With winter in Florida being almost a non-event, I am always a little hesitant to buy myself warmer clothes, let alone something for Ronin! Lord knows he’ll be grown out of it in a hot minute. After looking for ages, I was contacted by Noreen Kidwai – an amazing children’s designer. Looking over her site, I was sold. I’ve never been a fan of dressing my little guy up in Carter’s and Gerber, so Noreen’s trendy duds were right up our ally. From pants to button-ups, her line for little gentleman couldn’t be sweeter. Ronin looks like such a little man in his Manhattan sweater and its comfy and light enough to wear in the car, house, and for play dates at the park! . I have definitely changed my opinion when it comes to children/baby winter-wear. I was lucky enough to interview Noreen and see just what her brand was all about.
AD: What made you want to start a children’s clothing company?
NK: It was truly happenstance after I had my son, Zidan. I’ve always been a big fan of dressing well and expressing life through style – whether it’s decorating my house, hosting gatherings or how I serve my food. When I had my son, I was super excited about all the cute little outfits I would dress him up in because for me, he was also an expression of my style. But as I scoured local malls and online stores for him, I was baffled but how limited the options were. It was amazing how the choices were so expansive for little girls yet I could find nothing more than characters, plaid or boring colors for little boys. Why should a mom be deprived of fashionable outfits for her child based on their gender?
After several episodes of frustration – our family photo shoot, his birthday and our holiday parties – someone jokingly said to me, “You have such an eye for style, I’m sure you could probably create something cooler than what you can find out there for your son.” And in that moment, my mind went through all sorts of synapses. I guess it couldn’t hurt to think about it – except who has time to think about venturing off into such new territory with a full time job and an infant!
At a minimum, I started doing some research to learn more about what’s out there and why I’m one of so many moms who are clearly longing for some stylish baby boy clothing. I remember going to Boston with my sister and walking the streets, pretending to be college students working on a school paper, asking parents their opinions on baby boy clothing. Fascinating stuff!
Anyway, after plenty of research, it was clear to me that the demand was definitely there and majority of parents were willing to pay top dollar for unique, high-quality products for their kids. I also noticed that those who value style and fashion are also keen on boutique brands so that their kids can stand out rather than blend in with all the mass-produce big retailers.
So it was that day back in the summer of 2012 that I decided to try designing my own mini collection. A new style-driven brand for baby boys of fashion-conscious moms – clothing that let’s little boys’ personalities shine through and allows them to express their style and leave an impact. It’s been a long and turbulent journey but totally worth it. Like they say, when you work out of passion, you always find the energy to make things happen.
AD: Where do you draw inspiration from?
NK: For my first collection, I really wanted to bring something that wasn’t done before or common for little boys. The number one thing was bold colors – all too often I find boring blacks, browns and blues for boys while all the fun is centered around girls clothing and accessories. I’m a huge fan of the color orange – also part of my brand identity- so I had to make that a part of the first collection! I did balance the palette with some neutrals as well, like the sand color you’ll see in the pants and one of the sweaters. I also wanted to weave in some European flair with the slim fit, metro-chic design and mix of hip/preppy yet cool. You’ll see that in the skinny pants with suspenders, color block sweaters and stripes (vs. plaid) for the shirts.
From my personal experience as a mom styling my son, I already knew the things that I loved and those that were more of a nuisance to dress him in. One prime example is jackets – while they’re all super cute and often very trendy, they rarely stay on for more than a few minutes. Meanwhile, sweaters for the chilly season have always been my favorite because you can dress them up or down, wear stuff over them or under them and they’re so cute and cozy. So part of my inspiration also came from my personal experience and observations about what works and what doesn’t.
Lastly, I really wanted to do something that would be an expression of me – a little flavor of Noreen Kidwai! I’m a fan of things that are different, expressive and leave an impact. I also wanted to allow people to mix and match the various pieces in the collection – so they’re not multiple pieces put together rather a carefully designed and planned collection. My future collections will follow the same philosophies.
AD: What makes you different from the other children’s companies out currently?
NK: I strongly believe every brand has their own individual identity. Their uniqueness is best preserved by what they offer rather than how they compare to others. Having said that, here are some things about what I offer and why I see myself as niche:
At the core my brand offers 3 things:
1. Design – metro-chic with elements that are unconventional for baby boys (bold colors, vibrant stripes, curved pockets etc.)
2. Quality – Italian wool imported straight from Italy (literally!), high-end pre-shrunk cottons, real leather suspender loops and more.
3. Local production – everything is made right here in New York…not China or India or Guatemala. More control, local talent, domestic economy.
There is NO other brand that offers all three together.
On top of that, I’m solely – and purposefully – focused on a very specific segment: boys under 24months. Reason is because this is where I see the biggest gap as a mom myself. Once you hit age 2, the options begin to expand because all the big brands start creating their line extensions to stay relevant to their target market. They’re not passionate about the age rather making sure they touch their audience in different ways. Not me. I’m very consciously trying to create more stylish options for mothers who care for high style clothing and are hard pressed to find them. Targeted focus.
And lastly, my entire MO behind venturing down this path is passion. I’m obsessed with aesthetics and a perfectionist when it comes down to it. I’m the crazy mother who spends time ironing out my son’s clothes to go to the grocery store! There is nothing that can compare to someone who is fueled by that sort of energy and commitment, not to mention personal experience.
AD: What is your favorite piece from your collection?
NK: Oh boy, that’s a tough one! I have spent countless hours on every single piece in my collection and to pick one favorite piece is a challenge. If I really had to choose one, I would pick the Soho Sweater – only because it was the very first piece that I designed and brought my brand to life. There is something about the way the collar falls, the one-sleeve stripes and overall color block blend that just speaks to me and most likely to everyone around the person wearing it! I also love the Manhattan sweater because of its meticulous raglan sleeve stripes – that match all the way from sleeve to sleeve – and its lightweight versatility. This sweater can be worn pretty worn three out of four seasons, if only babies didn’t grow out of them. I could go on about all the pieces in the collection but I suppose I should stop at two for now J
You may also find some more golden nuggets about me and my philosophy on my blog, in particular my very first blog: http://www.noreenkidwai.com/blog/life-with-kids/
Original post February 10, 2014 on http://www.atlanticdaydreams.com