As far as career changes go, swapping sharing the stage with Prince to running your own fashion label are about as diverse as they come, but designer and business woman Wiggy Hindmarch is pragmatic about her choices...
“It had been my lifelong dream to be a backing dancer for Prince and when I heard of the audition the night before, I decided to just hop on a train up to London and give it a go otherwise it would be something I would always regret… After the initial elation of getting the job and proving to myself I was capable, the reality of touring and going on the road all over the world set in. As a younger girl, I had already been on tour for six weeks at a time, twice with The English National Ballet touring with The Nutcracker, and knew what it was like. Two shows a day, staying in grim hotels, and that didn’t excite me. I think for me, I just wanted to know I achieved my goal, rather than actually do it. Weirdly, I don’t have any regrets about that. My life could have turned out so differently.” Wiggy Kit, the resort-wear line she created that caters for beach, dinner and everything in between, is the result of finding a wardrobe filled with “holiday-ready” clothes that simply didn’t translate for the real world. Flimsy dresses that demanded tanned skin, shorter hemlines, sheer fabrics… Wiggy took the ease and comfort from traditional resort-wear and made it appropriate for the school run and everyday life, no easy feat when you’re wanting to consider both function and form in equal measure. “I only use excellent quality natural fabrics and love to always flatter the wearer no matter the skin colour. My designs are timeless, ageless but never boring. You always feel appropriately dressed and never look as though you are trying too hard.” The beautiful, bohemian-inspired collections (minus any froufrou) can be found at matchesfashion.com, and really are a worthwhile investment for both travelling in style and spending lazy summers at home. We caught up with Wiggy, who is also a mother to two girls – Scarlett and Marina – to talk about her impressive career, how she divides her time between London and The Bahamas, motherhood, and her totally relatable love/hate relationship with social media… Photography: Helene Sandberg | Go to www.wiggykit.com |Wiggy wears her own label throughout
What are some of your most vivid memories of your childhood?
I was born in Singapore just after my parents had moved over from Vancouver Island. Although my parents are British, they have moved around the world quite a bit. I spent my first 3-4 years of my life there and moved back to the UK with my brother. I can remember hardly ever wearing a stitch of clothes as it was extremely hot and humid there. Another abiding memory is a lot of our house didn’t have conventional walls, but a kind of decorative grill to let the breeze through. When we moved back to the UK it was a bit of a come down from the heyday of the 70s expat lifestyle. We lived in the UK up until I was 16 when my father sold his company to an American company, and off my parents went again to the States where they settled for some time in Newport Rhode Island. I was so grateful to get out of the UK as the expat lifestyle definitely suited our family much, much better.
You trained as a dancer, and then aged 18 landed your dream job as a singer and backing dancer for Prince – you ended up moving to America instead. Take us back to this time in your life. What was that life like? Why did you turn the job down?
At the time I was suffering quite severely with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which literally whacked me out. I was boarding at a performing arts school whilst my parents had emigrated to the States. It was a tough and unsettling time and I was not enjoying my school at all. I had fallen out of love with dancing – it was a very negative and demoralising kind of school at the time. Due to my illness, I had to move from the dancers’ course to the drama course as my body was just shot. The Prince audition came two years after I switched courses and so I was by that time quite out of shape and out of practice. It had been my lifelong dream to be a backing dancer for Prince and when I heard of the audition the night before, I decided to just hop on a train up to London and give it a go otherwise it would be something I would always regret. To my surprise I got through round after round of culls and even the singing audition – I am the worst singer in the world but decided to make up for my lack of ability by performing my heart out and it paid off surprisingly. They eventually whittled us down to a group of four girls and four boys which would make up the group of backing dancers and singers. After the initial elation of getting the job and proving to myself I was capable, the reality of touring and going on the road all over the world set in. As a younger girl, I had already been on tour for six weeks at a time twice with The English National Ballet touring with The Nutcracker, and knew what it was like. Two shows a day, staying in grim hotels and that didn’t excite me. I think for me, I just wanted to know I achieved my goal, rather than actually do it. Weirdly, I don’t have any regrets about that. My life could have turned out so differently.
You live between London and Harbour Island – how do you juggle your time between the two?
We go away every school vacation and try and stay the maximum time there. I guess collectively that amounts to about three months a year. We plan to spend more time there as we get older.
List three places in London you love going with your girls?
We enjoy pretty simple family type things together. One of our family favourites is to stroll along the river Thames with our dog on a Sunday while the roast is cooking and head to a beautiful old pub literally overhanging the Thames called The Dove in Chiswick and enjoy a pint of the local beer from Fuller’s Brewery before heading back to a roaring fire. Living on the Thames as we do, we really enjoy activities surrounding life here. A walk or a bicycle ride to Barnes to the incredible Olympic Cinemas (converted from world-famous recording studio used by every iconic musician) to watch a movie or visit one of the many fab little restaurants there as Barnes Village is bucolic and picturesque. Or head down to Petersham Nurseries for a browse of their amazing eclectic antique finds housed in their dirt floor fantasy greenhouses followed by a wholesome soup.
