Meet LITTLECIRCLE’S Anna Bromilow (Hint: she’s Elle Macpherson’s stylist)



As former fashion director of Tatler magazine, Anna Bromilow knew that a career change after her second daughter was born would have to involve fashion, but also give her the freedom and flexibility of working around her two daughters, Martha and Georgia...

It was a sentiment best friend Lisa Picardo Hill shared as the mother to Rocco and Coco-Rose, having forged a successful career as an executive director with Morgan Stanley Private Equity. Together, they built LITTLECIRCLE with an emphasis on beautiful children’s clothing that is the antithesis of fast fashion, with the option to resell the brands they stock as pre-loved items in exchange for store credit within their ‘Recircle’ platform.

Now, with five children between them (Anna welcomed her third daughter, Theodora, last year), they’ve got the juggle between motherhood and running their own business down to a fine art, but that often means working late at night and on weekends to prioritise family time first and foremost.

We recently caught up with the entrepreneurial and stylish mother of three to talk about how motherhood has changed everything from her approach to work and personal style, what it was like working with the late Isabella Blow, being Elle’s stylist, and how bypassing the high street and buying better for kids is as much about quality as it is about the environment.

Photography: Helene Sandberg | Go to www.littlecircle.co.uk


I had an idyllic childhood in Hampstead Garden Suburb…

A charming, very happy and memorable start to life. The family home of 35 years was a clematis-covered arts and crafts house that my parents, with enormous talent and hard work, made utterly beautiful. My mother had an incredible eye for design and would stay up late into the night painting walls, making curtains and cushions whilst my father (an architect) built her vision. My two brothers and I were reluctantly dragged through haberdashery departments and around antique fairs. So design was a big thing. Materialism, however, was not – they were true parents of the 70’s. I don’t remember the toys I had, but the things I did. Music was huge. I played the piano, violin and viola and was in various orchestras and chamber groups. We’d paint and grow flowers for the local horticultural show, take part in tennis competitions in the club at the end of our road. One of my earliest memories is being dressed up in Edwardian garb and boaters with my brothers to be ‘Three Men in a Boat’ at the suburb fete. Of course, my father had made the boat and my mother the costumes. It was a beautiful, almost countrified existence but in the heart of London. My father drove but my mother did not, so my overriding childhood memory is of holding her hand, walking in the sun.


I don’t think I had any preconceived ideas of motherhood…

I didn’t have a younger sibling, no nieces or nephews and all of my peers pretty much had children at the same time as me so we were all thrown in at the deep end together! My only benchmark was my own childhood and my mother made it seem pretty effortless. I didn’t know what had hit me, in terms of love and exhaustion. I had an awful lot to learn. Overwhelmingly it has taught me that patience, calm and a sense of humour is everything with kids. They push you to the limits and feed off your reaction to it. You are their greatest influence, you lead by example – what you show them now stays with them for eternity. Bad behaviour is, of course, met with stern discipline but I often try and cajole them out of a bad mood by making them laugh rather than getting frustrated with them. Life ultimately throws some curve balls and disappointments. An ability to see the funny side in the face of adversity is the greatest lesson you can learn.

I am also beginning to realise over time that perfection in motherhood is impossible (however much certain Instagram accounts would have you believe). You cannot maintain absolute order, particularly with three kids, so I am starting to cut myself some slack… the OCD is beginning to take a back seat. I have learnt that my children see the truest side of me and bring out the very best version of me. There is a personal freedom when I am with them. I literally let loose. We dance around the kitchen, sing at the tops of our voices. The frustration and hard work pale into insignificance – it the sheer joy that you remember.

Finally, an obvious one but it has to be said, motherhood has also taught me that there is nothing, absolutely nothing is as important as family. My children and husband are everything to me, without doubt, the greatest joys of my existence. I would sacrifice anything for them. So to say having children helps put perspective in your life and prioritise in a pretty binary way is an understatement.


I am probably overwhelmed on a daily basis…

I’m my harshest critic, a perfectionist and take multi-tasking to a whole new level. So there is the niggling feeling of never quite doing any one single job to the best of my ability! I would also love to have more time to just sit and play with my children, something I make a concerted effort to do, but often find the to-do list hanging over me. Life does seem to be going at a frantic pace, but rather than fight it and ache for downtime, I’m trying my hardest just to roll with it. There will come a time when the children are less demanding, but also less interested. In years to come, when my girls are teenagers and leaving home, I’ll look back on this crazy time as the golden years so I’m here to embrace it and the chaos. Inevitably letting off steam with my fellow girlfriends and a glass or five of bubbly is the best remedy for motherhood stress. And my husband, who is just about as chilled as it gets, helps me to wind down and is constantly planning fun nights out, trips abroad, social events where we can just take a bit of time out to be husband and wife.


