A chat with...

Happy Menocal

Our whimsical, hand-painted prints are a true labor of love. From inspiration to concepting to collaborating with the ever-talented Happy Menocal, our seasonal prints are long in the making. We like to think, though, that these unique and joyful prints are well worth the wait!

We've had the ultimate pleasure working with Happy since 2017, starting with our beloved Signature Dot Print—our first, tried-and-true design. Follow along as Claire catches up with the ultra-talented artist and mom, plus discover Happy's secret party trick and find out what Claire is making for dinner!

Claire Interviews Happy

Claire: Favorite thing to draw or design for clients? For your kiddos? Give me some juicy details, invitations and stationary feels very similar to the behind the scenes of a hotel….

Happy: I like when the project educates me. I once did some work for a couple getting married in the South of France, in the Camargue region, near Arles. I've never been, so I started reading and googling, and there are these great cowboys there who ride white horses and wear these patchwork "Western" shirts, cut like the American chambray or denim ones, but the fabric is all different colored Provencale prints. So I painted one of those cowboys. It's like virtual travel for me.

My kids and I just experimented with Papier Mache, and it was humbling. We made a tragic looking roasted chicken and a panda bear, which we've yet to complete. But I've learned from my mistakes and am excited for round two. A new medium!


C: Favorite part of the Oso / Happy process?

H: I appreciate that we speak the same language, aesthetically, and that I can trust when my art leaves my hands it's going to end up in some beautiful composition that I might not have conceived myself. The moth camo is a great example of that — you completely elevated what I gave you and it became something new. I also love seeing how the patterns we make together work within the bigger context of the brand, next to a solid or a tartan or a stripe.


C: Best Oso item or detail or both (we will take all of the compliments we can get) in your opinion and why?

H: The Bennie jumpsuit, both in navy and the dots. And in terms of detail, I really can't overstate how thoughtfully made this stuff is. The buttons with the stripes baked in! The velvet piping. The bloomers. The smocking. The little elastic adjusters inside the corduroys. I feel like my kids are little Savile Row dandies when I fold their laundry and admire the details, but when they put the clothes on it's all so unfussy and easy.


C: If you were to design stationary for the following clients what would they look like (hint hint these are my kiddos): 2 year old girl with a very loud voice, 5 year old girl who loves anything mythical and imaginary - save for unicorns, not that big of a fan, and an 8 year old boy who still loves a good train or subway and is just stating to experiment with a good amount of sass.

H: For Frances: I'd paint the letters FRANCES, increasing in size as they go, to demonstrate increasing volume, like a bullhorn. Blaze orange ink engraved on cantaloupe paper. Envelope lined in lemon yellow.

For Cecil: I'd make a hazy little scene in a mossy forest, and confine it to a penny-sized circle, like a universe in a bubble. I'd print it on buttermilk paper, centered at the top, with her name engraved tiny underneath the art in french blue ink. Envelope lined in mint tissue.

For Jack Lee: Let's do the card extra long and wide like a train car, dove grey paper. We'll engrave his initials in little saffron yellow circles, like headlights. I'll paint an elaborate tangle of colored lines for the envelope liner, an abstract subway map.


C: Favorite Cocktail?

H: Paloma (tequila with grapefruit)


C: Party Talent?

H: Laughing

Happy Interviews Claire

Happy: In what ways do your kids inform the designs? Are you fielding requests from Jack Lee and Cecil for a wide wale corduroy in 2022?

Claire: My kids inform my decisions quite a bit, because I like to take the things that frustrate me about the getting dressed with children experience and try to make it better. I mean, I started the company because my first child, Jack Lee – who was born at a whopping 11 lbs. 3 oz. – grew out of those sweet, simple, elastic waist pants that most companies make for babies (but end their sizing of them around the age of 2). Well, my son promptly grew out of those by age 6 months, and I though how unfair that at the time, the only other option were zippered pants with buttons. Why would I ever want to have a zipper when changing a diaper? And then it went from there through all those growth stages, potty training, learning how to get dressed by themselves, etc. Every time I came to one of those new stages and experiences that come with them I found new things about children's clothes that I didn’t like, that were not designed with practicality and the realities of life with children.

