One of the shops I loved visiting the most when I lived in London was Liberty. I adored the beautiful old store itself and all the goods inside, especially the fabrics. That's probably why I like the children's clothing line And Me Too so much. It uses these timeless pieces in its designs. And epitomises French style. The owner of the business Nic MacIsaac, who also runs another clothing line Nic MacIsaac as well as a retail fair Magnolia Square, reveals how it all started.
How and why did you start And Me Too? And Me Too was founded by two Melbourne sisters (and new mums at the time) in 2000. I remember reading a little profile about the brand in Vogue Kids at the time, my daughter Isabella was 18 months old. It appealed to me immediately and I loved that the inspiration for their little label came from the way their mother had dressed them as children. Liberty fabrics were a strong feature from the beginning. Elissa and Kirsty were pioneers of the "mumtrepeneur movement"! In 2005 I began Magnolia Square, a boutique retail fair which now runs five times a year in Melbourne. It was through Magnolia Square that I became very involved with And Me Too and in 2007 I took on the label.
How has the experience been different to what you expected? Taking on And Me Too in conjunction with my two existing businesses (Magnolia Square and clothing label Nic MacIsaac) has been a large task. I have three young children so life was already full to overflowing! Having competing business priorities has, I suppose, sharpened my focus and forced changes. I am lucky to have a very supportive husband whose opinion I value highly and who is very good at picking up the pieces when they occasionally fall to the ground!
What has been a highlight? The response from our customers has been wonderful. It has reaffirmed my gut feeling about the brand; that there is definitely a customer who believes that children look best when they are dressed as children not as mini fashionistas. This allows me to keep a clear focus on our direction.
Where do you look to for inspiration? Inspiration comes in unexpected ways. My very large collection of liberty fabrics is piled around me as I work! An idea often starts with a charming print and then evolves. My sister in law was an And Me Too junkie and brand devotee for many many years before I bought it. We joke that she has the vintage range - I am slowly acquiring it for my archives!! Nothing like the original pieces for a burst of inspiration!
On a more serious note, I don't like to pay too much attention to other children's wear ranges. We tend to avoid trends in favour of classic styles and fabrics. My own children inspire me and remind me that children look their best when they look like children not mini adults.
What's the best lesson you've learnt? To create and sustain a successful business the numbers must stack up; there is no avoiding this harsh reality! My businesses have grown very steadily in a relatively short period but at the same time the growth has been organic, I have reacted to my customers and I have never "pushed" anything too hard. Importantly, I have also learned to back myself.
What are you passionate about? Creating and marketing a brand with a strong identity and successfully growing a business while remaining true to the reasons for beginning it in the first place.
If you could meet one person, living or dead, who would it be? Florence Broadhurst for her revolutionary advancements in textile design and her contribution towards the advancement of women in business, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis has always been a style icon for me.
What's next? And Me Too currently has about 10 retail stockists and we would like to get to 30 in the next 12 months or so. To this end we are doing our first "trade show" in Sydney in February... so hopefully it is onwards and upwards for us! Oh, and a bit of work life balance would be nice!
What are you reading? I tend to mix it up and love having several reads on the go at one time. A bit of Charlie & Lola and The Very Hungry Caterpillar has to rate a mention. In all seriousness, it tends to be light reading; magazines mostly. I love Dumbo Feather and UK mag Selvedge for inspiration. And I must confess to spending longer than I should scouring the blog world!
Images courtesy of And Me Too