Perhaps not all great ideas happen in slightly unexpected places, but a high percentage of mine seem to; once in the middle of a swimming pool I hit on the idea of getting my nose pierced, which was my absolutle favourite thing for about 6 months. The idea to form our own childrenswear business came about on my slightly down-at-heel looking sofa, surrounded by a dolls’ tea party and a lot of duplo.
It was a rainy dull January day, and Sarah was back from a sunny South Africa, disillusioned about returning to a country that does grey as a colour scheme for 3 months of the year. Over a cup of tea and some perfunctory disciplining of two autocratic two year olds, we decided that Bedford needed some serious jazzing-up in the childrenswear department. There is a Next. And a Debenhams. And a half-arsed M&S, (not to mention a Tescos or 5, but we don’t mention that, because we HATE Tescos.) But there is nowhere you can buy interesting, one-off designs for children. And whilst I really do love some high street kid-wear, there is a lot of tat. Horrible, inappropriate tat. ‘Things I love: chocolate, shopping and handbags!’ one (pink) monstrosity of a top read recently. In age 2-3. Now, I have two daughters, one of whom is a bit on the handbag-happy side (alright, handbag obsessed.) The other one couldn’t give two hoots about a handbag. They both hate shopping. They both like chocolate, but frankly you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who doesn’t. But why does a two year old need a top that says that? Not much to aspire to, is it? Plus, a lot of boy clothing is really very dull. It’s easy-peasy to find baby boy things in interesting colours, but once they hit 3 or 4, it starts to feel like you’ve entered a cloud of grey, navy and dark green. Or, it’s that weird ‘dress your 3 year old as a middle aged man’ affliction.
So yes, our local provision for cool childrenswear was dire. But also, Sarah and I share a love of ethical shopping. I’ve always felt uncomfortable buying clothes for my own children that have probably been made by other children. Buying a top from Primark with sequins on it? Sneaking suspicion that they may been sewn on by a overworked, unpaid 9 year old? Us too. We’re both big fans of charity shops and recycled clothing in general. I have bought some of my favourite items of clothing from such exclusive boutiqes as Cancer Research, The Salvation Army and La Oxfam. My children wear a LOT of stuff from charity shops. Or, as a friends’ son charmingly calls them; ‘carroty shops.’
So ethical production and recycling would both be crucial to our idea. By now, we had decided that the obvious thing to do – as two people who have no art or design qualifications, no sewing skills further than sewing on buttons, and zero experience of running our own business – was to set up our very own childrenswear company. Obviously!
And that is what I love about Sarah. I’ve had this conversation with a few other people, and often with myself. But instead of saying ‘yeah, someone should really do something about that.” Sarah just said ‘why don’t we?’
And so we did…