Our ethos became to design with the child in mind and we always start with the child and what really happens for them (and their parents at that stage). Wobbling newborn heads (crossbody onesies), growing out of clothes (cuffable pants and shorts that last longer), having a hard time with buttons (gorgeous buttons that interest children - or better yet, custom snaps), being able to make their own choices (hello, reversible clothes they get to choose which side), ELASTIC everything (no need to explain here) and then the print... the prints are very important! I cannot tell you how many times I talk to a child at trunk shows about the tiny creatures on their clothes and what they are doing. Wow, that was a severe tangent!!!! I'm a talker. But seriously, the prints are I think my favorite part -after doing all the practical stuff, the really fun part is the prints. Of course I like to throw in my kids, or cousins, or friends' favorite animals to our print design. When I was pregnant with my second, my oldest told me I was pregnant with a little red fox and she still to this day is a very fiery red fox — that was our inspiration for our woodland print a couple of seasons ago with the dancing foxes.


H: What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever designed?

C: OK I’m going to keep this one short… but, so many!!!! I like the reversible kids clothes we have three main styles and I have named each for my children, The Jack Lee, The Cecil, and The Frances. We use a double cloth which is amazing, as I understand it, it is two pieces of fabric in contrasting patterns woven at the same time on the same machine where each layer takes a bit from the other to interweave it together. How amazing is that! That way in the end you have one piece of fabric with two different patterns, one on each side. Genius!


H: Please indulge my cabin fever induced brick and mortar fantasy and describe in sumptuous detail what an Oso & Me physical shop would be like. Inside and out. I have visions of ice cream carts and citrus trees and a chicken coop...

C: You are hitting the mark!!! I have been dreaming during Covid how much I want a little store. I used to travel all over doing these little trunk shows and I really loved the interaction. I also worked at Ted Muehling before starting Oso & Me and loved having a little dream box of a shop. So interaction and dream box are my starting points. It would obviously have all of our clothes, books, art supplies, gifting station (I love giving gifts), customized painted furniture for children's rooms (this is where you come in), a very cozy giant sofa for snuggling up and reading but then also I think a beautiful zinc bar. Because why not. We would sell those rock sugar sticks (might as well cut straight to the chase), cocktails, cheese straws, and tea. The bar would also be our checkout counter, I have always felt very comfortable behind a bar. It would have transom windows and one of those little glass hallway entrances with terrazzo floors, you know those ones where you feel like you are going down a little arcade with product behind glass on either side and then the door is at the end and the store actually begins. (No idea what they are called). The entrance would have all kinds of trees in it so you would feel like you were walking into a forest or something hidden. I would put an office in the back, have a seamstress for custom clothing orders (think kaftans) and throw adult dinner parties there so I didn’t wake the kiddos. Ahhh the dream!


H: An infant, a two year old, and a five year old walk into a bar. Please describe their perfect outfits.

C: Ok so the two year old is probably the ring leader so she is likely wearing red and navy polka dot bloomers with a boxy t-shirt and red tights finished off with red floral slip-on shoes (Frances' outfit this morning) the baby boy would be wearing our missy jumpsuit and holding on to dear life to whatever rickety toy carriage they put him in and double fisting our bibs, the 5 year old would be pushing said toy carriage with a collared green tattersall shirt and matching faux pants in tan. He is responsible of course and worried how they are going to pay for the bill.


H: What would you make if it wasn’t children’s clothing?

C: Jewelry. I love jewelry.


H: What’s for dinner?

C: Halibut baked with cherry tomatoes garlic and fennel with a side of potato dauphinoise. I might add green beans if I have any.

By Courtney End | February 11, 2021

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