We are so happy to be stocking Waddler at Roses and the Stars - ever since the first conception of our store, this was a brand we wanted on board! From their unique designs to the eco philosophy which flows from every pore, Waddler stands for values which we cherish, making childrenswear which is sustainable and creates a positive impact on the world around us instead of the take take take attitude of the high street.
All hand knitted by cottage industry workers inBoliviaa, Waddler clothes are super soft (all the better for cuddling your little ones!) and made in beautiful colours and quirky designs so kids can embrace their childhoods with a sense of mischief and nomadic wonder.
In this instalment of the DESIGN DEN, we caught up with Phillip Thompson, part of the husband and wife team (above) behind this enchanting label, to find out more about what inspires their philosophy and what the best things are about creating such a well-respected brand in the childrenswear world.
What was the inspiration behind the name of your brand?
Marina my wife and co-owner of Waddler was nicknamed Waddler by her parents as a baby – in fact, they still call her that. I think she had a bit of a waddling gait! We liked the word and what it suggested.
What made you decide to set up your own label?
We fell in love with alpaca yarn while living in the Peruvian Andes and had some pieces made up for our son to Marina’s designs. They turned out really beautifully and so we decided to create a business that would allow us to travel and keep a strong connection with South America and something related to family, the stage we were, and are still in.
What’s the best thing about your job?
That we can work from home. We can design, administrate, market, organise logistics and run the website all from the comfort of our own home. And it also gives us a fantastic excuse to travel to South America to work on the production and to arrange photoshoots!
Who are the other key members of your team and how do you split the jobs between you?
I sort of manage to general business as well as doing some marketing, PR and general admin. Marina is encharged with clothing design and managing the look of the website – she has a very strong aesthetic and is a perfectionist with detail. We have a website manager who along with some helpers, organises web sales and wholesale. We also have an online marketing manager and finally a part time sales person based in London.
What’s been your career highlight in regards to the brand?
Seeing our brand and photos featured in publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair and written about on Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop. That really made me feel like we were doing something of quality. But also visiting knitters in La Paz, Bolivia and hearing how they had been able to change their lives by using money earned from Waddler to buy washing machines, dishwashers. That can’t be bad!
What areas of owning your own business do you find the most difficult?
It never ends! There are never proper holidays. There’s always emails to answer, things to send off… but then if we want to take a spontaneous day off because the weather is nice, we can do this. So it works out OK.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
Much of it from the clothing we see in South America but also old vintage designs, movies from the Charlie Chaplin era and sometimes from Instagram.
What other brands within the children’s style sector do you respect and why?
Bobo Choses – they have a fantastic aesthetic and I love how their collections are linked to a story. It’s very magical. Also, they use organic cotton, the quality is excellent and they produce in Spain – not in India or Bangladesh like most European producers.
The way in which consumer brands treat the environment has obviously taken a step forward in people’s consciousness. How important are environmental issues to you at Waddler and what are you doing to improve the situation?
We only use 100% baby alpaca for our knits. This cannot be labelled organic because the alpaca's roam free in the mountains and you cannot certify entire mountain ranges as organic! But for all intents and purposes, the wool is organic. Alpacas are also one of the most eco-friendly animals - they have toes that do not damage the soil and graze very lightly. This is unlike the goats that produce cashmere and have devastated vast areas of northern China with overgrazing.
Also, our cotton is organic Peruvian Pima cotton. This is the world’s original cotton, and it’s softest. It is also one of the few remaining non-GM cottons. Most organic brands are actually selling GM cotton from India which their clients do not even know. Our impact on the environment is crucial to what Waddler is. We are a kids brand, and the kids who grow up wearing our clothes are the ones who will be most affected by environmental problems in the future.
If you had to pick the perfect gift from your current collection, which piece would it be and why?
I think the Pierrot Balloon dress is just adorable. I have 3 boys but if I had a girl, she would totally be wearing that!
If you could sum up your brand in 3 words what would they be?
Wild Free Happy