The summer solstice is dear to my heart for a few reasons: it’s the official start of my favorite season, it’s the day Cocktail Sneakers was launched back in 2018, and it was also my late mother’s birthday (06/21/21). 

This summer solstice brings Cocktail Sneakers to its two-year mark, and it’s been an incredible adventure! In two years, our team has grown, we expanded our office space, we launched new colorways and a new style, and we’re now carried in boutiques at some of the finest hotels and clubs: St. Regis, Montage, The Ritz Carlton, Canyon Ranch, The Phoenician, and The Woman's Athletic Club of Chicago, to name a few. 

As I celebrate our success and our birthday, I’m also thinking about my mother, Anna Jean, or Jean as everyone knew her, who would be turning 99 years old on the 21st if she were still with us. Jean was a spunky, sassy woman who was also a total lady—a hard combo to pull off, but she did it with style and grace. She was always fashionable, and when she entered a room, people noticed. By looking at her, you would never have known that she had had four children (two boys and two girls), prepared three home-cooked meals each day, knitted, sewed, canned fruits and vegetables from her garden, had a freezer stocked with homemade pies, played a mean game of poker and bridge, kept a million balls in the air while our dear father travelled weekly for business . . . and ironed all our sheets so that we would appreciate “the proper way” of doing things! I’m exhausted just thinking about how she made it all work so beautifully.

I think about her composure and how she believed that she was capable of doing more than what society expected of her in those days, though she also cherished her role as the “Mom-In-Chief” of our family. She instilled a can-do attitude in all of her children, telling us that whatever we put our minds to, we could indeed accomplish. In Anna Jean’s time, women had their sphere, but when it came to raising her daughters, she would teach us to do what she had done—focus on family—but also do more! As my sister and I enjoyed new freedoms in our young adulthood in the ‘60s and ‘70s, mom would roll her eyes and say, “Oh girls!” while living vicariously through us.

Mom has been an inspiration to me in everything that I do. Her voice told me not to hold myself back, to go for it and start Cocktail Sneakers when I was in my 50s and could just as easily have followed the other voices in my head that told me all the reasons not to go all in. I’m glad I took a page out of her book and started a new adventure!

One of my favorite stories about my mom was when she decided to join the Women’s Army Corps (W.A.C.) during WWII—despite all the voices that told her not to join! She was the first American woman off the ship that docked in Brisbane, Australia. A journalist happened to snap a photo of my mother that was published in the newspaper. A young, fourteen-year-old Australian girl cut the image of my mother out of the paper and pasted it to the front on an envelope addressed to “This American W.A.C. somewhere near Brisbane.” The letter, which thanked my mother for her welcoming smile and included an invitation to their family home, actually reached my mother’s hands! The rest is a story for another time.

At the solstice tomorrow, my family and I will be gathered on our lawn celebrating many things: the wonderful gift of a seaside summer with all my boys at home (sheltering with mom and dad); the second birthday of my new baby, Cocktail Sneakers; and the memory and legacy of Anna Jean—a woman who went all in on life and taught her daughters to leave nothing on the table!