My advice would be to try and enjoy the moment because it races by in a flash…

Most things with kids are a phase and whatever struggle you are dealing more often than not passes. When you first have a newborn you think it can’t get any tougher, the sleep deprivation, the lack of freedom, the constant upkeep of this miraculous and strange being. In hindsight, that’s the easy bit. You realise as they get older that you really need your wits about you, the mental and emotional engagement is full on. And the roles required are extensive – Agony Aunt, Encylopedia, Detective, Diplomat… all the while knowing that your actions feed into moulding this person. The pressure is on! You can only do your best at every stage. I’m not a diary writer but I have found that every so often sitting down and making some notes about memorable moments and important milestones is essential. I have a series of little Smythson notebooks that I treasure. Your memory and ability to recollect is never the same… so write it down. And be kind to yourself. You really can only strive to do your best.


I was always absolutely obsessed with clothes and fashion…

My mother made me the most insane wardrobe when I was a little girl, all smocked Victoriana, pinafores and peter pan collars. I still have a Little Bo Peep dress that she created for a party (layers of antique floral cotton with a rose pink velvet sash) and my first pair of suede boots that I wore until my toes curled up in agony inside. Clothes gave me a real thrill. Even at such a young age, I realised what I was wearing had an impact on my mood. So when I discovered Vogue probably at about nine or 10, I was hooked. It was also the era of the supermodel which held some serious allure. I fell in love with the glamour and sophistication they represented – posters of Christy and Eva were stuck to my wall rather than teenage pop stars. There was a glossy, aspirational, exciting world out there and I wanted to be part of it. It was a little later that I worked out what a ‘Fashion Editor’ did. I read History of Art at Bristol and did Life Drawing at The Slade and needed to channel my creativity somewhere – it felt like the perfect match.


I interned at Vogue when I was still a student…

I was pretty eager, going above and beyond what was asked of me (I remember reorganising the whole of the fashion cupboard late one night) and just couldn’t get enough of Vogue House. Walking through that iconic revolving door set my heart racing. I remember being in absolute awe of the fashion editors, listening in on their fascinating conversations with photographers in the open plan office and wondering how on earth I could make it happen for myself. The biggest thrill was the first issue I worked on – the silver Millennium collectors issue – and seeing it in print. I have every issue of Vogue from the mid-90s and that particular one shall be treasured.


I feel really very fortunate to have worked with magnificent Issy…

Geordie Greig (the editor at the time) took some time to appoint her to the role and it was big news when it finally did happen. I was a touch apprehensive about her eccentric reputation and had no idea really what to expect of this strange creature. Issy typically arrived with a bang, in a cloud of Fracas, chain-smoking and heavily corseted. You would know when Issy had entered the building. She was electric. I had honestly never met anyone like her in my life. I was terrified and spellbound and very very keen to impress her. We bonded over my history of art background and she liked the way I dressed so she immediately took a punt on me. She would direct the shoots and I would style. It was a roller coaster from beginning to end. Full of dizzy highs and crushing lows. Issy was notorious for putting her mignons into shoots-  I was bullied into being in a few and to this day cringe at the thought of the patchwork, skintight Gaultier jumpsuit she made me wear running through a cornfield (I was threatened with dismissal if I refused). Issy was a risk taker and a thrill seeker in work and in life. The mundane just wasn’t an option. She would often walk past my computer where invariably I would be in the middle of doing some vital piece of work, and she’d pull the plug and swear at me. We’d go off to an exhibition and she’d give me a ticking off about how we must always be inspired. Forget the admin. Creatively she taught me that with light there is always shade, you must always have the two, a bit of friction, contrast. She had absolutely no interest in the commercial world, everything was driven emotionally and she really pushed me creatively. I could go on for days, with countless, hilarious stories of her setting off fire alarms, losing essential garments of clothing in public, befriending utter strangers and commissioning them on shoots. She was the last of the genuine creative eccentrics in fashion.

As fashion director at Tatler, I attended all of the shows in New York London, Paris and Milan and planned the season’s fashion content. I would come up with concepts for shoots, teaming up stylists and photographers to make each project a reality. Or I would style them myself. I managed the fashion team, overseeing front of book and accessories. And I would work with the advertising team to make sure our shoots had enough commercial resonance. The best part of the job was having creative freedom, working with some inspiring photographers and travelling all over the world. The worst was the having to produce these shoots. At the time we had no booking department and all logistics were in my charge. It’s made me pretty adept at organising events and trips but it was a stressful aspect of the job at the time. As a fashion director, it’s also sometimes a case of reinventing the wheel – trends are so cyclical that you have to keep your interpretation and ideas fresh and progressive.


