Blink Interviews: Boys&Girls

As some of the most stylish folks I see these days are the offspring of some of my very stylish friends, I think its fair to say that fashion knows no age limits. We were really excited when we heard about a new British kidswear brand that combined brilliant aesthetics and a brilliantly ethical approach so it didn’t feel too much of a stretch to feature them on the blog.

Each garment is made using the highest quality organic (GOTS certified) and fairly traded (FLO certified) cotton for garments that are soft yet strong and easy care. A small section of the range is fully Fairtrade certified and carries the Fairtrade Mark, the aim being to eventually have an entirely Fairtrade certified range. The Boys&Girls ethos is ‘created with care’.
The Boys&Girls brand has steadily been building momentum since its launch and now has 50 stockists in the UK and Europe, a great blog as well as a Facebook page and a growing Twitter following. The full range is available from the Boys&Girls website.

We decided that we wanted to know more about this brand and its founders so we asked them for a quick interview…

So, what is the main inspiration behind launching ‘Boys and Girls’?
The inspiration behind Boys&Girls is to prove that ethical retailing can be mainstream, look really cool and need not be ‘green’ or ‘hippy’ just because it’s created with care.
We also feel there is a gap in the kidswear market for a more down-to-earth  British brand that is design-led and reflects today’s vibrant urban lifestyle– more parks and playgrounds than paddocks and ponies. We purposely use just normal kids (not models) to allow their individual personalities to shine through. Boys&Girls styles are comfy, practical and great everyday play clothes yet bright and attractive enough to wear to parties.

Why incorporate sustainability/ fair trade/ organic?
We really just feel it’s the right thing to do. The 3 of us have all worked with organic and Fairtrade manufacturing and it would have been hard to go back to working with conventional cotton again once you are aware of all the positive consequences using organic and Fairtrade manufacturing practices can bring.

Do you think sustainability, fairly traded or organically produced clothing should be a specific focus for kidswear?
We think it should be a specific focus for all clothing manufacturing.

Where do you look for inspiration for the collection?
We are lucky to be surrounded by endless sources of inspiration here in London’s East End– great markets, vintage stores and lots of interestingly dressed people. We always try and make sure our styles can fit the description of play clothes and so we do like retro sports clothes. We are also all about colour– we get very excited about colour palettes and the designs just seem to follow.

Have you considered recycling or upcycling with your products and packaging?
We do try and incorporate sustainable practices into anything we do where possible. So, for example, our paper mail bags are made in the UK from sustainably managed sources and are recyclable. We haven’t done any upcycling yet, but it is a great idea and definitely something for the future.

What is your dream for ‘Boys and Girls’ in 5 years time?
To be the No. 1 British brand for design-led and ethical kids clothes!

Who is the team behind ‘Boys and Girls’?
There are 3 of us in the Boys&Girls team all with a background in clothing retail, but luckily from different head-office roles; Buying, Merchandising and Design. Between us we have worked at some of the main high street retailers including, Topshop and BHS, but all met while working at the organic baby retailer, Green Baby.
However, there is also another Boys&Girls team as in all the various suppliers, free-lancers and friends that have helped us turn our original idea into the fledgling brand it is today and continue to offer their invaluable enthusiasm, support and advice.

What has been your favourite product so far?
I can’t decide between the yellow striped towelling sundress which makes every little girl look like a ray of sunshine, or the Out To Play sweat top which completely took us by surprise with its popularity and has now become instantly recognisable as Boys&Girls.

What additional challenges have you experienced with your decision to make the collection sustainable, fairly traded and organic?
It is a challenge for any start up clothing company to get off the ground due to small quantities being uneconomical and therefore unattractive to most manufacturers. This has been exacerbated recently by steeply rising fuel and cotton prices.
When you also throw into the mix organic and FLO cotton which has an extra cost and less availability it really does become even more challenging. Maintaining the ‘Fairtrade’ element of the range has proved to be the biggest struggle. In order for the cotton in a garment to be fully Fairtrade certified, it has to pass FLO certification at every stage of the supply chain – from the price paid for the cotton, to the ginners, the knitters, the dye house, etc all the way to the manufacturers. This is not as easy as it sounds for a small start-up company as most of these processors need to work with certain minimums of cloth in order for them to stay productive. For example, a FLO certified dye house does not stay open 24 hours a day meaning their employers all have to work overtime as most conventional dye houses do, so they need to reach optimum productivity during the hours they are open in order to remain profitable. Unfortunately we were unable to meet the minimums required by the FLO dye house on all but a small portion of our range and so although we have paid a fair price for the cotton, it cannot be fully Fairtrade certified as it didn’t manage to get FLO certification for this part of the supply chain.
The daily challenge for us therefore, is to continue to support the cotton farmers by buying the FLO cotton while trying to increase our sales and order quantities so that we can eventually have a completely Fairtrade certified range.

Well, we think that all the effort is worth it! Thanks to the Boys&Girls team for sparing us some time to give us the interview and we wish you the very best success with this brilliant brand.