“My mother dressed my sister-and-I in the most beautiful clothes growing up,” says Ella Ringner, co-founder of luxury British loungewear label, Yolke. “I have such vivid memories of the feel of the fabrics and the colours of the prints.”
Her mother, Hilary McManus, was a successful artist and textile designer, and her studio at home was an Aladdin’s cave of hand-painted textile prints, paints, trims and books that Ella loved to explore. “I associate certain prints with periods of our childhood and the same goes for pyjamas,” she says. “We would get a special pair for Easter and Christmas, and as we got older we had matching white nighties that we’d leap from bed to bed in.” Memories of those imaginative childhood days are the inspiration behind her new Little Yolke collection but the starting point – as with all of her designs – is the fabric. The mini pyjamas (for ages three to 10) are cut from the same cotton poplin as her tailored adult designs, and boast the same playful contemporary prints; pink botanicals, verdant florals and classic stripes in a chorus of colours. On the brand’s website, the Yolke Girls section reads like a yearbook to the coolest girls about town – all of whom are more likely to wear their PJs out to cocktails than just to bed – and Ella, who began her career at British designer Temperley, shares her studio space in London’s Ladbroke Grove with fellow tastemaker Matilda Goad. Temperley is where she met co-founder Anna Williamson (Anna has stepped away from the day-to-day running of Yolke and is now an adviser to the brand) before leaving to study textile design at Central Saint Martins in London. And it is where the idea for Yolke was born. Now juggling her business with motherhood – Scarlet, who stars in the Little Yolke campaign, is four and Blue is one – she understands how special bedtime is; each pair of pyjamas comes with a bedtime story by Fred & Foo author Sophia Topley. “I hope one day Scarlet and Blue can dress their children in the pyjamas or make costumes from the fabrics,” she says. We couldn’t wait to discover her view on being a successful working mother, her brilliant recommendations on childrenswear and how she puts her house to bed as well as her babies. She is our kind of mama. Words: Claire Brayford
Why did you decide to launch Yolke?
Both my parents worked for themselves, growing up it allowed us the freedom to spend summers abroad, my mother was an artist and textile designer and would bring her designs with us and my father would make a phone-call a week to keep up with his restaurant business. It was ingrained from an early age to build up something of my own. Meeting Anna at Temperley, we both knew we were meant to do something together, but it wasn’t until our careers took us to Avenue32.com and Purple PR respectively that we got an insight into running an online business and creating a product we could market and sell ourselves. We decided to give up our day jobs and venture out.
What do you enjoy most about building your own brand?
I enjoy the journey of designing a print, crafting it into a collection and seeing people wearing it. The successes are so personal but then so are the struggles that come hand-in-hand with starting up a clothing business.
How do you juggle work and family?
I work Monday to Thursday and then Fridays are fun days where we see friends and do anything and everything Scarlet and Blue want to do, or we head out of town for the weekend. I’m an early-morning person, which is lucky these days but despite this we are still always in a rush. After cycling Scarlet to school, I stop at my favourite café, Vicki’s, and write my list for the day, one for work, one for family. Our studio is just off Ladbroke Grove in London – it is a calm space to work in and I’m surrounded by creatives.
What are your time-management tips?
I am pretty organised. I focus on the task in hand and I don’t dwell on things. I write a lot of lists. I’m learning to delegate and to accept that I can’t do everything. I have some brilliant friends and family who are a much needed support network for when it gets a bit much or we need a night out.
Talk us through your bedtime routine...
I have a process of putting the house to sleep. I go room by room making sure everything is ready for the following day. I love a hot bath, I catch up on articles I’ve saved during the week, put on a face mask and light some candles. I’ve recently discovered Balance Me which has transformed my skin.
Do your children sleep well?
They do, but it took a little more effort with Scarlet. Perhaps because he watches his sister, Blue has always been happy to go to bed and sleep through, although on the odd occasion he doesn’t realise how important sleep is, especially for him. Both our babies moved out of our room at four months, which I think is very important for making them feel safe and comfortable in their own rooms. The newest development is that they want to sleep together so we may be entering a phase of sleeplessness again!
What do you treasure most in your wardrobe?
A Temperley two-piece suit and some dungarees my cousin gave me which have become my day-to-day staple. I’m now remaking them in silk for smarter occasions and linen to live in! I have never taken off my five gold rings that were given to me from my most loved people, my husband (to be), mother, sister, cousin and daughter.