When rapper P Diddy posted a picture on Instagram of his twin daughters, Jessie and D’Lila Combs, dressed in matching white faux fur coats with oversized cowl hoods, Yorkshire childrenswear brand House of Juniors went viral.
Instantly, the label gained thousands of followers for its own Instagram account, and the sales followed on. Suddenly, everyone wanted a piece of House of Juniors for their child.
Thrilled by their success and determined to continue thinking big, founders Natasha Formoy and Chantelle Etienne approached more famous Hollywood parents, including music icons Chris Brown and Snoop Dogg and entrepreneur Kimora Lee Simmons.
This turned out to be a canny move as they too obliged by posting photos and videos of their children wearing House of Juniors.
Kylie Jenner posted a picture showing a House of Juniors pink faux fur coat in the wardrobe of her daughter Stormi. It was all getting a bit crazy. “They love the fur coats and the style and the artwork,” said Natasha. “There is no one doing what we are doing. The furs are a big selling point and we also make them reversible.
“It all happened within three months of the collection going live. It was surreal to see the clothes designed by two mums from Yorkshire being worn by the children of Hollywood celebrities.”
Natasha, who lives in Dewsbury, and Chantelle, who lives in Bradford, launched House of Juniors with a 12-piece collection in 2018. Both 32, they met at Spen Valley High School in Liversedge.
“We were instant friends,” said Natasha. “We just loved each other straight away. We have always had the same interests, like shopping and fashion.”
Natasha studied business, accounts and marketing at college and worked at hotels run by her mother. She had her twin girls, Chanay and Chamya, now 15, when she was 17. She went back to study and began to open pop-up womenswear shops.
“I built a customer base around West Yorkshire, but I didn’t understand the e-commerce side at that time, so I educated myself around websites,” she said.
“The twins got to an age, about eight or nine, when I found it hard to buy them the cute Gap Clothing or Zara – age-appropriate clothing,” she added. “I felt there was a lot of mimicking of adult wear and I didn’t want to dress the twins like that. I wanted them to be comfortable and children still, in playful clothing.”
Chantelle, who has an 11-year-old daughter, Amiyah, was just as keen to fill this gap. “We wanted to provide a nice high-end brand, but not too high in terms of price,” Natasha said.
“I did a lot of research for two to three years to find out how you produce clothing. It didn’t seem to be the UK where I would be able to produce the fashion, so I had to travel to Germany. I went to Paris to a lot of events and networked with different factories from around the world, and had a lot of trips to London.”
When they felt ready, they launched House of Juniors from Natasha’s home, alongside their full-time jobs as social care workers, delivering services for children and young people in care and supported living, working with Bradford and Kirklees councils.
“We transfer our skills from fashion into that,” Natasha said. “We get the kids inspired with digital art. It’s a very therapeutic element, it’s something new.”
Natasha, whose partner is the actor Kaya Moore who has starred in Kay Mellor’s Love, Lies and Records, Waterloo Road and in Vera, said: “My kids would do artwork at school – they might do a project on Pablo Picasso or Banksy – and they would bring their artwork home and we would base the collection around their school work.”
She and Chantelle run art workshops, too, inviting children from anywhere in the UK to come for a day of artwork, drawing and digital art, and this also inspires some designs.
The brand is aimed at five to 16-year-olds and the pair feel it is important to keep prices affordable. Fabrics are from Turkey and they use a manufacturer in China and one in Peru that uses organic fabric. Unable to travel owing to the pandemic, they make sure they work with trusted companies, checking factory reports and watching videos of production to ensure ethical practice.
They teamed up with designer Kamila Ogrodnik, from Bradford, to develop the look, and converted the downstairs of Natasha’s house into a workspace. “At one point, every room in the house was overflowing with clothes,” she said. They now have a unit in Cleckheaton.
In 2018 House of Juniors was chosen to showcase at Mini Mode at London Fashion Week, which led to a campaign with Harper’s Bazaar.
Chantelle said: “We were selected to walk in the show alongside brands such as Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld. Instead of using professional London-based models, we brought kids down from Yorkshire.”
There is a collaboration with Puma coming up and, they hope, more in the future. They would love to get into Harvey Nichols. Chantelle said: “We have seen our pink coat in Stormi’s wardrobe on Kylie’s Instagram and we are hoping it will make an appearance in Keeping up With the Kardashians.”
House of Juniors is at www.houseofjrs.co.uk.