Little Circle: Can Kids Fashion Be Sustainable?

Little Circle Anna Bromilow Lisa Picardo

Two stylish mothers are on a mission to move children’s fashion from throwaway towards investment. We talk to Little Circle co-founder Anna Bromilow about how they plan to break the fast fashion cycle.

Sustainable and ethical fashion is finally getting some high-profile attention. From Hollywood’s Green Carpet initiative to H&M’s Conscious collection, the tide is slowly beginning to turn against the ‘fast fashion’ culture and savvy shoppers are becoming increasingly aware of the social and environmental impact it leaves behind.

When buying for ourselves, the solution is pretty simple: reduce, reuse and recycle. Let’s stop buying 6 ‘trend’ pieces every weekend, embrace the capsule wardrobe concept and invest in that Stella McCartney blazer that will last season after season. Clear out all those things you bought in the Net-a-Porter sale just because they were 70% off, list them on Vestaire Collective and let someone else find joy in your ‘pre-loved’ – or never worn – pieces.

But what about buying for our children? The ‘investment piece’ strategy is great for those of us who don’t grow several inches each year and burn through shoe sizes in what feels like minutes. And that’s before they’ve climbed a tree, fallen off a bike and left it in a pile in the corner. Sustainability and small children often feel like concepts from different planets.

And yet, this doesn’t seem to stop us shopping. On the contrary, the childrenswear market is booming. According to data from Euromonitor, the market will be worth almost £6bn by 2017 in the UK alone. Fuelled by a high birth rate and the fact parents are having children later (read: more disposable income), growth is particularly marked in the luxury sector. Couple that with the rise of the Harper Beckham/Prince George effect and it seems that more and more parents are taking as much, or more, pride in their kid’s wardrobes as their own.

So while attitudes to kids fashion are changing, and we are spending more than ever, the simple fact remains: kids grow. And they grow quickly. Paying a premium for a small collection of higher quality items isn’t that appealing when you’re digging them out of the closet 6 months later for the charity pile. If you have lots of children (or a fleet of nephews or nieces) buying high end and handing it down is a brilliant, sustainable option. But with the average UK family size on a downward trend, it’s less realistic for many, and while donating your best Bonpoint to charity is the worthy way forward for those who can afford it, it’s an eye-watering prospect for most.

Easy to see, then, why most parents swallow their ethical objections and give in to the easy option of the high street and it’s cheaper, fast-moving collections.

Is there a better way? The two mothers behind new online childrenswear store Little Circle believe there is. Former Tatler fashion director and stylist Anna Bromilow and ex-investment banker Lisa Picardo launched the platform last week, on a mission to move kids fashion from throwaway towards investment, and provide a long-term fashion solution for style conscious parents to dress their growing children.

The Little Circle concept is simple. Each season their online store sells a curated collection of chic, quality, luxury childrenswear. This season brands include Belgian label Morley (the brainchild of former Dries Van Noten designer Anouk Robyn) and French girlswear store Louise Misha, as well as homegrown London brands Papouelli, Hucklebones and Woodstock.

So far so upscale kids boutique. But here’s the twist – you buy it, your kids wear it and when it’s too small, you return it to be re-sold via the RECIRCLE platform. They do the listings and the legwork, and you receive a credit to spend on the site to update your child’s wardrobe for the following year (or you can donate all or part of it to charity). And so the circle begins…

We spoke to co-founder Anna Bromilow about the concept and what’s in store.

What was the vision behind Little Circle?

We wanted to create a modern way of shopping. Addressing sustainability while raising the style stakes. The increasing prominence of high-end resale platforms in womenswear has been well chartered. For children’s clothes the structure really makes sense because of the inherent short life span of kids clothes and the fact it’s not as trend driven. There’s a clear cross over in our customer base.

We saw an opportunity to create a single online destination that offered the most covetable, contemporary fashion for kids and, in particular, chic, smaller brands that we knew had little visibility in the market. All while offering a long term wardrobe solution for dressing children. We are making it possible for people to make a smart, stylish investment that pays back through resale, and solving that problem of how to cater for growing children. We love the concept that you buy better on the way in and get something on the way out.

Do you think attitudes to children’s fashion are changing?

The childrenswear market is sizeable and rapidly growing and there has been an attitude shift towards how we dress our children. At the upper end of the market we’ve seen the recent emergence of Stella Kids, Lanvin, Gucci, Fendi, Roksanda. Childrenswear is being taken seriously and the budget is greater.

We also feel that attitudes are changing towards how we shop. Our internet-dependent generation increasingly looks to sophisticated, glossy, aspirational platforms to shop for themselves, but there is a distinct lack of equivalent platforms for childrenswear.

Little Circle Childrenswear

What should we expect from the Little Circle collection?

Each season’s collection is carefully curated from brands across the world, and is expertly styled with a fashion editor’s eye. We offer the best edit for each season, so that our customers aren’t bombarded with thousands of options. We strongly believe in beautiful design and quality and want every piece to feel special. You simply cannot buy the equivalent of what we have sourced on the high street, and that has always been our buying motto. We have also designed our own Little Circle range – the dress up collection – which is proving very popular already.

The first collection is just for girls but we are very excited to be launching boyswear next season, which is an area we think is often neglected.

How does the RECIRCLE platform work?

All items sold on RECIRCLE must be from designers we stock – but don’t need to have been purchased from us. We are championing these brands because of the longevity of their design and quality.

Ideally items need to be gently worn (small marks etc. would be taken into account in the pricing). The process is very straightforward and is aimed at the busy parent. A simple sellers form is filled in online and items sent in. We do the rest.

Pricing is bespoke and takes into account the age, condition and covetability of the item but as a rough ballpark we would expect most items to price between 40% to 60% of the original RRP. The customer then receives 65% of the sale price of sold RECIRCLE items as a credit to be used against future purchases.

What is in the pipeline for Little Circle now you are up and running?

We are hosting a pop-up store this weekend (25/26 September) where you will be able to shop the collections in person. Just head over to 38 Chiltern Street, W1U 7QL.

Looking further ahead, we have already added some new brands for S/S 2016 and have big plans for the following seasons and will also be launching INNER CIRCLE – our designer exclusives. The dress up collection will be built up and our own ready to wear collection is definitely in our future too.

Check out the whole AW15 collection at www.littlecircle.co.uk

Kate Douglas-Hamilton is Mr Fox co-founder. A recovering lawyer, she writes about food and kids technology. She has one son, aged 3, and routinely finds things in his wardrobe that have only been worn once. Find her on Twitter @katedh.