Katie Hendrick sits down with Jessie and George to chat about the motivation behind their new brand and how to balance work and parenthood.
Recently I had a date in London with mother/ singer/ songwriter and popular podcaster Jessie Ware along with George Reddings – both co-founders of Anyware. George previously worked with Jools Oliver designing the super successful Little Bird Range for Mothercare.
As well as being a pop star Jessie also hosts her own podcast Table Manners with her Mum Lennie. The two of them serve up some home cooking whilst enjoying some kitchen table chat with guests from the world of pop and entertainment.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit in awe of this impressive pairing. However, it was Jessie’s little 9 month old that I couldn’t take my eyes off. My girls are now 11 and 7 and you forget so quickly those times with them as a baby.
We have all met up at the beautiful 5th Floor Bar at Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge. I’ve brought along photographer Julia Bostock & her lovely assistant Aurelie to take pictures to accompany the article.
Jessie and George are both warm and welcoming. George is well acquainted with Jessie’s son from all the cuddles and cooing that goes on, and so it’s obvious that this pair have spent some considerable time together in order to bring Anyware into the world.
I’m here to find out more about this collaboration by these two busy women and how they wanted to create a kidswear label producing timeless covetable pieces designed to last and be handed down through siblings, family and friends.
(Katie stumbles around with the recording equipment on the table)
Katie: I mean you’re the professional at this right?
Jessie: Oh please (laughing) I don’t handle any of the sound stuff (giggling) there’s somebody who does that. I just get people drunk… that’s my method.
Katie: Maybe that’s where we’re going wrong… we should be ordering gin and tonics!
Jessie: It’s 5 pm somewhere :-)
Considering how enticing the 5th floor bar at Harvey Nichols looks it testament to our professionalism (rather than the time of day ;) that we stick to water only. Jessie’s son though opts for milk, and rightly so.
As we settle down in our peachy booth Jessie and George explain how their partnership came about.
Jessie: We were set up…(giggles & smiles from both).
George: It was a blind date through mutual friends. Jessie had the seed of an idea about kidswear and our mutual friend who knew I had been in kidswear my whole career set us up! Then I went round to Jessie’s house where she produced three huge bags down from her loft filled with clothing from her daughter, who at that time was 18 months and had grown out of them…
We buy lots of clothing that children are in and out of for five minutes…. This was the seed of the brand… to design styles that fit the child for longer.
Jessie: Look I’m a guilty party with my daughter – you see things buy them, but they don’t last. So then I would buy doubles because I loved the jumper, but she would grow out of it in 3 months… Thinking about it it’s kind of gross how much I had, but it’s been lovely now putting my son in my daughters old clothing. He can’t fit into Anyware yet, but you know buy less, waste less…
Anyware have taken a different approach to their sizing by grading to height rather than age and maintaining a loose style meaning the sizes cover a much larger age range: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 rather than the more usual 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8
George: It’s difficult when you buy children’s clothes through age…you can have a really tall, or small four year old. We’re focusing on height, from the height of your child parents will know which size the child should fit into the Anyware size span. Making it easier for the parent to select the size, for longevity of the clothing they can roll up the legs or sleeves .
Jessie: Yes, you can cinch it in, or roll the sleeves up to get as much as possible wear out of the pieces. Which is really important because I was completely the opposite with my daughter. The aim is to savour these beautiful natural fabrics. They feel gorgeous and even better when they’ve been washed. Clothes for kids to play, move and live in to last.
George: We pick fabrics that wear, wash and get better…
Katie: What’s your take on seasonality of garments? When I was looking at the collections you’ve clearly made sure that the Anyware Spring/ Summer can be worn with Autumn Winter…
Jessie: Yes, everything can be teamed together. It’s a full collection so all the colours work together from Spring/ Summer and Autumn/ Winter. It’s very much about being as simple as possible to dress your child, everything looking stylish with fun colours, it all works together…
As we sit amongst the peachy golden tones of the Fifth floor bar George explains that whilst they currently manufacture in the UK they will possibly move production to Portugal. This is so that they can ‘go more organic’ as it’s difficult to achieve this currently in the UK.
Katie: Jessie so how involved are you in the designing of the collection?
Jessie: George is the designer but she listens to me a lot (very kindly). I’m a novice, this is a completely new world to me. I know what I like, I know how I like to dress my children, I know what I think looks great… George has been incredibly patient and generous with allowing me to be as involved as possible in the designing process.
