Back to Beyond
Cute and made to ensure customers have a clear conscience? Laura Cartledge discovers the Arundel clothes brand which ticks all the boxes.
Arundel’s Kelly Lake admits she was seen as ‘the crazy hippy’ when she first started making clothes.
“But now it is a bit more cool, there are the crafting and making magazines, and knitting and crochet is on trend,” she smiles. “It is no longer about wearing a wonky dress your mum made.”
Her own business, which she ‘started scheming and getting things set up’ for last August, is proof that handmade can be very trendy indeed.
Back to Beyond was born out of the mum-of-two’s frustration and a desire to offer a solution to what she saw as two big problems with the children’s clothes on offer elsewhere.
First was that the choice was limited to the mass produced with ‘questionable ethics and sources’ or the ‘prohibitively expensive’.
And secondly that the market was oversaturated with pink and blue.
“There isn’t a good deal of choice outside of the butterflies and flowers when it comes to girls,” explains Kelly, who recalls how this sparked her creativity.
“Since my daughter was little I have been making clothes for her, I taught myself to sew.
“My mum was a textile designer and my dad’s family was in textiles so there is that, but it wasn’t my background.”
In fact Kelly has launched the online venture while currently on maternity leave with her son – from a job in financial services.
“It is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she confesses.
As well as being determined to create fun and interesting uni-sex designs, a key focus of the ‘covetable children’s clothing’ is that it comes ‘with a clear conscience’.
“It was almost accidental that I ended up using organic fabric – they were the first ones I saw and really liked,” admits Kelly.
Along with being strikingly patterned and luxuriously soft, the material has the benefits of being grown without the use of pesticides and Kelly ensures labour standards are at their highest.
“It is a huge massive ugly industry that I would rather give people an alternative choice to,” she says when talking about the clothing sector.
“As well as being a human rights issue it is a feminist one as a lot of the workers are women and when they get pregnant they get fired – they have no voice.
“It is not that it is impossible, it is not even that difficult, to eat and wear what you want to in a way that is ethical and sustainable.
“You just have to think about it more and put a bit of effort in,” she smiles.
“With my pieces people appreciate that they are buying something that hasn’t been made in horrible conditions at the cost of someone else.”
The collections, from the harem pants – that Kelly admits she has many adults asking for in their size – to the moccasins, all tick another box which is particular important to parents, that children simply want to keep them on.
“I had a lady who tried a hat on her son and when he didn’t take it off she bought it on the spot,” Kelly reveals.
“I bought a pair of the moccasins at Glastonbury last summer, my son was five weeks or so at the time, and they stayed on for the whole time which was a miracle.
“I was like, right, that needs adding to my shop,” she laughs, “we have far too many pairs of them, I need to keep less and sell more.”
Being able to make to order also means Kelly can help with other issues.
“One mum came up to me whose son had really bad eczema. She wanted to know about the fabric and it was great to tell her it was 100 per cent cotton with a bamboo blend in the elastic, and that I could make the garments with no labels in so there was nothing to rub against his skin.”
The overall attention to detail is, understandably, seeing Back to Beyond attract praise.
“The markets I do, in particular, are really positive – it is a real boost,” Kelly confesses.
“Sitting at my kitchen table my outlet to the world is the internet and it is hard to gauge what people think. But when you meet them and they can feel the fabric it reconfirms that I am doing the right thing.”
While the biggest challenge is to ‘trust her instincts’, Kelly says it is also why she is so passionate about what she does.
“I haven’t got any ambitions to take over the world with it, my priority is to keep it being what I want it to be.”
To find out more about Kelly’s creations, visit www.backtobeyond.com