Monica Tran, 35, left an executive post

March 20, 2007

Monica Tran, 35, left an executive post with Giorgio Armani S.p.A. and opened Trust Fund Baby in October 2004. Ms. Tran used her own trust fund (her father owned a shipping company in Vietnam and now owns commercial real estate in New York) to design a store as comfortable as her grandmother’s living room. She painted the walls in the reds and greens of a lacquer box her grandmother gave her and added soft couches and a table laden with free bottles of juice and designer water. “It’s all so welcoming,” she says, “that people from the neighborhood just come in and sit.”

But customers who arrive don’t sit long. They’re after the tiny cashmere sweaters Ms. Tran designs, with ladybug or argyle patterns and soft camouflage-print linings (prices start at $89) or her $289 diaper bag that’s a bright-hued leather satchel embossed to look like crocodile, with a removable “baby stuff” pouch.

Instead of plush bears, Ms. Tran sells a line of $17 soft dolls of historical figures, including a miniature Van Gogh, complete with a pull-off ear, Socrates, Einstein and Freud. A broadly smiling Buddha seemed like the perfect gift to calm Dean, our grandson in Seattle.

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