YOU kind of know you’ve made it in the fashion stakes when Fearne Cotton posts a picture of herself on Instagram on Christmas Eve in one of your creations.
And then shortly after that posts another of her little girl Honey in one of your designs too.
Such is the rise of baby legging brand Fred & Noah – an empire run from a shed in a mum-of-two’s garden in Rochford.
Natalie Reynolds, 34, started making trousers for 0-4-year-olds while on maternity leave with her second son, Freddie.
Natalie was a lecturer in fashion design at South Essex College, running the fashion course, and initially making the leggings was just about her getting back into her hobbies.
But it very quickly turned itself into a serious income.
Natalie, who is an ex Thorpe Bay High School pupil, recalls: “It was exactly a year after starting the business that I was handing in my notice to the college and taking the leap to work full time on Fred & Noah at home with my husband.
“He had a very successful career in the construction industry, but we decided that if we were going to make a go of it then it was a two-person job so Dan also quit his job!”
So what’s the best bit of running your own business?
“That I am at home everyday, so I get to take my children (Freddie now four and Noah, now seven) to school, pick them up and also have a sneaky cuppa any time I want one!
“The toughest part is the pressure of running your own business and being the boss, there is always work to be done and it is difficult to switch off from that.”
How does she juggle being a mum with running the business?
“I have the most wonderful husband, Daniel, who does 50/50 at work and with the children.
“We only work during school hours and once again in the evening when the children are asleep.
“Fred & Noah was created in our dining room, so for a long time we lived and breathed baby leggings. We are now lucky that we have our own premises to work from – outside at home – so we are able to leave work in the studio.”
You may not have thought that the baby legging market was such big business, but her numbers speak for themselves. More than 32,000 people follow Fred & Noah on Facebook and some 51,000 on Instagram. Thousands of trousers have left Rochford in the past three years.
But how does she keep her designs fresh?
“I just work with prints that I think are fun, and children would enjoy wearing them – There is no fun to be had wearing jeans is there?”
“We have just launched our grown-up collection so you can match with your kids! And we are working on our first collection of shoes and also have BIG plans this Christmas.”
What’s her favourite creation?
“The cube sweatshirt and Mint dots,” she confesses. “Fearne Cotton is big fan of these too!”
So today’s hippest mamas, Fearne Cotton and Giovanna Fletcher, are fans… but what baby would she most like to see in Fred & Noah?
“Prince George! I’d get him out of those long socks and cover those little legs with a pair of my clouds!”
How do she think fashion for babies has evolved over the past decade, I wonder? Has there been an increase in mums of boys demanding more stylish clothing?
In a word, yes.
“Baby fashion has really changed in the last three years. Mums of boys don’t want to dress their babies in jeans or joggers all the time. They want more choice.
“Look at any children’s clothing department and the girls section is far wider than that of the boys. We are trying to even this gap and give parents more choice.”
Shop Fred & Noah at Fredandnoah.com
And she’s not the only Essex mummy making fashion work for her…
- ESSEX MAMA, based in Harlow, was started by a full-time mummy who was desperate to put her twitchy creative hands to use again after a two-year break. Liz Cadman updated an old white T-shirt with a girl gang logo as she couldn’t find one anywhere online to buy. After an Instagram selfie, messages came flooding in from folk wanting to know where the tee came from… and so it began.
- Leigh’s Alexandra Cobb set up MR WOLF in 2013, having always worked in fashion, designing for lots of different companies. Her kids clothing brand is aimed at 2 to 9-year-old boys and girls, with a unisex theme.
- Southend’s ALFIE ET AL is a clothing and accessories outlet – the inspiration for which came from founder Claire Arkwright wanting to dress her son Alfie in something a little different but also ethical too.