As it’s Wool Week, I have a special edition of my Wonderful Women series featuring the two entrepreneurs, Cat and E-J — or Emma — who are two friends who live in the UK but hail from New Zealand.
Frustrated with not being able to find decent woolly products for their children in this country, they decided to launch their own company in July 2014 called Smalls, which makes merino wool clothing for children aged between two and 11.
How did Smalls come about?
E: Cat and I are both parents. We have three children each and we found that while they had beautiful merino products to wear when they were babies, there was nothing really around that suited them as they got older.
Living in the UK, where it’s cold and wet most of the time, they go off to school in acrylic school uniforms and shorts in the winter! So Smalls came about due to a need.
C: We researched all over the world. We could find nothing we wanted so we thought ‘Why don’t we make it ourselves?’ It was a long process finding the right merino and the right manufactures from scratch. It’s been an amazing journey.
How would you describe the products?
E: We have created garments that are useful and beautiful and can be worn as base layers. They are multi- purpose garments that work in a child’s wardrobe all year round. And as they get older they get softer.
What are people’s misconceptions about wool?
E: Education is one of the challenges. When you say that you make woolly undergarments, people think they’ll be itchy and shrink. So we’ve worked hard on our marketing communication; we use words like ‘skin loving’ rather than ‘non-itchy’. It’s about communicating the positive benefits.
C: They’re also free moving. Because of the way that merino is made, it’s incredibly stretchy. Kids love wearing it as it feels great. Once you’ve tried it you never go back. We have converted non-vest wearers. Merino collects moisture. So when kids run around and get hot and sweaty, it holds 35% of its own weight in moisture before it feels wet. It is also brilliant to sleep in.
What are your views on the fashion industry?
C: For us it’s about the longevity of the garment and not being too reactionary to fashion and seasons. It’s slow fashion. It’s a garment that you keep for a long time, and it works with more seasonal garments.
Does this mean that you’re against cheap ‘fast fashion’ retailers like Primark?
E: I’m a little bit anti-Primark but not all the others because I think Primark takes it one step too far. When you pay so little for something you’ve got to question who is paying. What really frustrates me about those types of shops is that the general population doesn’t consider for a moment who made that garment and where it came from.
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