I've always loved children's clothes even before I had children myself. They look so intricate and beautiful.
I began designing with the aim to change people’s minds about childrenswear. It seemed to me children either had to wear mass-produced clothes, or expensive glitzy things which are often impractical or anachronistic or both—none of which is what childhood is really about.
I trained as a lawyer, so nothing really prepared me for starting caramel baby&child. I spent two years tracking down handcrafted knitwear from Peru or artisan clothes from small designers in London or the Cotswolds.
It was enormous fun, running the company from my front room and then my kitchen, and I eventually opened a little shop near the Michelin Building, hidden away at Brompton Cross. That was back in 1999.
But it was soon clear that my sources couldn't provide the range of sizes people need for children's clothes. So I took the big step of starting to design the clothes myself.
I wanted to find a modern, distinctive style, which could be individual—yet at the same time luxurious and understated, pieces as beautiful and useful as I could make them.
Just because children's clothes had a relaxed quality, there was no reason why they shouldn't also feel modern. Just because they had some of the formality of continental Europe, why shouldn't they also have a little laid back Englishness?
That is the essence of caramel, it seems to me. Why shouldn’t children’s clothes be beautiful and tough-wearing at the same time? Why shouldn’t they be luxurious, but also with a refined simplicity?
That’s why we often reference the charm of vintage pieces, bringing them right up to date in the development stages of our collections. We aim to push the boundaries of the colour palette you are supposed to use for children, creating a playful rhythm of layering colours and textures. Caramel has become well known for its tradition of creating confident bold prints. Our clothes are functional, and we try to go beyond trends. Our focus is still and always has been attention to detail – the distinctive collar or garment silhouette, cut from exquisite cloths and nostalgic knits in contemporary hues.
The company is as old as the century, and coming into its teenage years. We’re growing up. I’ve stopped wondering whether anyone would share my taste, because people have proved that they do. But it is still a very personal company—it's me and people I know. It feels human to me, and I believe our customers feel so too.
People often hear about our clothes by word of mouth. They recognise them because they are distinctive and unconventional, occasionally quirky in their detail. I believe it is possible to run a successful business driven by intuition, creativity and passion.
We make clothes for adventure, but we are also on an adventure ourselves – and it still thrills me every day.