For the next couple of weeks I’m in the proud company of Louise, founder of Kith + Kin Design, for our #DressDownFriday competition collaboration. Regular readers will know that I’m passionate about working with driven, creative entrepreneurs to tackle gender stereotypes that are all too prevelant in kids’ fashion today. It’s been such a pleasure to get to know Louise and her business, and I’m thrilled to be able to share a little more information with you about what her company stands for and why she’s passionate about gender equality. Have a read on…
When did you set up your business?
I set the business up about a year ago, when my sister was pregnant. I work freelance as a fashion print designer and wanted to pursue my own practice. My sister and her partner didn’t want to learn the sex of their child before the birth. Wanting to get on with planning and dreaming for this new person in their lives, she found it difficult to buy unisex clothes that appealed to her. This started the creative wheels turning in my head, and so I set out to fill a gap for parents who face the same challenges.
What makes Kith Kin Design unique?
I go my own way and don’t subscribe to trend. I offer a palette that is more daring than the monochromes and subtler than the hyper primaries seen in other gender neutral clothing brands. With the mini artists collection I’ve focused on creating timeless artworks rather than chasing sales by offering more of the same. I’ve thought about the life of the garment post sale and the waste created with superfluous packaging, and I actively encourage further wear by producing how to guides on the website and on the reverse of the bespoke milestone cards included with purchases (instead of fancy packaging). It might not be 100% unique but it certainly feels rare to be making things you’ll genuinely want to hold on to and pass on.
Why is there an emphasis on gender neutral through your work?
It’s a response to the emphasis that big retailers have put on gender in babies clothes. Not every parent wants to be dictated to about what their baby girl or boy should be wearing, especially when the offer is more of the same old stereotypes. Sticking to gender norms limits our experiences and our interactions. Babies don’t care what they’re dressed in, but adults do, and behave differently according to the gender they think they are engaging with. And associating specific colours with specific genders is a trend in itself. In Victorian England babies were typically all dressed in white whatever their gender. Pink and blue was introduced in the 1940s to encode the ideas about gender of that time. Now in 2017 we know that there is no sacred list of what girls and boys are meant to be like, and growing up to be a seven year old adventurer and tree climber is not incompatible with playing with dolls. So why not dress in whatever colours we want to right from the start? And, of course, it makes it a whole lot easier to pass clothes on!
Why is organic and ethical important to you?
Fashion is the fifth most polluting industry in the world, tied with livestock, and is notorious for it’s treatment of workers. As the person in control of production I feel it’s my duty to make sure the decisions I make change fashion’s negative impact on the planet, and respect the people making the clothes. I follow a slow fashion method of producing limited quantities which transcend seasons, thereby reducing waste. My care towards the garments goes beyond selling: making clothes that will last, and can be passed on to family and friends or donated to organisations who help new parents at a time of need, is an overarching goal of Kith Kin Design.
Why do you support the #dressdownfriday campaign?
Retailers need to know that there are a growing number of parents, friends and family who see the outdated and damaging messaging of their clothes and want change, want more flexibility and more diverse clothing for their kids. Dress Down Friday makes people feel supported by other members calling out retailers for blatant stereotyping in their kids wear offerings. It’s a place for community and reassurance – when the high street makes your thoughts about gender stereotyping seem exceptional, it’s good to be reminded there is in fact a whole load of people thinking the same thing!