So last week, on 9th November, we had a rather exciting evening here at GrowTraffic. After much build up and a lot of difficult judging (some may call it arguing!), it was finally the awards dinner itself for the 2016 Rossendale Business Awards, where GT were sponsoring the Creative Business category.
Held at the impressively large and well-appointed Whitworth Riverside, the evening was the culmination of much hard work by the event’s organisers, the Valley at Work business networking group, and was the perfect opportunity for Rossendale businesses to come together, let their hair down and celebrate another year’s great work. And what a celebration it was!
But in amongst all the other impressive businesses there on the night was the one that shone out the most for us, the winner of our Creative Business award in fact, the fabulous Kidult and Co. I met up with the girls earlier this week to talk about the business, their success and what it meant to win this award.
Who Are Kidult and Co?
Kidult and Co is the brainchild of three determined young women – sisters Melissa and Laura, and their friend Emily – who decided just over a year ago to go into business together. Yep, a year ago! Having only been trading for the last twelve months, Kidult and Co were the youngest business who made the Creative Business Award longlist, both in terms of the age of the business and the age of its owners (the girls are all in their 20s).
Nevertheless, this quirky but stylish business has come a very long way in the last year and racked up some pretty impressive achievements, and they were more than capable of competing with the longer-established businesses nominated in this category.
But what do Kidult and Co do that has become such a runaway success so quickly? Well, they make clothing. Monochrome clothing, mainly for kids but also, more recently, for adults too, with their own slogans emblazoned across. But trust me when I say that Kidult and Co is so much more than just black and white t-shirts with writing; this is a business with style, and a creative streak that goes way beyond just making stuff.
A Passion for Fashion
Having graduated from UCLAN university a couple of years ago – Melissa and Laura having studied Fashion Brand Management and Emily having studied New Media and Design – the girls all wanted to use their qualifications to do something different. Nevertheless, it was a twist of fate that landed them where they are today, rather than a five-year-plan laid down many moons ago.
Although all three come from the Rossendale Valley – Emily from Bacup and Melissa and Laura from Haslingden – and whilst their Mum’s knew each other when they were kids, the three only became good friends when they met whilst working part-time jobs at the Haslingden Tesco. The 3 young women immediately bonded over their love of clothes and passion for the fashion industry.
Having also worked in her Mum’s clothes shop – Wardrobe Boutique – for several years, Emily had always had a love of clothes, and with their degrees and other textiles-related studies under the belts, it was a clear passion for Laura and Melissa too, so it was almost inevitable that these ambitious girls would come together and start creating clothes.
When I asked them why they decided to take the line they have and begin a clothing range for children that is completely unisex and shuns every gender stereotype imaginable, Melissa answered that;
“we just wanted to do something different, and we were never girly girls growing up, we were all tomboys, and we just saw all of this tide of pink and blue and wanted to do something else.”
And so, over a cup of coffee one day, and with that very simple idea, Emily, Laura and Melissa became Kidult and Co, and I think even they’re a little bit amazed by everything that’s happened since.
Clothes That Dare To Be Different
Hence, the basic premise behind Kidult and Co is very simple; they make incredibly stylish clothing for kids that comes in black or white – or black and white – and which has empowering mission statements stamped across it. Fed up with today’s obsession with categorising kids into narrow little boxes, which sees practically every clothes shop in the land split 50/50 into a row of pink for girls and blue for boys, Kidult and Co wanted to do something to stem the tide.
So instead of t-shirts for girls that state “when I grow up I’m going to marry a hero” (yeah, it exists), Kidult and Co have t-shirts for anyone that shout “when I grow up I want to be me” or “when I grow up I want to be happy”. In the place of frills and a sea of pink, Kidult and Co only make monochrome and unisex clothing, which can be worn by boys or girls, children or adults, and styled however the wearer likes.
And it’s not just cheap throwaway clothing either; Kidult and Co care about the ethics of the fashion industry, so all the clothing is made from good quality, ethically sourced materials and safe inks, with as much of it being sourced from the UK as possible. In essence, this is just well-made clothing with simple designs that’s beautifully packaged and presented, yet this is still clothing with a difference.
And it would seem that this very simple idea has hit a zeitgeist, because from the very beginning, things have just taken off for Kidult and Co, in every way possible. Their public profile, online presence and status as a social influencer have all soared in recent months, and that’s translated into real-life sales too, making this burgeoning business a little rocket of success.
The Secret To Success
One of the reasons that the judging panel for the Rossendale Business Awards decided to choose Kidult and Co as the winners of this category was because they demonstrated exceptional levels of creativity not just in terms of the product they create, but also in the way they approach their business and the way they have marketed it, and it is this aspect that has also had a massive contribution to their phenomenal success in the mere twelve months they’ve been trading.
