Meet Charlotte Denn, childrenswear designer and mama of three
Tell us a bit about your brand and how it started
I started What Mother Made a few years after having my first daughter. I love fabrics, the texture, patterns and details and used to make clothes for her. It’s never really stopped, I suppose. I was interested in taking classic shapes and silhouettes and modernising them with fabrics and details. We started on Broadway Market and the reaction I was getting to the clothing was really positive, so we decided to make a real go at turning it from an interest and passion into a career.
I had no prior knowledge of the business side so that’s been a total learning curve and I’m still learning now, but with the help of some incredibly talented friends I’ve been able to bring to life the personality of the brand and create one that feels different to everything else out there.
Why did you decide to open your own brick-and-mortar shop/studio?
I think the provenance of the clothes we buy is so important and we’ve always been honest and transparent about where our fabrics come from and the fact they are handmade in Hackney. Our previous studio in Dalston was tucked away and we had no capacity to invite the public in. Opening a shop and studio felt like a brilliant way of telling that story more clearly. We make the clothes in the studio, walk three metres to the front of the shop and display them. It was also really important for me to offer a space in which we could upskill the community. In the near future we will be working with Quest to provide design and basic sewing workshops for teenagers – hopefully inspiring another generation of makers.
It looks beautiful. How did you go about designing the space?
I’ve never designed a shop before but had a clear view of what I wanted the shop and studio space to become. Sitting alongside the clothing, there are brands that focus on different areas and stages of parental life. Diaries and stationery, reusable coffee mugs as well as gifts for expectant parents. Having three children myself, I really understand what parents need and tried to stay true to that.
What are the tenets of good practice in childrenswear design?
I think the main principles of childrenswear design is for the clothing to be playful, vivid, evoke memories of our own childhoods and put smiles on faces. Durability and comfort are key.
How do you approach designing each collection?
I’m inspired by old pictures from my childhood and those of my family. I build from there. Once I have an idea I’ll research fabrics and how I can use them to make garment patterns interesting and different. You can plan and sample until there aren’t any hours in the day left, but I generally know I’m on the right path because I get excited about the end result. I’ll then sample a few of the garments at the market to see what reaction they get. There are classic shapes that won’t ever leave the collection as they have become so popular and almost synonymous with the brand too.