Katie: What are you trying to say with Anyware?
George: I think we’re trying to push the simplicity of the clothing, keeping it a small tight range because all a child really needs is some long-sleeves, short sleeves, long legs & short legs. You don’t need to keep adding new styles. We didn’t have that when we were growing up, on a hot day you wore shorts and T-shirts, adding a cardigan over when it got cold. I’d love to go back to a simpler way of dressing…
We’ve stayed clear of big graphics that are again quite seasonal plus quite subjective. You might fall out of love with them, they might be cool now but in a couple of months they might not be. So we’ve kept it to classic shapes, classic stripes classics plaid.
Jessie: They are styles that you will love for your child, and (also) if you have another child in a couple of years… 3 or 4 years time they can also wear them. There’s a timeless quality about them, a certain nostalgia to our own childhood.
Katie: (laughing) Yeah, you can see that with the chord!
Jessie & George: (laughing and agreeing…)
George: It’s important to design the garment to not feel dated, and make the colours still fun. Fun but sophisticated. Kids love colour and we don’t want to be neutral.
Katie: Where do you see Anyware in the market, and who’s your end consumer?
George: Anyware sits at the lower end of the premium market. It’s about getting Anyware stocked in the right independents in the right places. We’re both trying to inspire people who have a love for giving back and doing the right thing for the environment.
Katie: Sustainable, organic even recycled materials seems to be becoming the norm…
George: It’s becoming much more mainstream to be organic. Ten years ago you couldn’t find the right fabrics they were very expensive! Now is becoming much more accessible. We’re trying to move away from single use packaging. Our goods come in a lovely fairtrade cotton string bag (you can use it afterwards) and the box we send out has a snakes and ladders game printed inside.
Katie: Engaging packaging, I like that!
Jessie: You don’t just throw it away! The packaging is focused around the child… Kids love boxes… We just wanted to add an extra bit of fun into it, an extra element to play and keep.
Katie: You both have families, how involved are they in giving their input?
George: I have two sons, the eldest is 15 and youngest 11. The younger one is very interested, he loves colour he loves fabrics, they’re very tactile. He goes through my bag of fabrics picking out things he likes, he’s very vocal…it’s been really fun to get his feedback.
Jessie: My daughter is wearing Anyware, she was there in mind for the making of the collection. I wanted to put her in everything. So it’s been really fun! She was at the shoot (laughing) it was her best life ever!!!
At this point Jessie’s son interjects with a small grumble about not getting enough milk. As if to make his point clear he adds a nod of the head, or a ‘wee head butt ‘ as we call it in Scotland. Point made we move on…
Katie: What’s your vision for the brand?
George: We’ve got ideas of where we can take Anyware out of the kid’s market, possibly to other sectors.
Katie: …like homeware?
Jessie: Yeah, well potentially I mean I have my podcast which I do with my mum…
Katie: Which I love by the way! (said like a total geek but honest!)
Jessie: Thank you, I don’t think it would be a surprise if we would be able to draw out from Anyware into home where it would be a natural thing for the brand.
Katie: Obviously, you’ve designed the packaging with snakes and ladders there’s a natural progression…
Jessie: I didn’t think about that but yes. I want people to feel like in years to come, like having your OshKosk dungarees or your favourite pair of Kickers…I want people to remember feeling brilliant in their Anyware pieces. That jumper that they couldn’t take off because it felt so lovely soft and cozy. Like nostalgia, I want their Anyware piece to be their cherished item. But they then hand over the cherished Anyware jumper on to their siblings, or to their friends. It’s something about that timelessness that’s so important.
Jessie’s little 9 week baby again chips in with an adorable grumble, though it’s unclear if it’s in agreement or objection to handing over his clothes to family and friends.
George: I’d much rather have the vision of this brand and the legacy that’s left being that people are starting to consider in investing in quality pieces and quality production, because at the end of the day there will be less wastage. You will have these pieces for longer and you will cherish them for longer… moving away from this throw away fashion.
Jessie: My best friend just had her first baby. She said the other day “I need to sort out my drawer – I’ve got all these presents but he’s already grown out of them and he didn’t even get to wear them”, because there is that kind of three-month mark and then six months and it’s like what a shame and what a waste.
Katie: That’s why I find the Anyware sizing by height really interesting.
