Journalist and fashion expert Tsitaliya Mircheva tells us all about her online platform and full service media studio ‘Mums in Heels’.
Claudia van Zanten
Bulgarian born journalist and fashion expert Tsitaliya Mircheva (39) moved to Switzerland as a trailing spouse ten years ago. The first years in Switzerland were incredibly hard on both a personal and a career level, but she managed to set up a succesful fashion blog four years ago. Last year she transformed her blog into the online platform and full service media studio ‘Mums in Heels’. With her platform, she hopes to connect and inspire women and “support them on their journey of reconnecting with their true selves”.
Continnect spoke to her about her early years growing up in a communist country, her personal life as an adult, her career, being a foreign woman and mum in Switzerland and of course about Mums in Heels.
continnect: You grew up in small town Bulgaria, in a time when the country was still communist. What was that like?
Tsitaliya: Despite, or perhaps because of, communism we had a beautiful untroubled childhood. We lived in a bubble, blissfully unaware of the lack of freedom of speech and expression that worried our parents. We didn’t know about their struggles and the waiting lists to buy a car or new tiles for the bathroom. We never felt under stress, at school or around our parents, we never worried about what school we should go to and what career meant. Money was not an issue. In fact we never spoke of money. Everyone had a job, everyone had food on the table and could go on holiday twice a year. I keep good memories of my childhood. I wasn’t very popular at school though. I loved spending time on my own, reading or listening to music, watching old movies. My bubble burst when I had to move and study at an English boarding school and had to live in a room with three other girls.
continnect: You became a successful TV host in your home country. Then you lived with your husband in Zambia and the United States before moving to Switzerland. How did your career go after you moved abroad?
Tsitaliya: My husband and I lived in Zambia for several years and before that we lived in Connecticut (USA) for three years. Whilst living in the States I started working for a small company which was part of IMG (edit – a sports, event and management company) and was responsible for the event management of the New York Fashion Week. I remember getting up at 5 am in the morning to be able to get to work on time and prepare the first venue for the fashion show which had to be ready at 9 am. It took about two hours and the show was just a few minutes. I was used to this kind of work though because of my work for TV in Bulgaria.
continnect: Why did you move to Switzerland? How did you experience your first years in this country?
Tsitaliya: I moved to Switzerland 10 years ago as a trailing spouse. I think everyone who moves to Switzerland without having a job has a hard time adjusting. Despite how ambitious I was to learn the language, I still don’t speak German fluently. I met a few people at the language courses I was taking, but I have to say I felt pretty miserable about staying at home alone all the time. In New York you can find a friend the minute you compliment someone on their shoes or colour of their lipstick. Here it was very different from anywhere I had been until then. I started looking for a job but that was disappointing as well.
Then I met Natalie Albrecht and started writing for her expat platforms Zug4you, Lucerne4you and Zurich4you. I met more and more people and that’s how I also met Swiss News’ editor-in-chief. I started working for them, had a fashion column as well and continued freelancing for other media in Switzerland.
continnect:As a foreigner, woman and also a mum, do you find it hard to have a career in Switzerland?
Tsitaliya: Yes I do. I think the system in Switzerland doesn’t support working mothers and the Kinderkrippe is really quite expensive. Basically one of the parents has to stay at home. There is very little tolerance for mothers here and very little help. If you don’t speak the language it’s quite lonely and you can become very isolated. Another thing that shocked me here was that on the train nobody will get up and give you their seat when you are pregnant. I found that very ignorant and rude, because this has nothing to do with feminism or emancipation. It is just polite and human to do such a thing. I understand Swiss have their own way of looking at things, but this has nothing to do with cultural beliefs or not. Not for me. It is common sense to offer a pregnant woman a seat. Really, A Common Sense.
continnect: When and why did you decide to start your blog Style Diaries?
Tsitaliya: It was around the time my first child was born, in 2012. I was looking for ways to express myself and talk about the things that I loved. I didn’t have many friends at the time so the blog was a way out. I am very creative and expressive, not in the way of painting and designing pieces, but in a way of visuals, photography and writing stories. That was the beginning of my fashion blog Tsitaliya’s Style Diaries.
continnect: Why did you decide to change your successful fashion blog into the Mums in Heels platform/online magazine?
Tsitaliya: It happened very naturally. Once I became a mother for the second time, I also had some transforming experiences in my life, let’s say life challenges. They changed me forever and made me re-think my purpose, who I am, what I am here for. Mums in Heels was launched only a year ago but what I realized was that I wanted to help women find their purpose through inspiration and sharing. I have met many thousands of women all over the world, only to realize that every single one of them is beautiful, talented and unique in her own way. With Mums in Heels I want to connect to these kinds of women, who care about who they are, who are opinionated, smart and unapologetic. With a sense of style of course (smiles). Our Mums in Heels are mature women who are able to forgive and move on, spirited and dynamic, with a global open mind. They let the icon in each one of them show and shine. They don’t let others tell them what and who they are or should be. They write their own rules. At the same time my motivation is to challenge society’s perceptions about women and to change the way we talk to and about each other.
continnect: Who or what inspires you on a personal and business level?
Tsitaliya: Women inspire me, my friends, movies, TV series. I love books with images and I have many fashion editors’ books with pictures, illustrations and photographs. It’s hard to say who is my role model nowadays. I have many women who inspire me but on a different level: Michelle Obama and Oprah are no doubt role models. Then I really am inspired by Gloria Steinem, Lena Dunham and Suzi Menkes’ work: writing, directing, expressing opinion in such creative ways. I genuinely admire Carine Roitfeld and what she was doing with Tom Ford and other designers on photoshoots, what Cameron Diaz did lately with her Longevity book and campaign. There are so many empowering role models these days and you can keep track of everything they do simply by following them on Instagram and Twitter. I really love technology for that!
I also remember how stylish and elegant my mum looked going for one of those late dancing nights with my father. My father was very elegant too. I don’t remember him wearing a T-shirt ever. My mum loved black lace, oversized glasses and ruffled blouses. I loved when she pulled her hair in a high bun. My father and my mother had innate style and they were, and still are, my ideal young stylish couple.
continnect: What makes Mums in Heels different to all the other online communities for working women/mothers/fashionistas? What do you (hope to) add?
Tsitaliya: I think our attitude is different. Attitude is everything. We talk about women who can change the world and they don’t need to be Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton. By simply being mindful and aware of how you change the world every day, by choosing to lead instead of to follow you are already different. Mums in Heels’ readers are not just working mothers. They don’t fit society’s box. They are women who can feel the icon in them. They have sass and class and most of all – a purpose.
continnect: Where do you hope to be with Mums in Heels five years from now?
Tsitaliya: I will be exactly where I am now. I love my life and the way I live it. I want to be doing the same thing in five years, tell kick-ass stories about iconic women, transform people’s lives, make films, create beauty, awaken and inspire.
Claudia van Zanten is a freelance journalist and PR consultant based in the Netherlands. For more details, you can reach out to her at [email protected]