Thursday 26 February 2015


Dee Purdy knows all about juggling. She studied Fine Art Photography and still has a passion for it, but works in finance in the city of London while running a children’s wear company. As a mother to two young daughters she also knows that while she loves classic-cut clothes, she knows that her energetic duo have to feel comfortable in them and be able to run and play freely in what they wear. In 2013 Dee decided to find some balance to all of these elements and co-founded Une Belle Époque with her sister Nikki. It was that old tale of not being able to find what they wanted. And it seems that many others agree. Their wares have been selling all across the globe - from Korea to Australia and France. Originally the idea was to produce their range in Hong Kong, where Nikki is based but they wanted to have tighter quality control and more transparency of the end-to-end process. The clothes are now made in London.

Originally from a small town in South Africa, the sisters are looking at having their wares stocked in some small boutiques in Norway and Japan. But they are taking small steps to ensure the fit is right. “We also have plans, which we’re really excited about, to bring out a dress-up collection that explores the more whimsical side of childhood, something that is very important to us,” Dee says.

What was behind the decision to start Une Belle Époque? 
Having children was certainly a big part of it! When I started looking to buy my own children’s clothes I realised that I found it hard to find clothes that I liked and that weren’t some cookie-cutter idea of how children should dress. I wanted to dress them in a simple but interesting style that wasn’t prissy and still gave them the freedom to run around and climb trees and I realised that if I wanted that, I would need to design them myself. Also, my sister and I have always loved creating things and bouncing ideas around for our next project. We love fabric and design and all this came together at the right time to create Une Belle Époque.

I have worked in the city for many years so I also wanted to find my way back to something more creative that would allow better flexibility when it came to being a mother and having a career. 

What had you been doing previously?
I have a degree in Fine Art Photography but I have worked in London, in investment banking for many years. I have never lost touch with my creative background though and have always wanted to find something that combines my business knowledge, creativity and doing something that I love.

What is important to you when designing children's clothes?
The fabric and the style. We use natural fabrics wherever possible as it’s very important to us that the kids wear fabrics that can breathe and age well. We’d hope that our pieces are timeless and look just as great on your nieces/nephews when you hand them down.

How do you try to differentiate your products from others on the market?
Our plan has been to create a core product range that we carry consistently and that fits in with our ethos: natural fabrics, timeless design and attention to detail. One of our frustrations is that when you are buying kids clothes, you find something that you like but it doesn’t come back the next season. On top of that we plan to get more creative with our collections, to allow us to evolve our story and create a solid, small brand.

What has been completely unexpected since starting the business?
How global the interest has been in what we are doing. When we started we thought that we might get the odd order or two from outside the UK, but now we are regularly shipping to Australia, the US, France, Korea and beyond. Instagram and social media has been a really big and unexpected part of this. My background in photography has helped. I have always taken a lot of photos and started a blog when Limi was born but couldn’t sustain it when Claya arrived and I was trying to juggle two children and a new brand. Instagram replaced the blog for me in terms of documenting our lives in London and keeping in touch with friends and family. But by sharing our images and our story of the creation of Une Belle Époque, the clothes have seemed to resonate with a lot of people and we have connected with some amazing people that has led to wonderful opportunities.

What is something that people don't realise about your wares?
Our clothes are designed to work just as well in hot climates like Australia and South Africa as they do in cooler places like England. The secret is all in layering. Growing up in South Africa I remember wearing lots of loose cotton and I didn’t want my girls to feel weighed down with thick fabrics. Using high street staples as base layers I’ve dressed my daughters in the lightest of carousel dress in the depths of a northern winter. In fact, I love the puppet playsuit more when it’s layered over leggings, a long sleeved vest top and maybe a cotton blouse too.

Where do you look for design inspiration?
I have always loved the simplicity of French design and washed-out, antique colours. With our pieces though we still want the detail and that’s where vintage, English pieces inspire us. The aunt of a friend intermittently sends me packages of vintage children’s clothing and trim which she finds in antique markets in the north of England. I’ve never met her but my friend told her about what I was doing and she just started sending me these amazing parcels.

Of course our children and our friends’ children also direct us in terms of what they enjoy wearing. We always test new products out on our own children and a small circle of friends.

What do you consider when dressing or styling children?
Layers - in London, it’s very much about the layers, so we design clothes that can be worn by themselves or layered. Also being able to turn a few pieces into lots of different outfits by putting your own layered stamp onto it makes the style unique to the child.

Comfort - I’ve been there myself; I've bought something I think will look great on my daughters only to have them tearing it off after five minutes because it is uncomfortable while they play, so I know that comfort matters.

Individuality - we want children to look like children. I’m not a fan of “mini-me” fashion and think that children’s clothes should be uniquely childish without being cartoonish or condescending. 

What role do you want your products to play in childhood?
I'd have to say a path to individuality without being too conscious of what they are wearing. We would like our clothing to enhance their games rather than restrict them. 

What was the last great children's book that you read?
The girls are very into maps at the moment so two great books and favourites at the are: Atlas of Adventures illustrated by Lucy Letherland and Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski.  

images courtesy of une belle époque


  1. Great interview as always! Annika is wearing her can can top right now. it's a little big but it's my fave and goes with everything - the best kind of clothing. Looking forward to the dress-up range and I am soo impressed the clothing brand is a side project. How busy Dee must be! X

    1. True - I find these clothes really go with everything too. And it was interesting to read Dee's comments about layering as we got the playsuit in winter and was teaming it with tights and long-sleeved tops whereas now it's definitely short-sleeved tops and bare legs. x