I did miss walking into that iconic building every day, the familiar faces and rituals of the place…

Also the association of working for a glossy Condé Nast title – it’s quite the door opener. The designer gifting was a habit it was hard to let go of as well. But everything changed for me personally and professionally after my second child and it was the right time for me. I needed to leave the comfort and familiarity of Condé Nast and expand my horizons, particularly with the flexibility of work in mind. It was important to me to spend as much time with my children as possible whilst pursuing my personal ambitions. I’d always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to start a slick commercial enterprise so when Lisa and I came together with our concept it was a no-brainer. In hindsight, it was just at the cusp of the major digital change for magazines when everything was changing and the role of the glossy becoming less relevant. I’m so grateful to have been part of the old school (when magazine editorials had resounding impact) and to now be forging my own way in the new world of fashion.


Motherhood undoubtedly changes you in a professional context…

It makes you focus on the job at hand even more, forces you to be supremely time efficient because you realise just how little of it you now have! Also personally I think I’d been a bit of a people pleaser before having children, always saying yes, wanting to do the right thing and bending over backwards to deliver. I took a year’s maternity leave with my first daughter, during which time I started taking on more freelance and consultancy roles, in particular working with Elle MacPherson as her personal stylist. I definitely returned to Tatler with a different head on my shoulders, with a changed personal dynamic. Bringing a child into the world is the most empowering, ultimate achievement. It enabled me to say no, guilt-free, made me see the big picture and I guess be more focused on my personal ambition –  if I was going to spend time away from this new love in my life, it had to be for very clear, heartfelt reason. I absolutely loved my job at Tatler, couldn’t have been happier or creatively more fulfilled but I also had this inner voice telling me to move forward into a new chapter. Time out and the experience of motherhood, in the end, gave me the confidence to go in alone.


The beginning stages of having a newborn are tough and we knew that with busy work lives and two other children, severe sleep deprivation was going to be tough…

So we outsourced! We have a great family friend who is a nanny and she’s been doing some nights. I always found breastfeeding a bit of a struggle (particularly as my babies are normally premature) and in the past have ploughed on through, often in tears, feeling like a partial failure that I wasn’t supplying like a jersey cow. This time I’ve been a bit more realistic about what my body can do and what I can mentally take! Also due to needing to travel with work I’ve turned to my best friend, the pump, to help have some control over feeding. There is nothing in this world like skin to skin but I’ve found this time there hasn’t been a huge amount of time to bask in the baby bubble.


My new mum must haves are…

Elle Macpherson Maternity Bras – she gave me a ton and I live in them. They are probably some of the sexiest lingerie I own!

YAWN PJs – a very clever present from a friend who was stumped at what to get for the third!

Gucci Princeton Loafers– have been a godsend- fur lined slippers basically

Polder black and gold checked jumpsuit– again, a glammy version of PJs

Harry Rocks gold initial necklace– I have already added a monogrammed disc for my new little one

March 11 – I love dramatic boho and there are reams of the stuff out there at the moment- great for breastfeeding and hiding the post-partum bulge

Wide cropped jeans- from a multitude of brands from MiH to Zara.

Spanks – they have definitely come out for cocktail/event dressing


I think a combination of motherhood and age has made me much more confident…

I used to be very slick and minimalist in my dressing, mainly wearing black or grey. These days I fully embrace colour (not just in my dressing but interior taste too). A lot has changed for me in the past five years, and I want a more vibrant, daring and vivacious aesthetic. Life is to be celebrated. Clothes absolutely change your mood and I feel more exotic and vivacious in a less sombre attire. Alessandro Michele makes me happy! I also rarely wear heels anymore. The higher the better for nights out but my daywear has to be practical. You normally find me in a blouson boho dress or kaftan with Marant sandals, or a sweatshirt and some kind of midi skirt with Gucci loafers.


My mum fashion essentials are…

A great cross-body bag – you need to be hands-free and I ditched the tote a long time ago. I’ve got tons from black Guccis to my friend Shwetha’s bright boho numbers.

Great underwear, the body sadly, is never quite the same.

Invest in a parka or cool oversized mac with a hood. It is always, without fail, raining on the school run. Umbrellas are not an option with three kids. APC normally deliver.


