A couple of months ago, I came across a line of elegant straw handbags and hats by Pamela Munson that so deeply spoke to my aesthetic, I had to reach out to the founder — and I’m so glad I did. Pamela is the type of woman we need more of in this world: she is gracious, warm, enterprising, smart, and conscientious. I am thrilled to feature her as this month’s woman of substance.
I was thoroughly impressed by Pamela from the get-go, but then I learned that she earned a B.A. in English Literature as an undergrad, and I thought — OK, things have elevated to full-on girl crush. (Maybe we can convince her to join our book club?) After graduating from NYU, Pam established a career of sterling professional pedigree, working for ennobled fashion houses Chanel and Oscar de la Renta as well as the one and only Bergdorf Goodman. Then, inspired by the straw accessories her mother and grandmother wore when she was a child, Pam bravely and smartly set out to launch her own handbag collection. Each of her bags is designed here in New York and then handmade using straw — a natural and sustainable material — in a style she describes as striking “a modern balance between strength and femininity.” As the proud owner of a Charlotte clutch, I can personally attest to the quality and style of her pieces. (I have been wearing mine constantly — just big enough for a cell phone, card case, keys, and lipstick.) I had the honor of asking her a couple of questions, and her intelligence and thoughtfulness shine through — especially in her reflections on the progress women have made in terms of career opportunities over the last few decades — and I know you’ll enjoy getting to know her better below.
Your favorite qualities in a woman.
Authenticity, a strong work ethic, and kindness.
Your favorite heroine.
My mother is my heroine and my dad my hero. Close to 20 years ago, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and he has battled the illness with grace and courage. I have never once heard him complain. As earth shattering as it is to cope with a chronic condition, it is incredibly grueling to be the caregiver and remain positive and patient. My mother, who has a successful career as an educator, somehow balances life at home and work in between doctor appointments. Making the best of a situation you did not choose is admirable; she finds strength and is able to find beauty in it all.
Your main fault.
I’m very critical of myself.
Your greatest strength.
I’ve always been a dreamer — but a determined one. This combination led me to start my own business. I’m enjoying the dance between the creative and analytical.
Your idea of happiness.
Saturday morning breakfast with my husband and children. An iced cappuccino and pastries and the promise of the weekend ahead. Maison Kaiser is my favorite spot at the moment and probably the reason why I haven’t lost all the baby weight from my second child.
Your idea of misery.
Hopelessness and a stomach bug!
Currently at the top of your shopping lust list.
An Aurelia Demark pendant. For someone who adores jewelry as much as I do, I still need to commemorate my daughters’ births with a special bauble. I’m also loving the beautiful Lisa Marie Fernandez polka dot and smocked bathing suits, as well as Tabitha Simmons Cleo flats (now on sale!). An Innika Choo Oliver Daily Blouse would be perfect with white capris or jeans. I love summer shopping so I could go on and on.
Desert island beauty product.
Last thing you bought.
Navy gingham Tretorns at Bergdorfs (more colors and sizes here). They are truly the most comfortable shoe. My mother and grandmother wore them years ago (and still do!), I did in junior high, and now they’re back again. I love the comfort with the retro feel.
I feel most empowered wearing…
Heels! There is something about the elevation. With my own business, day to day you’ll generally find me in flats, but for business meetings or evenings out, I turn to heels. Manolo Blahnik, Aquazurra, and Roger Vivier make the most beautiful shoes.
Favorite Magpie post.
I particularly liked your recent post entitled, ‘The Elegant but Lopsided Dance of Motherhood’ –- so eloquently put and completely relatable. With my own experience, I had certain expectations of how motherhood would be and it was an adjustment for me to align with the reality.
You have such a gift for writing and connecting with the most interesting women, all with different paths and purpose. I love your Women of Substance series. It’s amazing to see how many unique roles there are for women today. I feel very fortunate to be able to work and have a family. Choice is progress and a luxury.
Some Pam Munson Inspired Shopping Picks…
Click images to access details, or see links below!
Gingham Tretorns (on sale!)
Illesteva Cat-Eyes (the style is named “The Pamela”!)
Smocked Top (only $50!)
Off-the-Shoulder Blouse (on sale for $21?!)
P.S. It was hard to “shop” for Pam because there were so many things that reminded me of her aesthetic (very similar to mine, I think) — I also loved these elegant and on sale pajamas, this classic white dress, and this Mara Hoffman stunner. And for a splurge? OMG. Something tells me her daughters might be seen in something like these, too.
P.P.P.S. Firsts and lasts.