How would you describe your parenting philosophy?
We put tremendous emphasis on encouraging our girls to be kind, polite and nice people – I know that’s not a particularly exciting answer, but as a parent that is the best thing you can do for your children. Sharing strong morals, ethics and principles as a family hold them strong through life’s up and downs and being that way can never be wrong. Our family motto is ‘family is the strength’ and for us, that is the true bedrock in life which provides your children with a springboard to achieve what they want to achieve in life. Above all we want our children to always feel safe, secure, confident but never boastful or big headed and the type of people you want to be around.
3 things in your shopping cart right now?
It’s winter here in London, so it’s Claudia Schiffer x Aquazzura black suede over the knee flat boots, Bella Freud corduroy suit and an oversized chunky Joseph navy rollneck sweater.
3 beauty products you couldn’t live without?
I am obsessed with beauty and skincare so this is going to be tough to narrow down to only three but here goes: Dr Perricone Face Finishing Moisturizer tint (not the foundation!), Nars The Multiple in South Beach and Dr Hauschka Translucent Bronzing tint, as I always like looking healthy.
You transitioned from a buying, design and running retail operations background to the life of a start-up entrepreneur. What were the biggest challenges you faced during this transition? And what were the biggest rewards?
I had a gap of approximately eight years between finishing running those businesses to starting my own business as I was busy having babies. Those years of experience were utterly invaluable to being able to start my own venture and I would not have been able to do so without it. I still to this day hark back to that experience I built up and use it daily to inform my choices now within Wiggy Kit and I am immensely grateful for that time. I guess the biggest challenge when launching and as I continue is getting the work/home life balance to a place where I feel happy and content. Right now, I feel it’s swung too heavily in favour of work, which is understandable with a growing brand, but I am looking to address this by implementing structures that can support the business further and allow for a bit more equilibrium. Without a doubt the biggest reward is creating an actual product from your imagination, actualisation it and then seeing people love it.
How will you manage social media with your girls?
I am very direct about it. I walk them through Instagram and explain to them that the majority of what they see is actually clever marketing, I teach them that unless they have a product or business to push then to never put yourself out there as an individual like a ‘product’. I am disturbed by how people are now promoting themselves in a way to impress other people and turn their private lives into a commodity for people to consume and pick over. Instagram has turned some pretty level headed people into attention seeking monsters and for that, I am deeply concerned my girls don’t get drawn into because ‘everyone is doing it’. It is easy to be duped into thinking that this is normal behaviour. Above all, don’t take it too seriously.
What is your advice for start-up entrepreneurs? Is there anything you would have done differently?
My advice would be to not spend endless time in the planning stages and invest too much. I know that sounds counter-intuitive. Start very small and grow it organically. That way you can react to changes as they pop up without making huge financial errors that will derail you. As inevitably they will arise. I have seen a few people looking to start a business treat it as if they are launching a fortune 500 company and get lost in the minutiae of developing the brand, like the logo and all the other bumpf. My feeling is – you have a great idea or product, jump in and don’t overthink it. That will come as you garner people’s reaction and your place in your market.
Tell us about why the Wiggy Kit offering is so unique?
I think it has a lot to do with the time I spent living on the east coast of America and how that way of dressing has influenced my style and aesthetic. The way Americans approach dressing is different to us here in the UK. I also think the freshness of the colour palette is something you don’t see a lot in UK brands but loved by us. I only use excellent quality natural fabrics and love to always flatter the wearer no matter the skin colour. My designs are timeless, ageless but never boring. You always feel appropriately dressed and never look as though you are trying too hard.
How organised is your wardrobe – do you keep everything in order, ironed etc? How often do you do a wardrobe cleanse?
I need desperately to wardrobe cleanse as we speak. I am terrible at chucking things but my wardrobes are at breaking point and the fact of the matter is there is not a huge amount that is hanging in there that I like apart from my own collection. In fact, that is the reason I am working towards developing a winter capsule collection as I find it impossible to find something I like when the weather begins to cool. Watch this space!
If you could turn back the clock to one phase of motherhood, what phase would it be and why?
Right now I would love to feel what they felt like again when you could hold them in your arms and they were dressed in those adorable footed onesies. A lovely warm and delicious a little bundle. I would like to experience that again. I feel a little sad I will never experience childbirth again as strange as that sounds. It was the most insanely, miraculous experience to actually grow a human being inside you and then it emerges from within you nine months later. Absolutely mind-blowing.
What are your top three time management tips for juggling work with children?
Get help! Chose a husband who is considerate, caring and helpful!
How would you describe the interior of your home?
Our house on Harbour Island is all white, calm and fairly minimal whereas my house in London is colourful, eclectic, bohemian and comfortable. They are polar opposites.
What makes you feel stressed?
Lack of control, too many decisions and not doing things perfectly.
And how do you unwind?
Massages, watching Netflix or listening to radio 4 in the bath, walks along the river, sitting by the fire, painting watercolours and stretching.
Biggest life lesson you’ve learnt in the last decade?
You have only got one life – live it! Read the poem The Dash by Linda Ellis and then you will get what I mean.