by Alexandra Anastasio
Whether it’s from the years she spent playing the infamous Brenda Barrett on “General Hospital,” Gina Kincaid on “Beverly Hills 90210” or Sam Marquez on “Las Vegas,” Emmy Award-winning actress Vanessa Marcil is a household name. Her acting credits run deep, but what you might not know is that Vanessa is also a children’s clothing designer. And, she’s not one of these celebrity designers who slaps her name on a label. Vanessa is totally hands-on with her business.
In June of 2012, Vanessa, her son Kassius and her sister Sherry launched Baby Gagoo, a children’s clothing line, turning a side hobby of hers into a real-deal business. Growing up as the youngest of four children, Vanessa’s mother always sewed and made clothes for her and her siblings, so it was only natural she follow in mom’s footsteps. Making clothes for their own children and for friends’ kids, Vanessa and Sherry decided to start their own line and expand on what they were already doing. “Our hands are literally all over the products,” explains Vanessa. “We really are a ‘mom and pop’ operation; Sherry knits and I sew. A lot of love and energy go into this.”
That love and energy extends into the quality of the clothing – the line is eco-friendly and uses only organic materials, low impact dyes and no tags. Even the inside of the jeans feature soft organic material so they’re comfy for kids. Vanessa came up with the idea after her 10-year-old son complained that his jeans were “scratchy.” She aspired to make sure each piece of clothing is comfortable for children. For example, Baby Gagoo’s footy pajamas feature a removable hood and feet so that when your child grows, you can simply remove the feet, roll up the leg, and get a lot more wear out of their jammies. As a single mom, Vanessa also keeps cost in mind, insisting the line be affordable.
In making Baby Gagoo a family affair, Marcil’s son Kassius plays a huge role, and his creativity really shines through. Together, they’ve created characters that are featured on the pieces they sell, and behind each is a magical story. Fat Kat, is funny, accident-prone and angry all the time and always wants to be with his best friend Gagoo, who is sweet and introspective. Their storyline teaches children how to openly express their feelings, while helping parents learn how to validate their kids’ thoughts and empower them to make their own choices while still establishing discipline and structure.
“Kassius even came up with the idea to have Gagoo travel all over the world because he wants kids to learn how other children who may be less fortunate are living,” explains Vanessa. The duo has also begun working on creating and writing a television pilot based on these characters. “Whether it gets picked or not, I am teaching him a lesson – to do what you love!”
Making a Difference Through Love and Compassion
While Vanessa is teaching her son valuable lessons, the biggest one of all is the act of giving back, which is exactly what the company is doing by honoring two charities close to her heart. For the past 18 years, Vanessa has been raising money for Sojourn Services for Battered Women, a domestic violence shelter in Los Angeles that provides women and their children a safe space to regroup, rebuild and reestablish their lives and self-esteem.
The other charity is Nikosi’s Haven, an orphanage in Johannesburg that Vanessa discovered in South Africa during her travels seven years ago. Nikosi’s mission is to offer holistic care and support for women and children infected with HIV/AIDS, as well as orphans who may or may not be infected but whose lives have been touched by the disease. Baby Gagoo teamed up with Nikosi’s Haven to create the “Jammie Project.” For every pair of pajamas purchased, a pair is donated to a child in need. “Starting the clothing line and connecting it to the charities was a no-brainer,” says Vanessa. “We want to be able to help out and spread the love and generosity here in the states as well as all over Africa.”
A compassionate and generous person, Vanessa shines when talking about the causes she strongly believes in as well as the messages being put out to the younger generation. Says Vanessa: “Young girls and boys should know that using their minds and serving others is really what’s important.”
Baby Gagoo products are available for order at GagooFatKat.com. Follow the company on Twitter at @GagooJammies and @VanessaMarcilG.