Cynthina, and a textile designer Courtney Konuch. We also have a resident tarot card reader, Amalia, and other healers who use the space to offer their gifts to the greater community.
What was the process like starting a boutique collective in Topanga?
Monica: The process was a total miracle. If you believe in manifesting your dreams, this was it. Since I was in my 20s, I have been writing in my journal about how much I wanted a store - and not just a store, a collective. The collective is not just a designer’s collective, but a space for classes and gatherings with beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces.
I must have written this down at least once a month for twenty years! That’s about 240 times that I wrote out my vision and my dream! When the space became available, my husband (who is the sweetest human I know) and I began reaching out to the landlords right away. We also started to envision how it would all work - the store, the collective and the community space. I also prayed. It has been one miracle after another, starting with the invaluable help of family, friends, neighbors and the collective power of an incredible group of women that got us to where we are today.