Thursday, 12 March 2015

INTERVIEW | ALICIA VERGER OF MILOU & PILOU







“I think it is quite common when you become a mother that your artistic part starts growing and you want to create something unique,” says Alicia Verger, the designer behind Spanish children’s wear brand Milou & Pilou. She felt the pull towards creating clothes for her daughters, Chloé, aged seven, and Emma, four, when they were young. It was a big change from her work as a psychologist in the healthcare industry, but one that she has enjoyed. Alicia had grown up in a family of women who were always sewing and creating their own clothes. She was born in Spain to a French mother, and was raised between the two countries. Alicia is currently based in Barcelona where the clothes are made. “We work with traditional sewing manufacturers and we are very proud of it as we contribute to ethical and local production,” Alicia says. While Milou & Pilou was launched less than a year ago, it has managed to gain a following across the globe. The brand is named after Alicia’s daughters’ nicknames.

What was behind the decision to start Milou & Pilou? It was more a decision from people around me. I started designing dresses when I became mother; it was hard to find lovely nostalgic dresses at an affordable price with pure and high-quality fabrics - I try to avoid synthetic fibres. So I started designing dresses for my little ones. I grew up in a family where grandmothers and mothers used to sew so it came naturally. I think it is quite common when you become a mother that your artistic part starts growing and you want to create something unique.

Very soon other mothers started ordering from me the same little dresses; they liked the vintage style with lots of Liberty print. Most of the times they were asking me to design the same pieces they used to wear when they were children, that’s how the idea came about. With the help of my other half, and a small young team around me we decided to try to launch the brand. I must confess, I was a little bit scared at the beginning as my professional life had nothing to do with this world - I am psychologist. But here I am, and after the first, and exhausting, year I am very enthusiastic.

What had you been doing previously? As I said, I am psychologist and I have been working for many years in the healthcare industry. It seems that the creative part of myself was hidden in an 8 to 5 job!

What is important to you when designing children's clothes? For me there are two important points on the designing part: the first one is to try to make simple and comfortable clothes for girls; timeless, inspired from my own childhood memories with a touch of innocence and a classic look. And then I carefully select the fabrics that will go along. I like to work with light poplins, organic cotton, linen locally manufactured. I think that makes the whole difference.

What has been completely unexpected since starting your business? As we mainly sell online, we have had many experiences in those 12 months, from people around the world sending us back emails, pictures, nice messages about our brand. We are excited to see our little brand growing so fast in that, I must confess, crazy children’s fashion world. We mainly sell out of Spain now so this is totally unexpected as well.

A funny story I remember from the beginning from our first collection: I received a lovely email from an old lady who was a grandmother from Barcelona with four little granddaughters living abroad and she wanted to send them a little dress. She saw some of our pieces in a store but unfortunately they didn’t have the sizes she needed. The people at the store provided her our email address so that she could contact us. She was so embarrassed as she didn’t have the internet at home - she was 87! - so she asked a neighbor to send an email on her behalf to ask us how she could order on the online shop. You can imagine an 87-year-old lady ordering online! My heart was melting: we contacted her, placed the order for her and handled the shipping. Now she has become our first VIP customer and we are proud of it! 

What is something that people often don't realise about your wares? Even if our pieces are classic and timeless they can be quite versatile as well. For example, there are multiple ways to wear our basic shirt dress, as it can become a long oversized bloused paired with leggings or with a skirt underneath. As well, as our pieces do not change too much from winter to summer collection, we are working with cotton and light poplins mainly, so they can be layered very easily.

What do consider when dressing or styling children? Simplicity, pure fabrics, ethically produced - I am quite a “clean clothes” active supporter - and dress them as what they are: children. I think we tend to make them grow, behave and dress as adults too young. I am quite fan of the “Let them be little” manifesto.

Where do you look to for design inspiration? My inspiration comes mainly from my little daughters - such creative spirits! I also get lots of ideas from vintage illustrations, such as in the work of Susan Varley, Alain Grée or Susan Collier, and other children’s books. For example, the idea of adding knee patches to our leggings was taken from a Peter Pan book.

And, of course, I also like to follow some of my favorite children’s brands like Leoca, Velveteen, or Je suis en CP.

What role do you want your products to play in a childhood? My products are for girls: there is colour everywhere, printed flowers, wide skirts, light dresses. I think little girls have that touch of innocence and our brand wants to be part of their little world.

What was the last great children's book that you read? I will give you two: Not all animals are blue from Beatrice Boutignon, a big book of little differences with amazing illustrations. And another pop-up book absolutely amazing called Blue 2 from David A Carter - my daughters are captivated about the three-dimensional paper sculptures. A great one!

images courtesy of milou & pilou

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