Dressing kids is no easy task. One newcomer to the Irish childrenswear scene is a first-time mother who combines fashion design with nursing. Katarzyna Nosal set up Suby this year, a sustainable and functional clothing brand for kids notable for its quality, durability and use of natural products. Reusing, recycling and repairing are central to her philosophy, and everything is designed to last. The clothes are made in her Dublin studio and in Poland by seamstresses in Lodz, who follow a fair trade ethos.
The fabrics are European including Irish linen, although she has been unable to source Irish wool fabrics soft enough for children. Leftover material is used to make scrunchies, linen bags, hats, garlands and headbands. A boy’s shirt in 100 per cent linen or organic cotton muslin is €38, her “flower” skirts are €42 and also come in 100 per cent linen or organic cotton muslin.
Fledging brands have to compete with giants such as H&M, who have released their Imagine That collection, the seventh in the Innovation Stories series using more sustainable materials and processes. Their first independent childrenswear collection includes a cactus-derived leather alternative and sequins made from recycled plastic bottles.
Other small Irish brands that cater for children include Dainty Bear, Mimi & Bowe and Under A Star, the latter specialising in pyjamas made by artisans in India. All are designed by mothers with small children. Founded by a mother of two, Dainty Bear’s range includes dresses, babygros, hooded towels, blankets and leather shoes up to the age of two. Mimi & Bowe – called after the founder’s twin daughters – has pyjamas for children aged up to 12. They are made in Portugal using GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified cotton, stocked exclusively in Rosalins on Dunville Avenue in Ranelagh, a family-run gift shop.
Under A Star’s handblock printed pyjamas go up to size 8, and it has matching ones for adults and hand-stitched traditional Indian Kantha blankets made from reclaimed cloth. In Dunnes Stores Leigh Tucker’s little cotton pyjamas for Christmas have images of Irish snow-covered landscapes.
Irish brands specialising in dresses include Little Larks, Darcy Bowe and Cairenn Foy (mostly communion dresses). Little Larks’ smocked printed pinafores are sweet and stocked in Over the Moon, a baby and children’s boutique which opened a year ago in Monkstown. It specialises in beautiful brands like Tartine & Chocolat from France, smocked pyjamas from Mini La Mode’s Peruvian-made cotton, as well as rompers from Spanish brand Babidue.
For stylist Carmel Walsh in Cork, finding clothes for her young daughter sent her looking at Scandinavian brands for durable, sustainable and affordable alternatives to more expensive European labels. A shoe designer and creative art director formerly based in Milan, she sourced items that would last, like shoes from Kavat in Sweden made from leather (€50-€120), and Konges from Denmark for pre-walker and beginner ankle boots. Clothing includes teddy, down and junior bomber jackets.
“I spent a lot more on underwear clothing like woollen vests from Engel in Germany and Siskin in Denmark’s breathable pure merino wool sweaters,” Walsh says. Siskin’s dyes are free of heavy metals, and many of these jumpers are made from merino wool produced by Donegal Yarns.
Using Irish linen for kids chimed with Norsal’s ideas about sustainability, and “it is a beautiful, practical fabric and my skirts can be used on both sides – I also make trousers longer so they have a longer life if looked after properly”, she says. As a nurse she has also seen the effects of polyester on children with eczema or sensitive skin and stresses comfort and the use of soft natural fabrics as priorities in her designs. “Pockets are really important too, as kids love to keep their little treasures inside them.”