Stylist Claudia Cifu on Mothering in Short Shorts and Taking Her Daughter’s Fashion Advice

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It’s impossible to miss stylist and consultant Claudia Cifu and her five-year-old daughter, Paloma Freya. The two are adorable peas in a pod, with their coordinated, relaxed chic vibe (which translated well into Cifu’s kidswear collection for the Finnish label Vimma.) 

Though Cifu was born in Finland to Chilean parents, she lived in New York for over 15 years before moving back to Helsinki four years ago to raise Paloma. Cifu’s time in New York comes through in her style, which feels both downtown minded—Carhartt worker trousers with a cropped, well-worn leather jacket—and in-the-know—a black, puffed sleeve Mara Hoffman dress with orange Vans. Though she’s only five, Paloma weighs in on Cifu’s choices. “I like to hear Paloma’s opinion when decorating the house or getting dressed,” she says. 

Like any child, Paloma is constantly inspired and fickle. “Her idol changed from Elsa [from Frozen] to Wednesday [Addams], and therefore her whole wardrobe experienced a revamp as well,” says Cifu. “She had the cutest sparkly high heels and gave them to her friend. She soon was requesting another pair of heels but in black—since anything sparkly or glittery is not to her liking anymore.” 

Still, Cifu’s experimental sensibility trickles into Paloma’s outfits, as seen in outfits involving a red polka dot skirt and a Supreme leather bag, or a metallic princess skirt over a long sleeve shirt. Cifu, whose own mother taught her the value of thrifting, also shops secondhand for Paloma. “Kids grow all the time so it’s silly to put money into clothing if they can only wear it for a short amount of time,” says Cifu. “She gets excited when she sees a thrift store because there are so many things that she can find.”  

Cifu says her daughter has helped with time management and creativity. “I chose my creative projects with care since my time is limited and therefore sacred!” says Cifu. A special project she is dedicated to is the first media company run by BIPOC Finns, “Ruskeat Tytöt”—which translates to “Brown Girls”. “It gives a voice to the people whose stories haven’t been told,” says Cifu, who is on the board. “If I had representation like that when I was growing up in Finland, it would have been life-changing.” She is also a supporter of up-and-coming veteran and up-and-coming Finnish labels, including Rolf Ekroth, Jimi Vain, and Hedvig. 

Here, see how Cifu juggles motherhood, where she shops for Paloma, and what clothing items she’s let go of since becoming a mom. 

Claudia Cifu: I’ve always loved the name Paloma. It’s quite a traditional name in South America. I never knew anyone personally whose name was Paloma, even though it’s quite a popular name with Spanish-speaking people. When I was pregnant I visited Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s home, which has been turned into a museum in Isla Negra, Chile, where I noticed his dove sketches, which are also a symbol of peace. [The Spanish word for dove is paloma]. I think I fell even more in love with the name because of those factors. When Paloma was born in New York City, we didn’t know where we would end up living in the future. I thought it was important to give her a Scandinavian name as well to remind her of her Finnish roots, so that’s how we chose her second name, Freya.

How did you see yourself as a woman before motherhood, and how do you see yourself now?

I was a very hedonistic person before becoming a mother. I definitely saw myself wiser than I actually was! Motherhood has definitely grounded me. These past six years have taught me the most about myself and life, and the growth keeps going, which I love so much. I feel more secure about myself and life in general, while totally still being confused about life and being “a work in progress.” I’ve learned how to cherish and accept the feeling of not having it all together and figured it out in life.

How has motherhood changed how you think about your personal style?

There was a brief moment when I thought I shouldn’t wear short shorts anymore since I was a mom–and also because I wasn’t a young mom! But I brushed that off fast and I’m still dressing in short shorts and miniskirts!

I think being a mom gives me more fuel to go against society’s norms: what we should and shouldn’t wear because of our sex, age, etc. I definitely want to be a role model in that sense for Paloma, for her to learn that it’s okay to express yourself (in this case via fashion) however makes you happy.

Has having a child contributed to or influenced your creativity and/or your method of working?  

I don’t stress about work like I used to. I feel like if I give my best that’s sufficient. Also, since I work in a creative field, you can’t feel inspired or creative all the time, and that’s okay. I also don’t work over hours unless it’s absolutely necessary. I choose my creative projects with care since my time is limited and therefore sacred! I like to hear Paloma’s opinion when decorating the house or getting dressed for example. I find the way little kids see the world and things around them more honest and pure, since they’re simply based on what appeals to them most (no brands influencing, for example). I really value and trust her taste! 

Has your mom taught you any lessons about being a mom?

I would say patience. Also that I’m my daughter’s biggest/most important reference/mirror of what kind of human she (at least) could be/become. So I try to be the best version of myself for her. She pushes me to be a better person! Sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.

How does your child dress? How do you shop for her?

She has become such a picky dresser! If I shop for something for her, I always save the receipt because she might like it or tell me to take it back to the store. So yes, I pretty much don’t have a saying any more about what she puts on!

We both like Wildkind Kids, a Finnish kids label that makes super fun, streetwear-inspired clothes. Paloma has been wearing that label since she was a baby, and luckily she still loves the brand. Otherwise, I tend to buy her secondhand and we get a lot of hand-me-downs from her older friends.

Do you have a life-saving mom tool?

Bribing? Does that count? Only I’ve realized you can go so far with that! The iPad…I perhaps shouldn’t say that, but it’s a very useful tool and savior many times! 

Me time! Co-parenting gives me the chance to slow down and get my thoughts together, which definitely makes me a better mom and person.

What are some pieces that you’ve let go of since becoming a mom?

Skinny jeans and super-high heels! Also, all the clothes that I wore during my pregnancy. They just reminded me of my pregnancy and made me feel pregnant again!

What are you wearing these days?

I find myself wearing a lot of the same things that I wore in my teens during the ’90s, like baggy pants, T-shirts, and hoodies. Camo and animal prints have always been staple prints in my wardrobe. And vintage Carhartt, and Levi’s jeans. I also like to support young Finnish designers, such as Latimmier, Byhinders, Hedvig, ONAR…there are a bunch of talented ones!

In a nutshell: loads of vintage, young Finnish designers, and secondhand designer clothing.

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