With their combined qualifications, skills and experience, Kidult and Co have managed to think imaginatively whenever they’ve hit a problem and thus drive the business forward regardless of the snags. When they realised that to sell their products online they’d require lifestyle shots instead of the studio shots they already had, they simply created Brand Reps across the world and sent their clothing out in exchange for free lifestyle photographs of real-life kids wearing the clothes.
Following on from the success of Brand Reps, they also started using Brand Enthusiasts, who get a whopping discount simply for spreading the word and shouting about Kidult and Co on social media. And this priceless word-of-mouth effect has benefitted them enormously, not only hugely boosting their online profile and social media presence but also netting them some seriously enviable column inches in national magazines. As a result of their creative thinking, their clothing is now being worn by people all over the world – in places as diverse as Dubai, LA, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and The Netherlands – plus they’ve been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Conde Nast, Gurgle Mag and Tatler, to name just a few.
And their star is still in the ascendance; with celebrities now endorsing them – such as the Salford Red Devils – as well as bloggers and other social influencers mentioning the brand and the clothing online, this is now a brand with a life of it’s own. But Kidult and Co are not stopping there.
Despite the fact that every single item of clothing Kidult and Co sell is handmade by themselves, this ambitious new start-up still has plans to grow bigger.
Having recently purchased their own machines to bring the printing process in-house, mainly to ensure they can meet the demand whilst still retaining their high standards of quality, Kidult and Co is now being run by Emily, Laura and Melissa out of their own attic, but that hasn’t stopped them from recently introducing new ranges to their clothing and starting the mad rush for the Christmas period.
In addition to the children’s clothing, an adult’s range has also recently been added to ensure any age can enjoy this brand, as well as a new Made To Order line for those who wish to personalise their clothing. Following on from the overwhelming success of their last competition to determine the newest slogan – ‘Mardy Bum’ was the out and out winner that time – Kidult and Co are also planning to run similar competitions to keep building that online profile and further engage their audience.
Another new project is their recent joining with the charity Action for Children, which has teamed up with Kidult and Co to help them stamp out gender inequality in children. The ‘When I Grow Up I Want To Be’ t-shirts are part of this new range and every t-shirt sold will help to raise vital funds to ensure our daughters grow up with the same treatment and opportunities as our sons.
Moreover, next February, Kidult and Co will be taking part in a fashion runway show in London with a similar kid’s clothing brand, Baby Bandits. This will be their first catwalk show and the opportunity to show off their wares in the big city, as well as the exposure this will bring, will surely be another massive boost for this burgeoning brand.
And to ensure their profile keeps on growing online, Kidult and Co have recently expanded the number of offline and online retailers who stock their clothing too, both increasing their product lines and their reach. As part of this, their new range for Not On The High Street features even more clothing and accessories that can be personalised, making sure they stay relevant by hitting another key trend of the moment.
The Details Count
One of the biggest things that stands out with Kidult and Co, however, is their attention to detail. Besides being beautifully made, all their clothing comes with their own designed labels, which they’ve even thought to transfer directly onto the material to prevent the label from itching the wearer. Each item of clothing sold online is beautifully wrapped and presented, being packaged in their own black and white tweed and fastened with black and white string, then posted out in specially branded boxes.
More than that though, each little delivery parcel comes complete with one of Kidult and Co’s postcards, which act as their own little ad leaflets, directing people to their social media profiles and even including which hashtag to use, depending on any current campaigns being run.
Overall though, it is the very fact that Kidult and Co have been so creative in all aspects of their business that has enabled them to pull off such a massive success in such a short space of time.
Yes, they are a creative business in the sense that their core product is creative; they conceive all the clothing lines themselves and use their imaginations to come up with interesting designs and rebellious (but endearing) slogans that are quite revolutionary in our thoroughly modern yet increasingly sexist society. And it is also inevitably true that they’ve tapped into an emerging mood amongst certain people, particularly on social media, who are similarly fed up with having to dress their daughters in pink and their son’s in blue; a not inconsiderable factor when judging Kidult and Co’s speedy rise to fame.
Yet it is the fact that they have approached every decision they’ve made or problem they’ve encountered with a similarly creative philosophy that truly makes this business a creative business. Instead of doing what everyone else would do or seeing their limitations as a drawback, Kidult and Co have taken a fresh approach and tried something different. They’ve come up with creative solutions to their problems. They’ve used creativity in their sales, marketing, production processes and even finances – and it’s clearly paying off – and that’s why the R Awards judging panel decided they were Rossendale’s Creative Business for 2016.