Disheartened by the commercial separation of boys’ and girls’ clothes, former fashion stylist Victoria Handley decided to open her own, gender-neutral online childrenswear boutique called No Pink Please. Find out how she did it.
What’s your career background?
I began in textile design and then spent almost ten years as a freelance fashion stylist working predominately in TV and music. Three years ago I found myself progressing towards fashion PR and most recently I was press manager for an independent jewellery brand.
What gave you the idea to start No Pink Please?
The idea for No Pink Please grew shortly before the birth of my son. As motherhood approached, I found myself increasingly disheartened by the commercial separation of boys and girls clothing.
After some research I was inspired to discover a number of childrenswear brands and campaigns buckling the trend. I wanted to be involved, to help get the message out there, as well as take pride building a business that utilised my experience and showcased these brilliant British designers.
And how did you move from idea to actually taking your first business steps?
I began by quizzing friends with young children, and then a broader audience, showing them branding ideas, concepts etc and taking on board their feedback. I then researched and approached the brands I wanted to stock.
Finally I contacted Brandmovers Europe to design the website. That’s when it felt real – that my idea was actually going to happen! Learning to use the backend of the ecommerce site was definitely the most challenging aspect.
What makes No Pink Please different?
We are an online boutique specialising in unisex/gender-neutral childrenswear, showcasing independent British brands whose designs are age appropriate and inspire play, regardless of gender. It is equally important that the clothes are ethically made and responsibly produced.
Our blog is fundamental to the concept. We commission features and interviews from parents and industry insiders who are interested in sharing their thoughts on parenthood and gender stereotyping in children’s retail.
My favourite feature so far is by our contributing writer Jeda Pearl. Titled “My 12yr Old Feministo” it’s a great interview with her savvy young daughter and her thoughts on the gender segregation she sees around her.
We are also keen to ensure we have male voices on the blog and have featured posts from stay-at-home dad blogger –Man Vs Pink. We hope to have more dads on board soon!
Why do you think gender neutral clothes are important?
I believe children’s clothes should be age appropriate, bold and fun. So why do they have to be led by gender?
To some this may be seen as a trivial fight, but this is one way we can help grow our children’s confidence. Labelling toys or clothes to specific genders limits play, sending restrictive messages before they have even discovered the opportunities out there.
I want my son, all children in fact, to have the opportunity to grow up without being immediately typecast. It’s not necessarily about forbidding girls to wear pink or denying boys a train set, it’s about allowing our children the freedom to fulfil their full potential whatever path they choose.
Children should know that being biologically male or female does not assign them to a given ‘colour’, unfortunately this is a social construct of the commercial market. Non-gender specific and age appropriate clothing allows kids greater freedom to form their own preferences and personalities, it’s a blank canvas, they can be whatever they want to be.
The ‘pinkification’ of girls has been well documented of late and there are still many issues to address, but I feel equally strongly about the limiting messages in boys clothing and toys.
Much of the ‘boy’s’ clothing available features slogans encouraging them to think they’re destined for roles driving trucks or causing trouble, reinforcing the stereotype that boys should be tough or badly behaved.
Plenty of young boys enjoy reading or playing with dolls and kitchen sets, but these are still unnecessarily promoted as ‘girly’ interests. I don’t want my son to think that boys can’t be empathetic or have quiet moments; equally I don’t want young girls to think that being pretty is the most important thing a woman can achieve.
How do you pick the brands you stock?
Initially I am drawn to the visual aspect, the designs should make kids AND parents smile when they see them. After the initial excitement I research the designers asking similar questions to the ones you are asking me: ‘Who are they?’ ‘What is their story?’ ‘What do they believe in? Why? And how do they do it?’
The brands must be unique, bold and fun, sharing the No Pink Please ethos. The clothes should inspire imagination, be non-gender specific, age appropriate and ethically made.
Who is your target customer?
Anyone – parents and gift buyers who are conscious of gendered marketing and enjoy unique, independent British design.
What’s your marketing strategy?
Ultimately we want to gain loyal and happy customers who trust us, who feel confident in our products and ethos. We are working hard to create regular features for the blog, which we hope will inspire and interest our readers.
You started No Pink Please while you were on maternity leave. How did you juggle being a mum with work?
I think juggling and multi- tasking are skills quickly learnt by any new parent. Working from home means I can schedule the business around my son’s routine.
Breastfeeding has proved an excellent time to catch up on emails and social media, thank goodness for smart phones!
Is your partner supportive, and how important is it do you think to have support?
If you are in a partnership, living together, raising a child together, then you are a team. You make decisions together and you encourage each other to be the best that you can be.
I am fortunate that my partner has always been incredibly supportive and his belief in me does boost my confidence and motivation.
What’s your vision for No Pink Please?
I want to build a business I am proud of. Learning, sharing and growing with the No Pink Please community. One day I hope to represent the best non-gender specific brands out there and I hope our blog will connect and inspire like- minded parents.
Conceiving our son was not as easy as we hoped, I am determined to build a business which allows me to work from home, while spending precious time with my son.
Who inspires you?
There are some real trailblazers out there. Motivating campaigns such as Let Toys Be Toys, inspiring websites such as A Mighty Girl, Gentle Parenting and Anorak magazine, all the brands we stock, all these continually inspire No Pink Please.
I am proud to be involved in the newly launched campaign group Let Clothes Be Clothes. Allies of Let Toys Be Toys, we are asking our high street retailers to ditch harmful gender stereotypes and pledge to keep designs non-colour coded and age appropriate.
What advice do you have for other mums who want to start a business?
Well if you are already a parent then you can multi- task with the best of them – if you have an idea you believe in then do it. It’s better to try than to wonder ‘what if?’…