Fanny & Alexander make beautiful children’s toys which embrace the joys of analogue play
Words Holly Kirkwood
Fanny & Alexander are a gorgeous Argentinian brand which wants us and our children to reconnect with simpler ideas of play. The catalogue includes wood-carved toys, activity kits (like needlepoint and letter writing), and other handcrafted collectibles.
They are all beautiful things, made to last and be cherished, rather than used a few times and thrown away. We asked founder Delfina Aguilar about the inspiration behind her brand.
What inspired you to make beautiful toys and activity packs for children?
There was no eureka moment; it was a gradual process that revealed itself in various moments. Initially, it was observing my nieces and nephews and other children. The fact that they were always absorbed by video games or logged on to different digital devices prompted me to think that it would be interesting to complement that reality and those forms of play with other experiences, thus retrieving some wholesome aspects of what childhood was like in a previous era.
Do you think children’s play is something which is too commercialised these days? What led you to make this style of toy?
Another important factor in my motivation to launch F&A stems from my discomfort with the idea that most children play with toys that are merchandise and movie-franchise spin-offs as well as my concern that these days it’s the rare object in the toy chest that doesn’t require batteries. I felt the pressure to find an alternative more wholesome form of play.
I set myself the challenge to enrich the lives of children with analogue toys that are beautiful, simple, enduring and that encourage fantasy, imagination, creativity, and ingenuity. Fanny & Alexander was born soon after and has been committed to these principles ever since.
I also felt that the market was perhaps too used to the low price point of disposable toys, and that part of our mission was going to be to foster the idea that toys and other childhood objects convey values.
Buying and later disposing of plastic toys teaches our children something about how to relate to the world while interacting with our toys teaches an alternative worldview
Have you always been interested in design? Is this a sector you always worked in?
I was doing a marketing degree but left before completing my studies to work at National Geographic, I then worked for a period at Young & Rubicam, soon after I met my fiancé and left work to focused more on home-life.
I eventually started F&A as a part hobby part advocacy entity, I knew I wanted to promote analogue play but very quickly realised that I wanted to make it a business, I understood that for it to be sustainable in the longer term, I needed it to be a successful business.
As for design, it has always been an interest of mine, and my fiancé has a very deep passion for and is very knowledgeable about it, so it is something that we both share and appreciate together.
Is sustainability important to you?
It is, and I feel strongly that it should be important to everyone. Whenever we discuss sustainability, we should always keep in mind Charles Darwin’s quote “how paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children.”
I think it is important to understand that our actions today have consequences in the future and we should be mindful of this and encourage children from an early age to be conscious of this as well.
Having said that, it’s also equally important I believe, to recognise that sustainability has become a marketing trope that is at times less than sincere.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far for your business?
Launching F&A has been a considerable challenge and a great satisfaction. It is not without its share of difficulties, though. For instance, we would love our line to be very accessibly priced.
However, the noble materials we use and the rigorous craftsmanship of our products are valuable and must be recognised as such, which in turn conditions our pricing. Noble materials are expensive. That is to say, our quality standards come at a price.
Dealing with several different small artisan producers is quite challenging, dealing with small quantities is fine but the moment you begin to deal with scale it becomes problematic. I think the single biggest change has been simply operating in Argentina; my country is very beautiful but not the easiest country to do business in. It’s a country that is too often romanticised, but the reality is quite starkly different from what people imagine or from what people experience on a short vacation.
What’s the most fun thing about your job?
It’s hard to list one favourite thing; I think there are several that I find equally fun, satisfying and rewarding. Constantly thinking about the concept of childhood is something that brings me great joy, as is meeting and learning from F&A customers.
What’s next for the brand?
We aim to continue to have a very tight and focused product range and expand on that range very selectively. We expect to be adding a couple of new items to the range very soon and I’m also currently in the early research stages of producing a book that is aimed at children and parents. I’m very excited about what I have ahead of me.
Do you spend a lot of time in London?
I do. My fiancé grew up in London so I have a very deep love and appreciation of the city. I visit as often as possible and feel more at home there than anywhere else.
Are you looking at new outlets in London?
Our plans are actually to open our own online store; we currently have 10 stockists in the UK including Moon Picnic, Tea and Kate, Little Goldie, Acorn & Pip, Mabel Child, The Mini edit, Cox & Cox, Home of Ada, Marshes & Flint and Hop of Hackney.
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