Ethical, stylish, alternative, interesting and educational? Kirstin Innes meets the designers behind the saintliest children’s clothing companies in the country
I remember reading an article written by a mother so horrified at the state of modern children’s fashions that she had begun dressing her children in velveteen and knickerbockers. Her complaint is not uncommon. Finding clothes that are practical, original, relatively cheap and properly childish seems to be increasingly difficult, and the problem increases tenfold if you’re an ethical shopper. Fortunately, two new children’s clothing companies have come up with solutions to the problem.
‘We saw a gap in the market,’ says Chloe Highmore, one half of Glasgow-based design company Petit Pea. ‘There’s either all that pink and blue traditional stuff or slogan T-shirts which can be funny for adults to read but don’t offer the kids themselves anything.’
Highmore and her business partner Laura Jacobs came up with the idea behind their company after Jacobs realised she couldn’t find the sort of clothes she wanted to dress her own baby, Max, in. ‘We want to make timeless clothes: classic, but not stiflingly traditional. Children should be allowed to be children – not dressed up as miniature adults.’
Armed with a starter loan from Business Gateway, they came up with a set of simple T-shirt prints and woollen designs, commissioned ethical clothing companies and small Scottish knitwear businesses to produce the clothes, and set about sourcing organic lambswool and cotton from fairly traded farms. The simplicity and charm of the line struck a chord with parents and stockists alike, and they now supply to children’s shops all over the UK, as well as internationally.
Petit Pea’s T-shirt designs also hark back to the Victorian age, but it’s the whimsy of Lewis Carroll rather than the ruffles of Little Lord Fauntleroy that interest them.
‘The picture on each T-shirt has a little story behind it, which is printed on the cotton bags they come in. It’s important to us that the images we use really appeal to children, and we want to help them with language as well.
‘We’ve created stories about lions, trees, bikes – things that are easy to recognise. Our designs are fun, whimsical, a little bit surreal, and definitely not too serious.’
Ex-pat Liverpudlian Allison Jones, who runs Lark Made from her home in the Australian bush, approaches the ethical angle slightly differently. Her range of smocks, skirts and tops are all made from recycled vintage fabrics in fairly contemporary shapes. There’s a dotty retro quality to Lark’s products, which include hand-knitted toys and homewear created with illustrations from 1950s picture books.
‘I grew up with home-made clothes and toys, and the Lark range has a lot of my childhood in it – that sort of knitted Humpty doll aesthetic. One of my proudest childhood moments was having a design featured on (kids magazine programme) Why Don’t You?’
Petit Pea: www.petit-pea.co.uk. Lark Made: www.larkmade.com. In Edinburgh, Petit Pea is available from Gertrude and Lily on Broughton Street, and Lark can be found at Blossoms and Blessings on St John’s Road, Corstorphine. Both ranges are also stocked by Fifi & Ally, Princes Square.