This week we talk to Hannah, founder of Piccalilly, who make lovely clothes for lovely little people. We’re very proud to have been working with Piccalilly since 2007, when both our companies were just starting out. Back then it was hard to find beautiful ethically made clothing for babies and children and we loved Piccalilly’s bright and colourful designs. Our children have grown up wearing Piccalilly and we’ve passed on their clothes to friends and family and they still look fabulous.
Piccalilly clothing is practical, comfortable and stylish too but Piccalilly make sure that they never compromise on their ethics. The Babipur team have met Piccalilly founder, Hannah many times so we thought it would nice to ask Hannah some questions and share her answers with you..
1. Why did you choose to set up Piccalilly?
I was made redundant from my role working as buyer for an ethical import company. Worrying times turned to positive opportunities and I embraced being released from working 9-5 to set up Piccalilly. I had long been interested in organic clothing but at the time products available were beige and boring! I wanted to create a range modern baby clothes that were bright and colourful and appealed to a more upmarket audience.
2. How important was it to have an ethical supply chain and how did you go about it?
Manufacturing to the highest ethical standards was the starting point for Piccalilly and because I had a good working knowledge of Indian supply chains working in my previous job for a BAFTS importer I had many leads and contacts and was aware of many of the issues facing Indian factories, including child & bonded labor. It was through a contact at Greenpeace that I was given the contact details of our main supplier who we have been working with since the outset of Piccalilly. What was refreshing and unusual with the way this particular manufacturer worked was the fact that they bought their cotton from a completely transparent supply chain through CHETNA organic and our manufacturing partner pre-financed the cotton agreeing to pay a premium for the cotton and enabling conventional cotton farmers to convert to organic by guaranteeing their crops. The CHETNA farmers have also been given a 10% share in the factory enabling them to share in the bigger profits. All our factories are audited through FLO Cert and to GOTS standards ensuring social compliance and high ethical standards and practice.
3. We love hearing about your visits to India, how important is it to keep a good relationship with the producers.
As owner of Piccalilly I make it my job to regularly visit our suppliers at least once a year, it’s in our interests to do this and cements our relationship to one another. It also gives us the opportunity to fully appreciate the challenges faced by our manufacturers and ensures we keep open and positive lines of communication going at all times as there are many issues facing the garment industry in India, not to mention living standards in general. The factories we work with have an open door policy for buyers at all times which ensures there are no nasty surprises and ensures that our suppliers works to high standards at all times. I often forget the challenges faced in day to day life in India when we’re chasing delays with deliveries and production problems so revisiting India, a place I have been going to for over 12 years now, reminds us of our responsibilities and commitments to our suppliers.
4. What are you future plans for Piccalilly?
Piccalilly has been growing organically over the last 8 years and we now have a team of 7 people and a range that extends from Newborn up to 8 years in age. Our aim is to grow Piccalilly as a brand whilst remaining true to the core values of the brand. Growing the ranges is challenging as we’re not in the business of fast fashion but we need to strike a balance between new and tried and tested. We like to listen to our customers and where possible feed their idea’s and requests back into the development process, by doing this we aim to make our product ranges stronger and ultimately more sellable. We’ve built up a strong network of stockists in the UK and throughout Europe and our aim is to strengthen this over the coming years by offering our retailers more support.
5. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt since setting up the Piccalilly brand?
Listen and learn and don’t be afraid of trying things that don’t work. Learning from mistakes is very much part of the process and fear of failure is often the reason many businesses don’t progress. As a business owner I love to listen to what other people have to say and openly encourage stockists, suppliers, employees and consumers to participate in the process of helping Piccalilly build as a brand. It’s also important to stay true to your core beliefs and not concern yourself too much with what other brands are doing, or how they are doing it.
6. What do you children think about Piccalilly?
My youngest daughter, Cicely, has been a kind of muse for me since the start as the brand started when she was a baby and she has been wearing and modelling for Piccalilly ever since. She loves all things Piccalilly and still squeezes into the clothing now. I always run the new collections past her, and other children for that matter, as I’m intrigued with what items catch their eye or make them smile.
7. What’s your favourite colour?
8. What do you like to do to relax?
Running, I try to go 2-3 times a week and find it great stress buster!
9. What is your favourite adult clothing brand and why?
Liv, as my close friend Dawn Foxall is knitwear designer and brand director and they buy from same supply chains so I know they are manufacturing to the highest ethical standards.
10. Who would your ideal dinner date be and what would be your food and drink of choice?
This is very topical but I would love to have dinner with recent nobel peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, founder of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan. Piccalilly have been supporting the BBA for many years through fundraising and sample sales and have had the pleasure of meeting several members of the BBA and Global March team plus visiting the Mukti Ashram, which takes in children rescued from bonded and child labour ahead of being rehabilitated (where possible) with their parents. It’s a really interesting project that has been tackling a massive issue facing India and I’d love to meet Kailash personally to hear about the ongoing challenges running the BBA.
My food of choice would of course have to be Thai and drink of choice white wine!