WKYC’s Maureen Kyle’s Lionheart Lamb clothing line empowers young girls through powerful messaging—and supports refugees in the process. By Janet Lueken
Photo: Tess Smith Photography
After working in television news for more than a decade, WKYC-TV morning show anchor Maureen Kyle felt an itch to expand her horizons. “I was inspired to learn something else,” she says. “Friends were starting side hustles; all I knew was TV.”
But that wasn’t the case for long. Earlier this spring, Kyle launched Lionheart Lamb, a clothing line for girls with empowering messages literally sewn into the clothing.
The idea for clothing line came after Kyle’s oldest daughter, three-year-old Scarlett, left school with a heavy heart. When Kyle asked what was wrong, “she told me her friend said, ‘you’re not my best friend anymore,’” Kyle recalls. “It was the first time I could tell her confidence was hurt and she felt bad about herself. It broke my heart.”
So Kyle hatched an idea: she told her daughter that clothing had special powers.
Scarlett’s running shoes became her “fast shoes.” Scarlett’s “friendship dress” would give her the power to go play with someone new. And her brave dress, Kyle told her, would help Scarlett try something adventurous, like take a ride down a high slide.
The experiment worked; there was a noticeable difference in Scarlett’s confidence level, Kyle says, and she felt empowered in her new powerful clothing. And in the wake of her at-home success, Kyle decided to design a clothing line for young girls.
Kyle knew the clothing needed to be wearable for active children—yet remain cute and classic for everyday wear. And each clothing item would include a message that would help empower young girls through dress up and imagination, Kyle decided.
“I wanted more for my daughters when it came to fashion,” Kyle says. “There’s a lot of cheap, mass-produced crap out there. Nothing drove me more crazy than stiff, uncomfortable materials for my girls when I would strap them into a car seat. My goal was to have classic dresses that [they] could wear all day … and be themselves.”
Photos: Tess Smith Photography
Kyle launched the line with three distinct messages, written into dresses she sewed herself, until she found an admittedly better team of seamstresses to do it for her. The messages and dresses were “brave,” a fit-and-flare dress made with images of Amelia Earhart’s signature red plane flying over Susan B. Anthony on a bike across the skirt; “kindness,” a shift-style dress with a V-neck back and long ribbon bow; and “friendship,” an all-natural cotton shift with a bow along the neckline. Wearing each dress reminds young girls to be brave, kind, and make new friends, Kyle believes.
To manufacture her initial designs, Kyle hired Beachwood-based Forma Apparel. Minor Detail CLE, owned by Jen Minor Krueger, makes the clothing line’s hangtags. And the clothing labels are from Mountain Street Arts, a female designer on Etsy.
New this season, Kyle asked Esperanza Threads to help release her holiday line, which debuted at the end of November. Esperanza Threads, located in Gordon Square, assists unemployed and underemployed people with skills they can use to support themselves and their families. Esperanza Threads trains people to sew on industrial sewing machines so they can work in the local garment industry.
“A friend reminded me about Esperanza Threads, which I did a story on a few years ago,” said Kyle. “I remembered the mission and how I could see first-hand these women getting a chance at re-building their lives. It fit my mission of female empowerment.”
Amal Hassan, 54, of Jerusalem, Israel, joined Esperanza Threads a year ago and helped sew Lionheart Lamb’s new holiday dresses.
Hassan, who used to watch her mother sew and always wanted to learn, says she is very thankful for the experience. After months of learning to sew, Hassan says sewing the holiday dresses for a business was such a proud moment. She says she plans to visit the boutiques that the dresses will be sold in to see her work in person.
Lionheart Lamb’s holiday line consists of the “Joy” and “Merry” dress. The “Joy” dress is an A-line shift made of Ponte knit, available in festive red. The “Merry” dress is a fit-and-flare style made of cotton, available in a buffalo plaid print with a red sash. These dresses can be found at several boutiques and holiday pop-up shops, including Shed Boutique & Wellness in Chagrin Falls and Home for the Holidays in Lakewood. (They can also be purchased directly from Lionheart Lamb’s website.) Kyle also designed a woman’s T-shirt with a cartoon image of Lucille Ball’s face; that shirt is available for purchase on Kyle’s website.
Kyle says some designs and colors were more in demand than others—but she has sold out of every holiday dress as of publication. “I’m hard on myself in terms of success and goals, but because I have these amazing women and makers surrounding me,” Kyle says in reflection, but “I’ve gotten reassurance that the first year of business is an experiment and obviously there’s a learning curve.”
Kyle is starting to work on her spring designs. Her business goals include stocking her clothing line in more boutiques and bringing more work to Esperanza Threads.
“The big thing is [that] I want everything to support women,” says Kyle.