Yorkshire designer store Your Children’s Wardrobe is proof that parents like their children to dress to impress. Stephanie Smith talks to Amanda Evans.
Blame Katie Holmes, if you like, or the Beckhams or Kim Kardashian – celebs who have been criticised for furnishing their children with expensively fashionable wardrobes.
But, like it or not, we live in an increasingly trend-conscious world and, while some may well not approve, this influences how many of us non-celebrities also dress our children and grandchildren.
Yorkshire brand Your Children’s Wardrobe is testament to this, with customers either travelling from far and wide to buy its select and distinctive labels or ordering online. Paying £176 for a coat for a six-year-old might seem steep but, as owner Amanda Evans points out, childrenswear brand Oilily is a Dutch company, which takes much trouble to create unusual, practical clothing to cater for its non-school uniform wearing clientele. “They are very expensive but they have a massive following internationally,” she says. “We have shipped Oilily to Hawaii. From Huddersfield to Hawaii – who could have imaged that?”
The store in Denby Dale was already well known in the area, having been custom-built as a baby shop more than 20 years ago. Amanda bought it five years ago. After living in London, she had returned to Yorkshire when her son, Seth, was born in 2005 (she has been with partner Ian, an auditor, for 12 years) and she began buying baby clothes at the shop, then called Pied Piper, in particular the French brand Maison Jean Bourget, which she used to wear herself as a child.
At the time she was in senior management at BT, and had been urging the shop’s previous owner to sell clothes online. But when the owner decided to sell the shop, she offered it to Amanda. “She said the shop’s yours, if you want to pursue your dream,” Amanda says.
So, with the help of her parents (Amanda’s dad, Terry, is a Barnsley businessman, establishing and running manufacturing company Castle Portable Buildings), she bought the business – and changed its name.
“If you input the name ‘Pied Piper’ into Google, you get connotations linking to men leading children away, and that’s why we changed the name,” Amanda explains. As a name, Your Children’s Wardrobe is ideal for online search engines. “It does what it says on the tin, it doesn’t offend any religion or faith and it works internationally,” she says.
Seth has proved to be a major influence on what Amanda stocks. She has kept Maison Jean Bourget (the label is now in its 60th year) and introduced beautiful British girlswear brand I Love Gorgeous, plus Tommy Hilfiger, IKKS, Levis and Scotch Shrunk, a boys brand from Maison Scotch with adult men’s clothes shrunk down for boys.”It’s the mini me concept,” she says.
Great boyswear, she points out, is hard to find in the UK. “Wherever you go in the country, there is never the selection. It’s always the smaller part of the shop. But boys are important and particularly to me with having Seth.”
She adds: “As Seth has got older, he’s got his own style as well. Maybe more trendy than the traditional French style. He’s never really bothered until recently – he reaches nine in November – and this season for the first time he walked into the shop as we were unpacking the boxes and the Tommy Hilfiger with the stars and the stripes caught his eye and he actually said, ‘Mummy, that’s got my name written all over it’.
“The one thing with boys I have learned that is so important, and for the mums spending the money on the clothes, is comfort. They have to be bendy at the knees. Rigid denim just doesn’t work. If the fabrics aren’t right, they won’t wear it and then it’s a waste of money.”
Your Children’s Wardrobe stocks from babywear up to age 14, although some brands do come up smaller in size and typically a British 12-year-old might wear an age 14 in a European label.
“Children are all shapes and sizes these days and not every brand suits every child,” Amanda says.
“Customers are very loyal because they love the brands. It’s my job to make sure they all leave happy, and they will travel a long way for that service.”
Children increasingly want to look cool. Amanda says: “They want to turn up at a party in something funky that no one else is wearing. For the mums, it’s important for them to be individual when they’re spending that kind of money. Quite often I’ll get a phone call from someone saying ‘we’re here at a party, so-and-so’s wearing a dress, we’d like one please’.”
The success of Your Children’s Wardrobe suggests there is indeed a strong and growing market for designer childrenswear.
Amanda says: “I left the corporate world, which I don’t regret, and it’s hard. Retail is hard. We probably bought it at the worst time ever, as far as the economy was concerned, but I believed in the opportunity and the power of the net and we moved forward from there.
“Mums want their children to dress nicely and look age-appropriate. There are definitely still people out there who want their children to look smart.”
• All clothes available at Your Children’s Wardrobe, Wakefield Road, Denby Dale, near Huddersfield and online at www.yourchildrenswardrobe.com.