His & Hers interview with Michele Harriman Smith, owner and CEO of Childrensalon Ltd

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childrenswear retailer

Childrensalon is a global online retailer that flies the flag for ‘the best of British’. It is high end retail, that showcases children’s outfits from prestigious designers.

Interview by: Jean Hill

childrenswear retailer

His & Hers: I’m intrigued because the original Tunbridge Wells shop that opened in 1952, would have offered traditional, classic children’s clothes. How did this evolve and become an online entity, with over 280 designers’ clothes and accessories on sale, with a global reach, and what prompted the online only, with pop-ups for the media, approach?

Michele: Childrensalon was born from my mother’s passion for beautiful clothing. She was brought up around a circle of artists and at an early age learned to sew and design clothing. After the war she started sewing circles as people loved her beautiful children’s clothing and this then progressed to the start of her own-label of traditional hand-smocked dresses called Joy Models. They became so popular that she then opened a shop in Tunbridge Wells called The Children’s Salon in a nod to my father’s French heritage. As the shop grew my mother then began stocking not just her own-label but other sought-after labels of the day and this expanded through the years. In the late 80s I took over running the shop and continued to build on what my mother had started. My husband, who is an artist and illustrator, decided one day in the late 90s that he wanted to create a website and our online business grew very rapidly. Initially we did the coding with a manual but very soon it became too complicated for us. Within a few years we were communicating with customers all over the world, helping them dress their children beautifully as my mother had done initially in her Tunbridge Wells shop. Shortly after this, the majority of our business was online and keeping up with it became our focus and passion. As the business grew so did our team, and we now have over 360 team members, many of whom have been with us from the beginning. We couldn’t have done what we have done without them.

His & Hers: I was delighted to discover a Rachel Riley classic damask rose dress, very similar to something I bought for my daughter 30 years ago. Was there a conscious choice to attract designers that offer classic pieces alongside, for example, a Gucci bold rabbit print and a Dolce & Gabbana faux fur runway coat?

Michele: Our customers are the most important thing for us, so in order to make sure we always provide the best assortment, we have an incredibly talented team of buyers who travel the world for us regularly in-search of beautiful things. We have over 60 years of experience with children’s clothing and we always aim to ensure we carry the most beautiful clothes for all tastes – whether they be traditional or more modern. We know dressing your child for a special event is an emotional thing, so we also always strive to make sure not only do we have the widest breadth of luxury children’s clothing from traditional to modern, we also have a wide assortment for different budgets.

His & Hers: The price range varies from mid-range to high end, and I found that quite impressive. So I found a Joules blue check Rowena dress, very modestly priced at £43, and a Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt t £20, which was in contrast to the Dolce & Gabbana runway coat at £875. Again was this a deliberate policy, to offer a very wide range of designers, some of whom would appeal to someone on a definite budget, whilst still show-casing, high end, designer fashion?

Michele: Again, this goes back to us continually trying to do the best job we can to ensure we have the very best assortment for our customers so that they can dress their children beautifully. We have very special things from new upcoming, as well as traditional designers and of course, the more well-known high-end designers, however we take a lot of care to make sure we have an assortment of beautiful things for a wide price-range as well.

His & Hers: I loved the quirky element of panda motifs with Mini Rodini and I noticed a top made from organic wool and cotton. Is that an element (fashion that doesn’t cost the Earth), that you are keen to see promoted on your website in terms of designers who believe in responsible sourcing?

Michele: I grew up in the 1960’s and this really shaped my viewpoints on so many things, especially preserving our environment. We are proud that our head office runs on renewable solar energy, so yes, this is important to us. More and more brands are looking at ways they can be sustainable, as well as ensuring they source their product as responsibly as possible and we are very supportive of this.

His & Hers: Have to say I loved Childrensalon. I liked the customer feedback, that included great customer service and beautiful packaging. Do you have future plans to evolve or expand the offering (though it seems eclectic already)?

Michele: We are always looking for ways we can improve our service to our customers as they are at the heart of everything we do. Our award-winning Customer Service team speaks 32 languages and in order to better serve our customers we are now open from 6am to 2am as we know how important it is to speak to someone when you have a query – especially when it comes to dressing your child for a special occasion or buying a gift. We hope to expand our opening-hours even further so that we are always there to speak to in every time-zone. Our amazing team is continually exploring ways we can make things better in every way from how quickly we can pick and pack orders to ensuring we offer the most technologically advanced user-experience and ways to shop. From the inception of the website, we learned new things and how to improve on a regular basis and this so important to us.

Website: Childrensalon.

Related feature: The Flower Fairies collection at Childrensalon.

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