I have known my business partner Lis since university…

We were in the same halls at Bristol and then lived together in our final year. I can’t imagine a time before I knew her. She is part of my family and feels more like a sister than a friend. It is a dream come true to be working with her. I lost my mother three years ago and found it incredible therapy to be going to work and seeing her most days.

We never really have a typical day! Our working life is full on, action-packed but also fluid and flexible in its approach, like most modern new businesses. The office can be at home, on the Eurostar, in Soho House, at the studio shooting…

It’s important to both of us to do the school run and be with our children so tend to work late into the night. But I think this is also a result of us being workaholics and control freaks. I don’t think either of us are really ever off duty apart from when we both escape London in August.

Lis and I bring different attributes to the table and complimentary skill sets. I naturally fall into the fashion/creative/PR and events side of the business but Lis has an incredible eye and our contribution to the business most certainly overlaps. All big decisions are made together. We tend to have the same taste and therefore are decisive and in tune when making creative choices.


For me personally, my lack of IT skills were pronounced when I started my own business…

As a fashion director, there was no requirement for Excel or Powerpoint – it was all about networking, spotting talent, communicating and using your eye. With your own company, you need to have a handle on all aspects of the business, so it’s been a steep learning curve but a surprisingly rewarding one! I am in awe of all that Lisa is capable of, from graphic design to coding – there is nothing she can’t set her mind to and achieve. As control freaks we also both find it difficult to hand over the reigns as the company expands, but we are learning. It’s all about taking the time to find the right people, and we’ve been very lucky with our developer and assistants. Once you’ve done the job yourself, you know what you are looking for.


Right from the get go the reception to our modern circular concept has been resounding…

People love the idea of buying ‘better’ with a view to getting something on the way out. It makes total sense and the reaction is always ‘I wish I’d thought of that!’ which is very satisfying. What’s also been interesting is that pretty much the minute a new item is listed, it sells. Our RECIRCLE platform really appeals to people and enables the website to hit two types of audience. We always knew that with the resale of childrenswear would welcome a streamlined version of our mainline- children run around and often ruin their clothes. So the type of item that comes back has been loved and cared for – larger sizes, richer colours and smarter styles are the general trend.

How does it work? It’s very simple, you send in your preloved item (making sure it is clean and clearly labelled) and everything else is done by us! Once you’ve agreed to our recommended resale price, we photograph it beautifully, list it, and the proceeds of your sale turn into credit for you to invest in another gorgeous LC item.


Childrenswear is a booming 6 billion pound UK business in the UK and highly competitive…

Children’s items fit for a limited amount of time and as a result fast, cheap, high street fashion is an obvious choice. So what we are offering is and has to be different. The focus for us is a unique design, better quality from skilled, often undiscovered artisans – it’s important to us to champion original talent from known sources. Many of our brands cannot be found in the UK and often our particular buy means that they are one-off pieces, exclusive to us. Unique styles and a highly tuned, original collection is key to our growing success. Customers don’t mind paying more as a result, particularly with the option to RECIRCLE in mind.


My girls are close to having a more extensive wardrobe than me…

As many of my fashionista friends found – buying and dressing your children can be more addictive than investing in pieces for yourself. My 5-year-old is a real girl, ADORES fashion, the prettier the better. She always gravitates towards our dress up and is a Louise Misha lover- vintage lace and oversized ruffles in a chic Marie Antoinette palette. My 7-year-old is the complete opposite – cool, boyish and effortless. Morley stripes and Louis Louise denim are a natural fit. She also can’t resist a jumpsuit. I’m absolutely loving dressing the new addition. Simple Kids kindly sent me the most darling checked romper that she is living in and Louis Louise create the dreamiest baby girl collection EVER.

I am normally pretty organised, editing and colour coordinate their wardrobes (my OCD coming out in force!) However, with the arrival of the newborn things are a little substandard in that department. One of the first things to have my attention when the sleep deprivation subsides…If a wardrobe isn’t organised, you end up not wearing half of it, so a clear out and neat display works wonders.


I am a perfectionist and perfection is never going to be achieved in current times with so much going on…

A hard lesson to learn. It’s my husband’s mantra – Perfection Prevents Progress – so I think prioritising the big picture in work and life is essential. I would say I work full time, flexi-time! Having your own business frankly means you never switch off. And both Lis and I have a crazy work ethic which means though we are there for our children for school drop off and collection, we work into the night and some weekends to get everything done. We try and do it all and it’s not an easy road.

