An interview with Nicole Haddad of Lobo Mau

Photo by Ross Erickson

Photo by Ross Erickson

Secret Sweatshirts

interview by Emily Kovach

What’s your overall design style?

NH: I like to work with stretchy fabrics because it fits a lot of bodies. Our last collection was about torn paper and collage: We’re always taking things to a more artistic and less predictable place. My customer base is mostly women between the ages of 40 and 70. I love when the mom and daughter come in and both shop. I want to design things that all women want to wear, not just the thin 20-year-old woman!

How did Lobo Mau begin?

NH: In 2009, I got a small loan from a friend, bought fabric, made things in my house, and just showed up at boutiques like, “Hi, I’m a designer!” A lot of Philly shops gave me a chance. I wasn’t making enough to pay the bills, so I went back to work for two years, making jewelry for John Wind and working in my studio in Northern Liberties on nights and weekends.

In 2011, when I was ready to quit my day job, I serendipitously met Lele Tran, a designer who was starting a co-op called US*U.S. in Old City. I moved my studio to their basement and was able to grow my business incrementally.

Last year, I was approached by some major investors, one of whom was my third cousin I’d never met before. My great grandmother was a Philadelphia bridal and evening gown designer—she made dresses for Grace Kelly! She taught her little brother how to sew, and he went on to start Alfred Angelo, the biggest bridesmaid company in the world. He was the one who helped me. I was able to really get off the ground.

What’s next, then?

NH: I’m keeping it manageable and local. I just moved my studio into the Bok building—I am the first tenant! I’m helping to open a new boutique, and working on projects with Betabrand and Nineteenth Amendment.

Available in select local boutiques, at lobomau.com and other online shops.