Thursday, 7 May 2015

INTERVIEW | CELIA MUÑOZ OF LA COQUETA







There are many threads to the story of Celia Muñoz, the woman behind the London-based children’s clothing label La Coqueta. While she was born in France, to a French mother, she grew up in Spain and has now been living in London for 14 years. “Despite the fact that my mother imposed French at home I feel as Spanish as a pair of castanets!” she says. But Celia loves London. She moved there in 2001 after graduating from university and while she initially planned to stay for only a year to improve her English, she has been there ever since, albeit with regular visits to Spain every three months. It is there that her clothes are proudly made. Celia started the label while completing a Masters in Science in Mental Health, and launched her store La Coqueta in Hampstead after the birth of her fourth child. She is the mother to five children.

“I felt it was difficult to find in London very good quality clothes with a high level of finishing sold at reasonable prices,” she says. At first she took on a creative director role working closely with her manufacturers to develop her ranges. As the company has grown, Celia has taken on more of a design role. The popularity of her wares has extended beyond London too. Almost half of online orders are from outside the UK. “It has been a very pleasant surprise and I am so grateful for it every day hoping that this will still be the case in 20 years,” she says.

What was behind the decision to start La Coqueta? The decision to start La Coqueta mas motivated by the fact that I felt it was difficult to find in London very good quality clothes with a high level of finishing sold at reasonable prices. When I had my first child, I struggled to find colourful, well-made classic clothes and felt that my country had great products to offer. The fact that I was starting to have children developed an even bigger bond between myself and children’s clothes as they became so much part of my own life.

What had you been doing previously? 
I am a psychologist by training but worked most of my career in headhunting, specialising in big pharma and biotech companies. I stopped working when I had my first child, I went back to university to do an MSc in Mental Health and developed on the side La Coqueta. When I finished my studies and had my fourth child I decided it was the perfect time to follow my dream of making children’s clothes and start my own business as well as  opening my first shop in London, next to where I live.

What is important to you when designing children's clothes? When I look at children’s clothes what’s most important to me is that they are comfortable and easy to wash as well as looking beautiful. I have a fairly classic sense of aesthetics so the look of a garment is important to me but it must be practical, not only for the child who wears the clothes but for the mother as well when it comes to the maintenance of the clothes. This is the reason why all of our products are machine washable (even most of our hairbands), apart from our leather shoes!

How do you try to differentiate your products from others on the market? I try to offer the best-quality products we can afford as a brand with a high-quality finish at fairly reasonable prices even if that may mean that sometimes we need to make a cut on our margins. The fact that all of our products are “proudly made in Spain” is extremely important to us particularly now-a-days when there is a very strong will from mums to know where products are coming from ensuring ethical manufacturing origins. We have a very strong brand aesthetic and by staying true to our original concept I think we are able to differentiate ourselves well enough from other brands. When it comes to selling our product, it is always our aim to provide the best customer service experience ever - in our shop as well as online - so that people keep recommending our brand to their friends as well as coming back.

What has been completely unexpected since starting your business? The fact that people like my brand so much. By saying this I don’t mean to sound insecure but the customer demand has exceeded my expectations. Our online operations are growing rapidly and the fact that our customer pool is so international - nearly half of our online orders come from outside the UK - has been a very pleasant surprise and I am so grateful for it every day hoping that this will still be the case in 20 years.

What is something that people often don't realise about your wares? I think in general our customer is a very savvy one, they have realised that we offer a product that is of very good quality and they love the fact that it is a reasonably priced product. One thing I would say is that we love to raise awareness amongst our customers of the work involved in the manufacturing of some of our very special pieces. Our smocks for example, they are all handmade and there is an incredible “savoir-faire” behind every piece that makes it very special. Every piece is unique, made by somebody who has been following a family tradition in making smocks for dresses. I like our customers to know and appreciate the uniqueness of our smocks or some of our one-piece knitwear - with no hems - such as our Florida knitted set.

Where do you look to for design inspiration? My children are my prime source of inspiration. When I first started La Coqueta, I used to tell my customers that I would only do dresses. I had to slightly change my MO when my daughters Flavia and Siena asked me to get them trousers from a shop call “G-A-P”. I was secretly devastated so that motivated me to bring trousers that had a La Coqueta stamp on it. 

For general inspiration I go back to old pictures of my grandparents when they were children or post World War II pictures of Robert Doisneaux. I get influenced by fashion in terms of colour ranges but I try not to look around too much amongst my competitors so that I do not end up doing the same thing.

I love looking at blogs such as Kirsten Rickert, or From my dining table. They inspire me in some way, particularly when doing my own lookbook.

What do consider when dressing or styling children? The first thing I ensure is for the clothes to be nicely fitted. In my opinion there’s nothing worse when looking at traditional fashion than having children who wear clothes that are too big for them. I like when children wear the clothes rather than the opposite. I like the clothes to be short, nearly looking too small. I think it is very important to let the child’s personality shine through their clothes, again not the opposite. I like to look at children in a very timeless way.

What role do you want your products to play in a childhood? I want my clothes to be a great accessory to childhood, not to take a preferential part but more to be a continuation of a lifestyle. I want my clothes to remain timeless so that grandmothers can go back in time and think of their own childhood when they look at their grandchildren playing and wearing La Coqueta’s clothes. 

What was the last great children's book that you read? It is my old-time classic and favourite, The Little Prince from St. Exupery. I like it because it is not only for children and I’ve read it at least 10 times.

images courtesy of la coqueta and celia muñoz


No comments:

Post a comment