Louisa Rowland of fast-rising kids clothing brand ABC123Me
Interview Helen Baron
Absolutely Mama: How did you get involved in the kids fashion industry? Was starting a business difficult? Did you have relevant experience?
Louisa Rowland: While I worked in television before turning to childrenswear, my family has long been involved in menswear – my sister runs the tailoring firm Anderson and Sheppard as well as its beautiful haberdashery – so beautifully cut clothing has always been close to my heart. After the twins were born I found it incredibly hard to find clothes I liked for my boy, so I decided to draw on my love of menswear and develop my own range of children’s clothes. At that stage I had no idea how hard it would be to start and run my own business.
AM: Women often set up their own businesses in order to be more flexible, but it’s obviously not an ‘easy way out’. What do you think could be done to enable more women to get back into work?
LR: Having your own business is absolutely not the easy way out and on very long or very bad days when the samples haven’t turned up or the collection’s been lost in transit on the way to a trade show, I dream about working for someone else. I think having support is really important. For example, I recently read that Google run courses for parents who are starting their own business and I wish I’d known about that back when I started. The same goes for mentoring – there are many days when I would kill for an experienced mentor. While there are many mentoring schemes you can pay for (and of course the UKTI is an incredible resource), it would be great to have something government-backed to help determined young start-ups find their way.
AM: How would you describe being a mother of twins? Have you observed a special bond between them?
LR: I love being the mother of twins. The first four to five years were hard, there’s no denying it – there was a lot of disrupted sleep, a lot of simultaneous or back-to-back illness and a lot of missing one child’s school meeting because you’re in the other’s. But I can’t imagine it any other way now.
The bond between them is true love/hate; they’re like a 50 year-old married couple. They bicker, they tease, they fight and then they love – and the cycle starts all over again. My husband and I have always accepted that the most important relationship in our family is the one between Hardy and Elodie. That makes me incredibly happy because long after we’re gone, they’ll have each other.
AM: What have you learned from motherhood?
LR: That everything else pales in comparison to how much I love my children.
AM: What’s the most challenging thing about being your own boss – and the most rewarding?
LR: The most challenging thing is knowing when to stop – not opening that email last thing at night, not obsessively checking the delivery status on our collections. I’m also a huge pre-emptive worrier… the ‘what-ifs’ are way too important a part of my day.
The most rewarding moments are the successes, both small and large, from the delivery of a sample that’s totally on-point to an order from a shop you’ve admired your whole life. Those are good times.
AM: What sets your brand apart from others?
LR: The quality of our clothes consistently surprises me and others – from our customers to the shops that stock us to the other brands we meet at trade shows. They’re all shocked by the standard of our manufacturing and the quality of the fabrics and the finish. I’m really not exaggerating when I say that other designers regularly come to our stand at trade shows, feel our cottons and look at our jackets and express their surprise and admiration for the quality of our clothing. I’m not only very proud of this but also of the manufacturers we work with – family-run factories with high standards. I also think that the fact that our clothes are inspired by adult brands such as Acne, APC and Studio Nicholson sets us apart too.
AM: What do you and your family love to do over the Christmas holiday and what will you be doing this year?
LR: Christmas is all about family for us and we love a Christmas show – normally a pantomime and especially if it includes Jerry Hall. I tend to go crazy decorating the house and then getting out the unusual Christmas tree decorations that my husband and I have been collecting on our travels over the last 17 years.
This year I’d love to take the children to a Christmas market in Vienna or go to Kew Gardens for the Christmas walk, which we missed last year. Beyond that, we like to stay home, stay in our pyjamas for days at a time, eat the maximum amount possible and watch Beethoven 700 times. That, for us, is a great Christmas.