Put simply, PLAY etc. is just fun. Fun clothes, fun packaging and above all else, a fun ethos that sees kidswear with a hint of nostalgia combine function and form effortlessly. Founders Bronwyn Mccahon and Kristiina Rose-Inez came up with the idea of designing a kids’ label after they both left the magazine industry with a desire to start their own businesses, and after having young kids, creating a childrenswear line that avoided fussy zips and buttons made sense...
“The catalyst for starting a children’s clothing label was a conversation with Bron about all the ideas we have had over the past 10 years. The recurring issue was the same – we were always coming up with great ideas but hadn’t committed to starting and giving it everything we had. We still have a million ideas so the greatest challenge at the moment is staying focused, doing one thing well and if we can get that right we will expand the offering,” explains Kristiina, while co-founder Bronwyn shares the same sentiment,“So did I think I would launch a kids range? I think yes. I always thought Kristiina and I would eventually get our acts together and do something and that something was always going to be kid-related and crafty.” With a range full of bright colours, sweet prints and adorable detailing (think striped bows, tassels and extra large pockets), we know this is one brand that will appeal to both big and little kids with a penchant for clothes that scream FUN in every way imaginable. Keen to hear more? Step right this way. Words: Marisa Remond | Go to www.playetc.com,au
Talk us through how you met, how long you've known each other and how you came up with an idea for a childrenswear line?
Kristiina and I met back in 2007 when we were both working at ACP magazines. I had just finished editing Dolly and was now Editor of Cosmopolitan and Kristiina was the National Advertising Manager on Cosmo so we worked closely on a daily basis. I can’t even remember the exact moment our work friendship spilt over into a personal friendship outside of ACP, but it was probably helped by the fact we both had cycling obsessed husbands who bonded instantly. Both Kristiina and I have a secret crafty side (I have a cupboard full of crochet blankets I’ve made for the kids!). We’ve tossed around business ideas many times over the years, always in the kids’ space and always something that fed our crafty, creative sides. With full-time jobs and young kids we never really had the time required to get anything off the ground, so when we both stepped back in our careers last year it gave us the perfect opportunity to really throw ourselves into something… and here we are introducing PLAY etc.!
Talk us through your career paths...
Bron: My entire career has been in magazines. I moved from Brisbane to Sydney when I was 21 and with no place to live, very little money and zero contacts in the industry, I somehow hustled my way in to Mia Freedman’s office, who was Editor of Cosmo at the time and thankfully she saw something in me and hired me on the spot as her assistant. It was Mia and that moment in her office that set me on a career path that I have loved every minute of. Once at Cosmo, I moved through the ranks as Production Editor, Beauty Editor, Features Editor and then in 2004 I was made Editor of Dolly magazine. I spent three years in the trenches of teenage angst and then moved back to Cosmo as Editor-in-Chief. I basically worked on two brands, two floors apart, in the same building for 17 years! After a decade editing Cosmo and with three young kids at home I decided in 2016 to step down and try something new and allow me to be around a bit more for the kids. I’ve got a couple of projects on the hop, which ironically makes me the busiest I’ve ever been, but it’s my time, my pace and my decisions. Kristiina: After finishing up at uni I worked at Zenith Media and soon after, switched from media planning to advertising at ACP Magazines. I loved and still love magazines and it was exciting to be working on iconic mastheads like Harper’s BAZAAR, NW, The Australian Women’s Weekly and Cosmo when the Packer family were still running the business. The women’s lifestyle group was run by Lynette Phillips at the time and when Lynette opened the doors of MAXMEDIALAB/MAXCONNTECTORS in 2012, I had the absolute pleasure of starting as media director working alongside Lynette and beautiful clients like Hermes and La Prairie. Lynette is an incredible nurturer of talent; brings out the best in brands and people and has the brilliant ability to think 10 steps ahead. Her attention to detail is beyond and I adored working there. The catalyst for starting a children’s clothing label was a conversation with Bron about all the ideas we have had over the past 10 years. The recurring issue was the same – we were always coming up with great ideas but hadn’t committed to starting and giving it everything we had. We still have a million ideas so the greatest challenge at the moment is staying focused, doing one thing well and if we can get that right we will expand the offering. I remember writing something in our school yearbook about going into fashion design so now finally, 20 years later, cutting into dress patterns; pulling out the sewing machine and going through boxes and boxes of fabric samples and trims has been so much fun.
Bron, what has it been like stepping away from the world of magazines. Did you ever envisage yourself founding a kidswear line?
It’s been an interesting experience actually. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought after 10 years editing Cosmo and 14 years working on the brand in total, I would find it hard to disassociate myself from being “Cosmo”. But actually, it was really easy. I really felt that I had done everything there was for me to do there and even though making the decision to leave was a hard one I mulled over for about a year, when I finally did it, I think I’d already disconnected. I had no regrets and didn’t feel It was premature or that I would be missing out on anything. Of course, I miss my team and the comradely of working in an office of awesome women. And the beauty products, I miss the free beauty products. But my interests and priorities had shifted and if I’m honest, I’d lost my hustle. When I think of 21-year old me bursting into Mia’s office with absolute confidence of getting a job, I’m so impressed with myself! Professionally, I hadn’t really had to push myself outside any comfort zones for years, so this past year has been such a big learning curve. I left Cosmo not knowing what I wanted to do. I turned down some great job offers early in the piece because it didn’t feel right, it felt like kind of more of the same. Even though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to, I knew that whatever was next needed to be different. And I needed to learn again. So did I think I would launch a kids range? I think yes. I always thought Kristiina and I would eventually get our acts together and do something and that something was always going to be kid-related and crafty.
