I would say I was pretty naive when it came to kids clothes and that it’s not really been on my list of priorities. From birth, Ed wore friends’ hand-me-downs or second-hand and more recently, I buy his clothes in places like Sainsbury’s (convenient) Primark and Matalan. My thinking is that 1) they’re cheap 2) they’ll get covered in paint/felt tips etc so why buy quality? 3) he’s being difficult at the moment with not wanting to wear certain clothes and 4) he’ll grow out of them soon anyway!
I’ll admit that I bury my head when it comes to thinking about where these cheaper clothes are produced and who is making them. High street stores often ‘source’ from the same factories in places like Bangladesh or Indonesia and they follow certain ethical ‘guidelines’ but surely someone, somewhere is being exploited?
I do sometimes think I should be more ‘ethical’ by buying more from independent brands and decided to do some research both from an ethical point of view and quality. I wanted to know more about independent kids clothes brands, especially locally and about the beliefs around why we shouldn’t just be buying cheap clothes from supermarkets and the high street.
I recently went to a local kids clothes ‘Pop-Up’ where there were independent clothes brands. I got to know the organiser – Rachel Bisiker of kids Arcade and interviewed her about her concept and also about her views around kids clothes. She is very passionate about her, ‘stylish pop-up concept that serves up a cool edit of alternative kids fashion and lifestyle product for the modern parent.’
Kids Arcade was established in 2015 to connect parents with emerging, smaller retailers and Rachel is keen to support independents, she said, ‘Particularly women who are trying to work flexibly. There is definitely a shift towards more sustainable labels in fashion too, particularly for babies & kids – let’s showcase those labels and offer the customer more choice.’
As a confessed ‘cheap high street’ shopper I asked her why parents should choose clothes from independents and more ethical retailers? What are the benefits for the consumer? She said, ‘They last longer and they can be passed on – as opposed to thrown out – quality over quantity. Sustainability usually means quality.’
To parents who shop for kids clothes at places like Primark and supermarkets she asked, ‘How often do you buy and how often do you throw away? Do your kids really grow that fast? Why not at least stick to those who are trying to be more sustainable. Do you know a lot of brands these days design clothes with room to grow in mind – such as Well Grounded kids, Monty & Co and Wildchild London.
And what about fashion? I asked her. What would you say to parents who don’t consider this a priority? She said, ‘Fashion doesn’t need to be a priority but most kids have opinions and most kids know what they like and how they want to look. It’s good to give them choice and it’s good for parents to see what’s out there. Even if you don’t care about fashion you probably care about what’s on your babies’ skin – soft organic cotton is always going to be better than nylon.’
Independent clothes maker, Jo Brown of Daphne & Margot also has strong views about buying locally. She started her small business, named after her children, after she discovered the joy of making her own clothes for them. She said, ‘Fun fabrics, practicality and quality are all very important to me. I also buy the highest quality fabrics I can, generally 95% cotton as it’s so soft to wear and washes well.’
She believes parents should buy from independents because, ‘The service is totally personal and you can order something unique. I do wonder when some high street clothing is so cheap how this is possible with fair wages for all involved in production.’
She said, ‘I encourage you to try handmade clothing as I think the difference in quality is worth it. To me, children enjoying what they’re wearing feels more important that fashion. Everyone has differing priorities but I have always enjoyed clothes and my children do too – it’s something we get excited about. I still think fondly of the favourite clothes I had growing up and I hope it’s the same for Daphne and Margot too.’
After talking to both Rachel and Jo, it’s left me aiming to buy more locally and ethically and also wanting to do more research into where high street stores source their clothes from. Perhaps another blog post! As always, I would love to know your views on the subject.
The next Kids Arcade Pop-Up is on Friday 28th September at Warwick Hall, Burford.