How I'm Skirting the Rules

I’m Showing Women Why Being is Just as Important as Doing

How a family crisis revealed to Sonja Winther, N.A. president of Chantelle, that she could accomplish more by trying to do less.

Sonja Winter Chantelle US president

Sonja Winther says that DOing is finite, but BEing is infinite.

Sonja Winther, a mom of two and N.A. president of the French lingerie brand Chantelle, wants to help women transform the world by showing that your value comes just as much from who you are as from what you do. That’s why Chantelle has teamed up with Skirting the Rules to create a series of modern-day salons called the “Art of Being,” which was inspired by our 18th century century muses and their bluestocking salon culture that united women and ideas. These salons bring together trailblazing women with the aim to help you find more clarity on how you want to be every day, so that you can do all that you do. Sonja’s mission is to help women feel comfortable and confident so that you can focus on being who you are. Here is how this skirter is learning to embrace the art of being in her own life—and why it’s so important for doing more.

Chantelle is Skirting the Rules by showing women the power of lingerie to help boost your overall wellbeing. I’ve seen transformations happen in the fitting rooms. A bra fitting can be an emotional experience because you’re standing undressed in front of a mirror, and may be critical of your body. Ultimately, your relationship to your own sensuality comes to the forefront. When a woman sees herself in a properly-fitted bra for the first time, she may stand up straighter, and appear slimmer when she puts her clothes back on in a way that she never thought possible. During one customer’s fitting, she laughed and shared, “Oh my God! This is the first time I’ve seen my waist in 20 years!” A lot of women don’t treat themselves to better-quality or beautiful lingerie, so it feels like a pampering moment. It’s an uplifting experience both physically and emotionally, because it sets the foundation for the rest of your outfit and you carry yourself more confidently.

A time when I found the possible (a creative solution) within the impossible (against incredible odds) is when my daughter was diagnosed with liver cancer at only 11 months old. It’s one of those crushing moments when I thought I literally would never smile again, but my daughter’s resiliency and spirit showed me the way. She has an infectious personality and kept smiling through the pain, so the nurses asked to keep her with them at their station because she was so entertaining. It actually turned out to be a metabolic disorder that required a liver transplant. She always adapted and showed up, no matter the challenge. She taught me that I can always keep going, find joy in the moments, and appreciate life no matter what I was going through.

An example of how listening to my intuition has helped me is when I felt there was a need to create positions in the company that merge traditional sales, marketing, and merchandising roles. The evolving retail environment, driven by e-commerce, has only accelerated the need for less “siloing” of roles. My quest is for people to have a broader understanding of the business overall regardless of their specific department so they have an appreciation of everyone’s goals. I believe that, at the end of the day, people like knowing how their role fits into and impacts the larger purpose, and merging roles in my company helped them to better see that.

My secret talent is finding opportunity in times of crisis. For example, I learned how to delegate when I was caring for my daughter in the hospital because I had to. My team took on more responsibility because they wanted to—it was their way of being supportive. Once I was back at work as usual, I managed to do so much more by delegating. This new-found skill got me to the next level in my career because it freed me up to focus on some of my bigger goals that I could never before find the time for. I think everyone has challenges, and if we look hard enough, we can find ways to help them work in our favor.

A woman is most powerful when she values her own uniqueness and uses her talents and skills to either lead and/or support those around her.

What I wish I had told my myself when I was starting out is not everything has to be done perfectly! I put too much pressure on myself. Before I was spending way too much energy trying to live up to these ideals of perfection, when I don’t think anyone else would have noticed as long as it was done well. Now I’m realizing I can get a lot more accomplished if I focus on doing a good job but don’t let perfectionism slow me down. My work is just as well received, and I’m not burned out.

My favorite skirt (a.k.a life hack or life rule) is to live by my motto that DOing is finite, but BEing is infinite. By this I mean you can only do so much, because everyone has their limits, and mindfully carving out space to recharge makes you more productive overall. So whenever I’m faced with a crisis, I allow myself space to just be. This became really apparent to me when my daughter was going through chemo, and I thought that I would shave my head, too, out of compassion. But the doctor told me it wouldn’t make any difference at all for her. And it didn’t. I learned all I needed was to be there.