Margo Lafontaine is in the business of happily-ever-afters. As Design Director of Amsale, a bridal brand known for exquisite simplicity and a modern aesthetic, Lafontaine designs collections that are a minimalist bride’s dream come true.
At home, Lafontaine is happily raising her 2-year-old daughter, Hazel. “It’s so much fun seeing the world through her eyes and the silly joy that she takes in everything,” she says. “I love being transported back to that childlike mindset.” Ultimately, nothing compares to the unconditional love that comes with being a mom. “It’s a thing you can read about, but once it happens, it’s mind-blowing.”
Once she turned two, Hazel was quick to assert her style independence—telling her mother, “Hazel pick, Hazel pick!”—and has even found her signature color. “Now that she’s picking out her clothes, it’s pink.” Lafontaine says. “Every day. All day.”
Of course, life doesn’t always look rosy, as every mom can attest. “Whether being a mom or doing my job, I’m trying to do it 110 percent, give it all my energy and focus,” Lafontaine says. “The hardest part right now is that it’s split no matter what you do,” she adds—something that’s all-too-real for moms juggling work life and mom life. “It doesn’t feel fair to my job, and it doesn’t feel fair to my child.”
When things go by the wayside, it can be a tough pill for any parent to swallow. “I’ve had to let go of some of my beliefs as a parent to some degree,” Lafontaine says, like anti–screen time. “I didn’t even like being on my phone around her, but that's obviously out the window at this point!” she says. “I’m learning to be a little more flexible and realizing that things can’t go perfectly to my plan.”
When she landed at Amsale in 2018, she was six-months pregnant with Hazel. “We really bonded,” says Lafontaine of working alongside Amsale Aberra, who made a name for herself as ‘inventor of the modern wedding dress.’ “She started her business when she was pregnant, and hired me when I was pregnant.” They quickly formed a unique connection bound by motherhood. “It would crack her up to see me waddling around, trying to drape and sketch with my belly. She’d tell me stories about being in the garment district at the fabric store when she was expecting, and how she couldn’t even turn around in the aisle because her belly was so big.”
Lafontaine saw Aberra as a sort of mother figure and also a mentor. “She definitely had that calm but strong motherly aura about her. She took me under her wing, directed me and imparted a lot of wisdom very quickly, honestly.”
Three months later, Lafontaine gave birth to Hazel. The next month, Aberra passed away from uterine cancer. Lafontaine was devastated. When she presented the Fall 2019 collections solo that following October, she was understandably in tears during a pre-show interview with an editor backstage.
Fast forward to the present, Lafontaine has positioned the brand at the forefront of bridal innovation and bespoke technology. As COVID-19 put a wrinkle in the wedding industry, Amsale launched a virtual try-on feature where brides can upload a photo of themselves and see a wedding gown projected onto them.
Last month, as Bridal Fashion Week prepared to go digital, Amsale scheduled one-on-one Zoom appointments with Lafontaine, who multitasked as her toddler napped. “The thing about being a mom during this time is I’ve learned how to juggle,” she says with a laugh, which she does often. “Next-level juggling.”
A perfect example: While Amsale’s couture line was put on pause, the Nouvelle Amsale and Little White Dress collections were beautifully (and resourcefully) shot by a pair of real, creative married couples sheltering in place amid the pandemic: Broadway star and Tony nominee Laura Osnes, photographed by her husband, Nathan Johnson, and model-slash-mother Angela Highsmith, photographed by her spouse, Asio. Lafontaine thought about FaceTime-directing the photoshoot, but in the spirit of authenticity, let the couples do their thing. “We wanted to share some joy to others during this time,” she says. “It was a fun surprise!”
When reality, as we know it, changed, so did Lafontaine’s priorities at Amsale. “My focus has shifted from creating new things to trying to be supportive of brides, supportive of our company and supportive of the industry,” she says. While many of the brides she’s spoken to have postponed their weddings for a full year, “what is really unique is watching people pivot,” she says of the couples who are opting for small ceremonies on their actual wedding date, then moving the celebration.
Lafontaine has also learned to adapt to the circumstance as a busy mom running a brand. She’s found breaking up the daily grind into manageable chunks makes all the difference, and tag-teams it with her husband. “That way, I can do each thing better,” she says. “It’s a lot of planning and passing back and forth.”
It’s a skill she no doubt gleaned from her own mother. “My mom worked my whole life, and it was a very empowering example for me to have,” she says. “It instilled in me a need to work and, maybe, not feel guilty, which I think is an easy thing for working moms to do. I was so proud of my mom, her accomplishments and her career. I appreciated her for that, and I in turn, hope Hazel will have the same feeling.”