Pop star and actor Kimberley Walsh on turning her talents to kids clothing
Kimberley Walsh’s biography reads like a modern fairytale: plucky Yorkshire lass with dreams of stardom auditions for a TV talent show and doesn’t quite make the cut. But when another contestant is disqualified, she finds herself back in the running – and wins through to the final five.
The show, of course, was Popstars: The Rivals, and the final five of which Walsh was one would win national fame as pop group Girls Aloud. It’s now 16 years since Walsh and her counterparts were fast-tracked to fame and five years since they announced their split with an arena tour and second greatest hits collection. Walsh has used the time since to focus on acting, with roles in TV’s Ackley Bridge and West End productions, including Shrek The Musical and Elf: The Musical. Now she’s branching out once again, this time into children’s fashion, with her Kimba Kids line of boys clothing available to buy through high street giant, Next.
Walsh’s own nickname – given to her by Girls Aloud bandmate Cheryl Cole – is the inspiration for the name. And the range was born of Walsh’s frustration with the options available for her own two sons, and features bold, playful designs for kids aged two to 14. Here, we speak to her about the new venture, her inspirations and collaborating with her younger brother, Adam, on the designs.
What prompted you to design your own kids clothing line?
It came from being a mum to two boys aged three and one. Initially when shopping for them I found the options a bit dull and uninspiring, especially for boys. Everything seemed either monochrome or nautical and I was after something more fun. My brother works in the clothing industry, so the collaboration seemed like a natural one. We both had the idea and he had the capability to help with design and putting the samples into production. This is a labour of love for us. We had the idea after I had Bobby, my first child, and it’s been in the pipeline since – it didn’t get going until he was one and then I had my second child, so it’s been in development for some time and wasn’t something we wanted to rush.
Tell us about the collaboration with Next.
We’re launching exclusively with Next but we’ve produced everything independently. They were the first high street retailer to take the collection and have been really supportive throughout the process. I hope it’s not confusing as there are so many endorsements out there, but that’s not what we are.
How would you describe the first collection of Kimba Kids?
I don’t put my kids in anything that’s not comfortable. We’re focusing on everyday wear; comfort and affordability. That’s what’s been the guiding force behind this, so many of the items have ended up being jersey. We’ve got a brilliant factory and we’re really happy with the quality of the clothes. There’s plenty of colour because that’s what I felt was missing from the market. I’m always taking inspiration from around me, be that Instagram, fashion or pattern trends. I enjoy the freedom with childrenswear, which means you don’t have to follow fashion quite so doggedly. There are certain signature shapes that I think we will keep because I find that when kids like something they want to wear it again and again.
How have you found the experience of working with family?
I’ve loved being able to work on a project like this. Everything else that I’ve done in my career has tended to go at 100mph. My brother and I have put our heart and soul into it, so although it’s not like everything is riding on it, it would be lovely if our hard work pays off. It is hard juggling work and motherhood but with this project I could always take the boys into the studio – though I did tend to be less productive with them there! But it was handy when childcare lets you down and things like that.
How have you found life after Girls Aloud? Do you think you’ll have more kids?
I’ve done a lot of acting in the past. Ackley Bridge is a brilliant drama, filmed in Halifax, close to where I grew up. It’s nice to play characters that are a departure and I’m always looking at doing more acting. I’m doing a week’s residency of musical shows in Piccadilly, which is fun because I’ve enjoyed musical theatre since playing Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical. That was easier before having kids though. I did Elf: The Musical when Bobby was only 18 months old, which was challenging, so I tend to opt for shorter runs at this point. It’s always fun to see what’s around the corner in my line of work! And as for having more kids, I don’t necessarily know that I feel done! I think you just have to see if you both naturally get to that point – I wouldn’t be forcing my partner into it!