I definitely have help to make life with three and a business all possible. My husband works long hours and so during the week I have help every morning with the children to get them off to school/tidy the house. I am also incredibly grateful for such wonderful, doting Grandparents who offer a real support network for us as a family and have very close bonds with the children. We feel incredibly lucky to have them. At the weekends, my amazing husband will look after the children if Lisa and I have a trip or have an important deadline to meet.


My relationship with Elle has been one of the best things about my post magazine career…

It’s always worked well because we have similar style (although sadly not the same bod!) and she knows I won’t sugar coat my views of what works and doesn’t – so there is a healthy mutual respect for each other. I have huge respect and admiration for her – her work ethic is incredible, and she is one of the most thoughtful professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She’s been a massive inspiration for me in terms of entrepreneurial spirit and importantly, we have a lot of fun when together. I’m incredibly fond of her and do miss her now she’s living in the states.


I’m not a social nedia junkie…

My styling heritage makes Instagram an obvious platform for me, which I love and we use at LC as our principle channel for content. I’ve never been a huge Facebook user – it’s a great platform to reach out to old friends but you need a bit of time to wade through posts, and that’s one thing I don’t have!

I have a new rule not to use my phone in front of the children – I don’t want them to grow up thinking it’s an extension of my arm… When I spend time with them I want to be in the moment as much as possible and to set an example in terms of usage. I hasten to add this new rule is a work in progress!

I love IG but do feel there’s something rather sad about influencers presenting such a perfect impression of their lives. It’s a faux reality, not something to aspire to with success. Life with kids is chaotic and magical partially because it is beyond our control. @edit.58 and @erica_davies do a great job and strike the right balance and I love being amused by accounts like @kirbyjenner, @deliciouslystella and @baddiewinkle.


I’m pretty lucky that I think the girls have an innate sense of self-love already…

They go to an all-girls school so they need to be ready to be thick-skinned, ultimately I think a happy and stable family, with an environment where everyone feels they can speak openly about how they feel, and how things make them feel, is a great foundation for self-love and self-confidence – we don’t have it nailed yet but I think the girls will be OK. I never talk about how I look and hope they are unaware of weight and shape for as long as possible. I actively complement the girls every day so that they are aware of just how special they are. I always tell my girls a story about when I had just started at school at five and my teacher had asked me ‘What do you think is the most important thing in life?’ I was a bit bemused but replied “to have fun”, at which point I got a huge ticking off and to this day have no idea why! My mother patted me on the back and said “Quite right”. I hope the girls feel the same. Laughter and joy is everything.


I’m a bit of a contradiction when it comes to eating…

I have always loved salad – eat insane amounts of the stuff and cook very healthy meals, lots of fish and veg. Our Ocado order bodes incredibly well. But I do also have a real penchant for crisps, occasionally devour a chocolate fudge cake and Diet Coke is a guilty pleasure. The best shape I was ever in was during a two-year ballet stint. I’ve never been a gym goer. Since I am still breastfeeding, hardcore working out isn’t really an option. Once I’m out the other side, I’ve got three sessions with a personal trainer booked and I’ve signed myself up for The Bodyboss Method. Let’s see if this actually happens and if I stick to this new fitness regime.


My friend introduced me to her friend Barbara Sturm, who’s products are glorious...

I swear by Barbara Sturm‘s exfoliator and face cream.

I always see Vaishaly for my eyebrows but haven’t managed to fit in a facial for a while.

I use Perfect 10 mainly for massage and spray tans.

Whitening Strips from Crest are a must.

Any peel off face mask, particularly Rodial’s Black Snake one.

Philip Kingsly for my hair – I’ve had huge amounts of fall out over the past and always use their products to recover my growth

 


Anna’s little list of loves:

EVERYTHING to do with my children.

Forivor – Duvet Covers. They remind me of my childhood.

The Archers – always been a Radio 4 fan and this hits the spot during night feeds – I love that it’s labelled as old people’s fodder. I’m addicted and love that unlike everything else in my life, the pace is so slow.

Terrazzo Tiles – we recently redesigned our house and have installed a full floor of handmade geometric navy tiles in our master bathroom. My father thought I was mad as they’re seriously busy but they make me happy every time I walk in there.

Centre Court at Wimbledon – my husband and I go every year and are massive fans.

Primrose Hill – the best spot in London to view the city and a perfect, romantic jogging spot for my husband and I.

The Week Junior–  my best friend gave this to my 7-year-old for her Christmas present- utterly inspired. She is now more up to date with current affairs than I am.

Tuscany – there is literally (apart from home) no place I would rather be. Our usual haunt is near Arezzo – a 13th century Palazzo in the hills. 


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