Justine Liu is the President of the ethical activewear brand, Girlfriend Collective, and the mother of two. Before joining Girlfriend Collective, she was the Director of Brand Marketing at Reformation and the founder of Billie the Label and Lett Clothing. (Photographed by Jeanette Polynice.)
Imagine living in Los Angeles, among the palm trees and dreamy sunsets, working for a highly-coveted fashion brand, but being almost eight months pregnant and only seeing your husband on weekends. Welcome to Justine Liu’s world circa 2016.
“I had an opportunity to head up the buying team at Reformation and I couldn't say no, so we did long distance for a year and a half,” says Liu of her husband Michael, a video game engineer who was back in Boston. Luckily, she had some experience leaving something she loved behind to take a chance having departed a five-year job at Saks in order to attend Harvard Business School.
“We’d take turns, either every weekend or every other weekend, flying back and forth,” Justine says of her bicoastal marriage. “It wasn’t until I was 7½ months pregnant that we conceded we should probably live in the same place.”
With so much family in Beantown (“My husband is from a very large Irish Catholic family. Everyone lives within an hour of each other!” she says), they decided to live there. But Liu didn’t realize how much giving up her job — and those palm trees and dreamy sunsets — would affect her.
“While I was mentally prepared for [the move] and realized [being out of work] wouldn’t be permanent — that I would never not go back to work — I kind of assumed I’d find my groove in Boston. But it ended up being a really rough year if I’m being totally candid, especially from an industry standpoint. Boston doesn’t really have a community of folks who work in fashion or retail startups.”
What’s more, it was freezing: “It was just a bad winter. There was a period of time right after my son was born that it was minus 15 degrees for three weeks straight. I was with our newborn son day in and day out and I was like, ‘We need to go back to LA.’”
The whole family returned to La La Land together, but things were completely different this time around for a myriad of reasons, but especially one: Liu was now a Mom.