Posted on January 19 2017
'as a parent before a business woman, I just couldn’t sleep knowing our factory isn’t ecological or that our production was paying less than a living wage to people'
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Tell us your start up story? How and when did you begin?
It feels like a lifetime ago now. Back in 2008 when our first son, Noah was born my mum gave us some M&S pink tights. She insisted all babies need tights to make sure they were always warm and her advice proved invaluable. Although it is only 8 years ago, the market for children’s clothes was very different to what we have today. There were very few unisex or gender neutral brands, colours were so stereotypical and gendered and nothing fit with my idea of children’s clothes. In December of 2008 I set about designing what we called back then “boys” tights and from there to 2011 when we launched it was a rollercoaster of trials and errors until I got to a place where my idea for something more flexible than trousers and as comfy as tights came together.
What does your brand stand for / what is important to you?
For me as a mother it has always got to be the wider cost of a lovely product. I could very easily double my profit margin in the morning by ditching our eco ethos and moving away from organic fibers. But as a parent before a business woman, I just couldn’t sleep knowing our factory isn’t ecological or that our production was paying less than a living wage to people.
When I started, the organic clothing market for children was a drop in the ocean to what it is now I remember trying to sample colours and we had blush and tan colour palettes. But it was something I wanted to be involved in. 30% of the world’s water pollution comes from clothing manufacturing. Non organic or non-regulation dyes and chemicals in clothing are horrifically damaging to the people producing, the planet and the end user. We have been Oeko Tex 100 certified since day one and all of our children’s tights, moving to organic in 2012 when we had better yarns to work with, and all of our clothes are GOTS cotton. For us to be reasonably priced, ethical, high quality and produced in Europe, I feel that we are ticking all of the boxes that make us stand out a little bit taller than our competitors. We really are more than just tights, we are luxury for little legs.
How did you come up with your name?
It’s hard to explain but it was a split second decision that was never discussed or reworked it was quite simply “I am going design boys tights and I am calling my company Slugs & Snails”.
What do you love most about running your own business?
I never feel like I go to work. Don’t get me wrong it’s very stressful and our entire family is 100% emotionally invested in our company, our youngest son was born into it and has been in the office every day since he was a week old. But my husband and I work together every day, the office is a home from home and I always feel a bit warm and fuzzy when I think this little idea grew from our kitchen table and in 8 years we now own a real life HQ.
What keeps you motivated?
Competition. In this industry it’s very hard to actually “own” an idea or a design. So very quickly you see bits and bobs that you design or sell be filtered off in different directions by other brands, the High Street etc. I used to take this way too seriously but now I just use it as inspiration to soldier on, keep growing. We have been lucky to have consistent growth year in and out so it’s a great way to focus yourself and keep you pushing for more. Recently we mapped out all of our current stockists with real maps and pins at the office. It was a great way to see exactly where in the world we are and to also give us goals as to where we plan to be by the end of 2017.
What inspires you?
My kids. Fashion from my childhood. Colour. Kids love colour they are drawn to it and they thrive off bright bold design. I think as adults we like a clean sleek colour palette but if you ever give children a dressing up box they mix and match as much as they can, they don’t see our boundaries and so when we design we have to think less about what we like and more about what the kids like. All our designs have to get the ok of a certain group of people, two of whom are 3 and 8. Our toddler sits on the arm of the sofa in the office next to his daddy’s desk and watches every design being put together, he’s been very vocal this year and honestly has a great input.
Tell us about this seasons designs?
We don’t really theme our collections. As we don’t discontinue designs we try and add to themes we have running in our previous collections. When we started out I always liked the idea of having categories so like animals, vehicles, nature, holidays. So when we sit down to design a new season we firstly try and cover colour bases, this season we needed more red. Then we take into account customer requests one of our designs is something we always get asked for so we finally decided to do it. My favorite design this season is something I have planned for a long time but the climate of 2016 made it especially relevant.
How do you keep the balance in your life?
I don’t. It’s impossible I am not going to lie. Having a balance when you are self-employed and a parent is a myth, I am now 100% sure of it. Being self-employed you are always on call, you can’t ever switch off so the closest to balance you can get is turning your phone off and allocating work free time but mentally it’s very hard to turn off. The business is effectively another member of our family, like an annoying drunk uncle that everyone loves and loathes in equal measure!
What do you do with your kids when you’re not working?
We love the beach so it’s often the first place we head off to, especially if we are having a bunking off school and work day. We try and make the most of where we are located so we cycle a lot as a family. Lough Key Forest Park is in the town we are based in so it has become an extension of our garden over the years.
What are the key items you have in your handbag that you cannot live without?
I hate to admit this but I never carry a handbag, I am such a workaholic that my bag is a laptop bag which briefly gets switched over for a changing bag. I couldn’t live without baby wipes though, we have them wherever we go they are the only way we can survive a day with two kids. I always have a Burt’s Bee’s lip balm on me somewhere and a phone charger. Glamorous is not my middle name.
Any busy mum survival tips?
Sometimes you just have to walk away. I find at the busiest times when stress levels are high and the workload is forcing us into 18 hour days the best way to get through is to just stop, walk away, do something like a walk on a beach or in the forest as a family, have lunch and then go back with a fresh approach. I am lucky that we are very much a family team so we manage to juggle between us so that the kids don’t have to be in childcare and don’t feel too pushed out by work. Pimms. If all else fails, have a glass of Pimms and start again tomorrow.