The Baby gives a little grumble once again suggesting that rather than appreciating our conversation he wished to alert Jessie to a much more pressing issue.
Jessie: Do you mind if I quickly get a bottle for him, to top him up…
Katie: Of Course.
Jessie: How long did you breastfeed for?
Katie: Hard to remember, It was longer with my first than my second daughter. You go through so much angst….I really wanted to breastfeed but I never produced enough milk…. I remember crying a lot and being so upset….I didn’t want to give the baby a bottle as if it was poison…
Jessie: Oh babe (kindly identifying) I’ve been on everything like Domperidone and everything. My mum was like give him a bottle you’re driving yourself crazy.
Katie: That’s why grandmums are sooo good! My mum was like in amongst all my tears ‘for goodness sake, grabbed the baby and gave her a bottle’ My daughter was full and happy, and my tears dried up.
George: There’s so much pressure from all around. We were children of the 70’s, 80’s breastfeeding wasn’t the done thing then and we all survived.
Katie: We put ourselves under so much pressure for everything to be perfect…
Jessie: Exactly we’re all trying to be so perfect mate tell me about it. When you put yourself under so much pressure and everybody says it’s the most natural thing in the world but actually it’s bloody hard.
We spend a moment talking about the ups and downs of motherhood, the expectations both realistic and not when it comes to mothering a child. Jessie hugely admires how her mother managed to bring up her and her siblings on her own. Amongst her modern, multi-faceted, star studded London life there is a nostalgia for some of the previous generation’s values. A nostalgia and set of values that have found their way into the Anyware brand.
I ask Jessie about everything she has achieved over the past few years, from music to podcasts, collaborations, babies, Anyware etc, how does she keep it all going?
Jessie: (slightly embarrassed by acknowledging her own achievements) Well it’s having the best people around you like George. I mean George works on Anyware full-time and I am they’re being that annoying person like “me me me me me me”.
Katie to George: (laughing and teasing) Does she ever give you negative feedback?
George: (smiling) we usually pretty much agree…. I think initially I took a lot of inspiration from Jessie’s style. I think we had that down from the beginning …what the brand was going to be. So it’s very easy to design into that.
Jessie: It’s like proper honest (smiling).
George: Yes, otherwise it wouldn’t work.
Katie: Did it click when you first met each other?
Jessie: (Smiling) I was like who are you, you are fantastic and please can I be in your world. I’ve learnt so much and I’m so lucky to have had the chance to work with George. I would also be completely accepting if George said Jessie… I know more than you but she would never say that. We both respect each others opinions, and George had so many years of experience.
Katie: There is a beauty to inexperience, naivety, taking chances but with experience it’s also nice to not make the mistakes.
George: That’s the thing, it’s always been very important that the brand has a story and authenticity otherwise as there’s no point in doing it. I think there’s a real message in what we’re trying to do in changing people’s shopping habits. As a new brand we have a new responsibility to do something good. In a small part if we can empower and inspire somebody else to change the way they shop.
Katie: It’s important as well if you have the platform to do something like trying to change buying behaviour for the future generations
Jessie: I’ve been a terrible culprit as well…
Katie: We all have and we all are…
Jessie: Yeah you get trigger happy don’t you in the middle of the night, stuff the kids don’t need. We’re trying to simplify it..
Katie: It’s all a balance…
Jessie: Yes, if everybody does a little bit…then the world will be a better place. We’re really not trying to be on a soapbox and ram it down people’s throats. Just trying to do our bit…
It’s easy to be skeptical about pop stars, or celebrities starting childrenswear labels but Anyware is trying to do their bit to counteract fast fashion consumer buying, not in a preachy way but by creating a timeless collection that allows the customer to buy less by buying better and more intelligently.
As Jessie says she is not blameless in the practice of buying more, but she’s considering the implications of this and exploring better solutions. It’s having the platform and creating something where parents can make a choice. George is the perfect partner for this venture with years of experience in kidswear design. This accumulated knowledge enables her to draw upon Jessie’s own style to produce a stylish collection with sizing intended to prolong the time a child can fit the garment.
The collection is timeless, aimed to create nostalgia through wear, to cherish through siblings. Many of us aim at a simpler life, it seems Anyware shares this value and by offering us less choices perhaps ultimately we have a greater opportunity to put this into practice.
word by Katie Hendrick
photos by Julia Bostock