What is the idea behind PLAY etc. and why is it unique in the market? How long have you been working on the launch?
PLAY etc. is a bit of a nostalgic nod to our own childhoods – long days, good times with friends and simple pleasures. We wanted to create a range that kids would remember as adults. I still have my favourite dress from when I was five years old – it’s pastel gingham and I ADORED it. It holds so many lovely memories and we wanted to create that for other girls – especially our own daughters. We have tried as much a possible to do away with zips and buttons so that girls can easily dress themselves. It’s been a year in the making and we’ve learnt A LOT. It’s been like learning a whole new language. We’ve made so many mistakes but we’ve had so much fun doing it and we know so much more now than we did this time a year ago.
What is your strategy with social media - how are you approaching this and what are your tips?
We plan to use social media to set the scene for what people can expect from PLAY etc. With a brand name like this, we hope to inject a whole lot of fun to our Instagram posts: to be playful, creative, colourful and put smiles on faces. In the past, we had both worked on established brands with strict guidelines about how the brand name appears, image usage etc. so starting something from nothing has meant we have done a lot of thinking, re-thinking, over-thinking about how we want our Instagram page to look. Now we just have to get cracking and tell family, friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues about it!
What are your tips for building a brand from scratch? Do you have a business plan? Do you think a business plan is important?
Creating a consistent and clear brand personality is key and it has to flow through every touchpoint of the brand. We jumped in and did everything on the fly. A formal business plan with SWOT, PEST analysis, no, but we have a very clear idea of what we want to create; how we want it to look; our pricing and distribution strategy. We’ve started small, doing girls 0-8 years, a minimal viable product if you like, to test the market and see if people like what we’re doing. Hopefully they do and then we’ll roll out boys and maybe women too! We discussed a budget we were both willing to commit early on and we’ve kind of stuck to that, more or less.
Founders Bronwyn Mccahon and Kristiina Rose-Inez
How have your previous roles/career prepared you for what you're doing now? What skills have come in handy?
We have complementary skill sets which is essential. I approach things with a very editorial mindset and Kristiina has that commercial magic. We are both creative and love plans, lists, timelines. We’re also fortunate to have friends in the industry support us with getting the brand out there. We’ve been reaching out to our friends and contacts to ask for advice along the way and it’s been so lovely to see how genuinely enthusiastic people have been to offer their assistance. Our former magazine boss and friend Lynette Phillips of MAXMEDIALAB has been incredibly generous with her time and expertise in helping us launch to market and so many of our friends are chomping at the bit to help spread the word.
Any mum hacks you can share with us?
One of the perks of having your own business is being able to work when you want to or can. We both juggle school drop-offs and pick-ups, after-school activities and dinner/bath/bed routines, so we usually try to get together for a few hours while the kids are at school and then we divide and conquer at night. Fortunately, we’re both people who enjoy being on their laptops while watching TV. We love a list too. We write them everyday to keep us on track. Each day there seems to be new things that urgently need doing, so we need our lists to keep us on task. I find the mornings I push myself out of bed to go to the gym are my most productive, not only because I’ve got all those endorphins pumping around my body, but I also feel smug that by the time I drop the kids at school I’ve already done exercise, sent a few emails and texts on the walk to the gym, dressed and fed three kids, made lunches, put on a load of washing and dressed myself. I feel exhausted even writing that! But that sense of getting shit done really powers me for the day and I’m so much more productive than if I have a slow start to the day.
Talk us through your partnership with Room To Read…
We’ve both spent our careers working on brands that empower and support women, so we wanted to continue doing something that championed and encouraged girls to live their best life. After researching many charities focused on girls’ education we decided that Room to Read was the organisation we wanted to partner with and luckily they felt the same. Room to Read is a not-for-profit organisation which supports girls’ education and literacy in developing countries. 84 cents out of every dollar goes directly to the education program – this is high compared to some other charities. Keeping girls in school so they can reach their potential is something we’re both really passionate about so together with Room to Read we established that every piece sold from our range, be it a dress or a headband, would educate a girl for one day.
Favourite way to spend a summers day with your family?
We live in Bondi, so our perfect day is usually morning walk and coffee, early beach session before the crowds hit, lunch at Pizza and Porchetta sitting outside with a glass of rose so we feel like we’re in Italy! Then home via one of the playgrounds. We have trivia night with the kids on the weekend. It’s a tradition from my childhood which I LOVED as a kid. We go around in a circle asking the kids age-appropriate questions and if they get it right, they get a Smartie (it used to be those Violet Crumble squares when I was a kid, which is nuts when you think we were asked about five questions each!), Smarties are just fine!
Favourite kid-friendly places in Sydney?
Bron: Pizza and Porchetta in Bondi for lunch or dinner. Nubo in Alexandria for rainy day activity. Kristiina: Morning coffee always from Wolf in Paddington. There’s always kids, dogs, bikes getting under everyone’s feet but it’s local and a great way to start the morning. Big Mammas in Woollahra and Italian Bar, Paddington. Courtyard pizza.
Couldn't have launched this business without...
1. Kristiina! It’s been a true partnership from the beginning and we’ve both taken on extra loads when the other couldn’t. We’ve both been renovating our houses while launching this business so it has been hectic to say the least! 2. Our husbands, sounds so cliché, but they’ve been so supportive. And Kristiina’s husband Alex has kept us fed and caffeinated on days when we’ve hardly had a second to breathe. 3. Our broader network of family, nannies, teachers and friends. The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is no understatement. Without the support of this network, it would be completely impossible to start a new business.