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Meet Mychaela Hardy of Monkey Pants in Little Tokyo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mychaela Hardy.

Mychaela, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I learned to sew when I was 13, during the first year of high school. The fashion trends at the time were based on 1960s mod which I was really attracted to… I wanted to copy it. My dad was happy to buy me fabric and supplies and my godfather frequented yard sales and brought me a dress form. The first things I draped and sewed were my Halloween costumes. Later I would make simple things like shell tops, shift dresses, hip huggers and Capri pants. After finishing my first year of community college, I was invited on a trip to southeast Asia… I took a break from school and stumbled upon a garment factory in Bali. I began learning Bahasa and having some designs made. This lead me into 8 years of frequent travel to Asia with an emphasis on garment production and exporting and importing textile goods. I usually passed through Tokyo every time I went to Thailand, Vietnam, or Indonesia. I grew a liking for Japanese fashion magazines and my endeavors eventually evolved to focus on that, Japanese fashion. But I still buy things to sell in my favorite S.E. Asian countries. When my son was an infant in 2009 I began buying him baby clothes from Japan. I noticed immediately how hard they were to get as a westerner and I uncovered this undeniable urge in myself to bridge the gap. A conquest of sorts. I’m still trying to do that 🙂 I started working with one particular contemporary kids clothing company in Osaka and was importing & distributing their garments for them. I was a wholesaler & middleman and didn’t make much money doing it. I did manage to sell a fair amount online and eventually had some really interesting rent control luck that allowed me to open my shop in Little Tokyo. By that time, I was committed to pivoting fully into kid’s goods. I like being immersed daily in a world of funny and cute. That was 5 years ago and now Monkey Pants is a really popular well-known secret spot for unique, limited supply baby & kids fashions from Asia, or my own stuff that I cut & sew in DTLA. I tend to curate the store by my own taste standards and I’m always floored when people are so complimentary of it. I’m really lucky that so many people share my affection for the shop.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The last ten years were never easy. Not in my personal life and maybe that made the Monkey Pants endeavor seem easier than normal life… I needed financial stability and independence and tending to my business was how I created that. Maybe it being such a happy and cute place gave me a lot of sunshine in my life – that and of course my son. He has always been the source of almost everything good in my life. I started this business because of him. He has always been a good boy. And made me the strongest version of myself. So, no it wasn’t always smooth but I always had strength of spirit to not give up. And the only handicap I ever had was my own inexperience. So, it’s always becoming easier, even when its hard… you learn to ride the waves and roll with working time & playing time.

Please tell us about Monkey Pants.
I’m passionate about things I like which are usually rare and out of the mainstream view. In regards to my company, the focus is on children’s fashion. Monkey Pants is known for cute and sometimes quirky kids’ goods that you don’t see in the western world. The thing I’m most proud of are my customers – their loyalty to the store and the extremely generous compliments I receive from them daily. It’s really so gratifying and encouraging to know that people are responding to my projects so positively. To feel freedom in one’s endeavors is what makes my ‘work’ not like work at all. I’m not sure what sets me apart from others because I don’t go to other kids stores… but people like that they can come in and be helped by nice people and have a conversation with friends while they find something unique for a child they love.

How do you, personally, define success? What’s your criteria, the markers you’re looking out for, etc.?
Well success for me is a median place like what Robinson Crusoe’s father suggested… he argues that it’s best to have neither extreme wealth nor be in dire poverty. I prefer to keep the business simple with a few trustworthy allies close by. I don’t want it to be too large of a company. I’ve attained success in that I manage to have a very fair amount of flexibility and time at home with my loves and we have the opportunity to travel abroad once or twice a year. I still put in consistent hours at the shop every week; maintaining relationships with my customers is really important, as well as keeping in touch with the needs of my co-workers and the shop itself.

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