Crafting colourful children’s clothes by Toby Tiger clothing

Two little girls wearing Toby Tiger colourful children's clothes

Crafting colourful children’s clothes by Toby Tiger clothing

Founded by designer Zoe Mellor, Toby Tiger has been a pioneer in organic baby and kids’ clothes, making children and adults alike smile with its vibrant designs and commitment to sustainability since 1998. So I’m delighted to be able to publish this interview with Zoe about what makes her bright and colourful children’s clothing brand tick!

Specialising in colourful and fun clothes made from GOTS certified organic cotton and azo free dyes, the brand offers a range of kids’ clothes that are as kind to the planet as they are to baby’s skin. From baby clothing to playful long sleeve tops to gorgeous patterned dresses, Toby Tiger was the first to offer organic and certified safe colourful clothes to protect your little girls and boys’ delicate skin.

Zoe Mellor, Toby Tiger Clothing founder surrounded by colourful children's clothes
Zoe Mellor, Toby Tiger clothing founder

As well as its colourful clothes, the Toby Tiger offer includes a selection of sustainable toys. These include Montessori wooden toys and soft safety-tested knitted toys for those of us who worry about all of the chemicals floating around in our children’s toy boxes and in the stuffed toys sitting on their beds (I certainly do!). It also offers a sustainable gift wrap in its signature bright colours and patterns and a range of lovely cushions and blankets

What’s more, since 1999, Toby Tiger have had a store in sunny Brighton, and since 2002 they’ve been in their shop on Gardner Street in the bohemian North Laine district right in the heart of Brighton. Not stopping there, Zoe opened a Berlin base in 2020 so she could serve her European market as well as her UK customers after Brexit.

I hope you enjoy our conversation with Zoe and find it as inspiring and insightful as I have!

Tell us about your sustainable fashion brand and what sets you apart 

We were the first colourful organic and sustainable kids brand in the UK. I always design with kids in mind and we want our designs to be timeless, fun and comfortable. We want kids to be kids!

Children on the beach wearing Toby Tiger clothes

What is your background and what made you decide to start up your brand?

I have a background as a fashion and textile designer and have also written 10 kids knitwear books! I launched the brand Toby Tiger, named after my son Toby (and yes, his middle name is Tiger) as I couldn’t find colourful organic clothing at all! This was now over 25 years ago, in 1998!

Tell us a bit about how you source your fabrics and base materials

We are often approached by factories and I have been working with the same factories for well over 15 years. As we grew we could scale up to use slightly larger factories. When we started we also had knitters and sewers who worked from home in the UK! And I cut patterns on my kitchen table!

Do you take into account the recyclability of your products?

Yes, all of our products can be recycled and we also work with Superlooper, a local company who will take in old styles from our customers and rent them out. The customer will then receive a voucher to spend with us as a thank you. This way clothing that no longer fits get a second, third and fourth lease of life.

Baby wearing Toby Tiger children's clothing

Who makes your clothes/products?

We work with factories mainly in India and in China. All are checked and audited so that not only are the workers treated fairly and paid well, and of course the fabrics and all production adhere to strict sustainable and organic standards.

Are any animals used in the production of your products and if so how do you make sure that they are treated ethically?

No animals are used in the production of our products.

What else makes your brand sustainable/ethical?

We like to have timeless designs and often use the same colour palette when designing our bright happy collections twice a year. The main benefit to this is that all designs can be worn with older or newer styles and we don’t add to landfill, endlessly following the fast fashion model of binning designs and always creating new, new, new!

We sell our designs until they’re sold out and many of our most favourite styles are produced year after year!

Children playing in Toby Tiger children's clothes
Little girl in Toby Tiger dress

What are the biggest challenges in operating as an ethical and sustainable fashion brand?

The need to compete on price all the time, as being ethical and organic we pay our factories well and use organic materials. These materials are sometimes not produced in the same volumes as non-organic fabrics.

There is a cost to being ethical and our customers understand that.

We do however try and be as reasonable as possible with our prices as we think it’s important to offer good value and see our clothing as good quality every day wear! Lots of our designs are very practical and can be folded up at the cuffs or pulled in at the waist so they will fit for longer! We design with comfort and longevity in mind.

“Sustainability is not about being perfect, but is a journey”, how can you further improve what you do and what plans do you have for the future?

We would like to keep offering more style variations and expand our ranges further.

We are happy to work with great factories who are always striving to use more recycled fabrics and sustainable innovations in printing techniques or dyes that are used. Our dyes are all azo free and our production uses less water than regular dying techniques.

New innovations are being worked on constantly and I am excited to incorporate these into our production.

Little girls in Toby Tiger colourful dresses eating ice creams

What one thing could fast fashion brands do to improve?

They could stop making more and more ranges …and concentrate on better quality and not throw away so much!

We all only have one planet and there’s a lot of greenwashing going on. We all need to buy with that in mind. Purchase power from the customer is a strong motivator for positive change!

What are your favourite products in your range right now and why?

I always love a stripe and you can’t go wrong with a multi-coloured t-shirt. I also love the bold floral print skater dress and would have loved to twirl in that as a child! Oh, there are too may happy designs to choose from….

Toby Tiger UK store in Brighton showcasing it colourful and bright kids' clothes

Thank you so much to Zoe for taking part in this interview! We wish her and the brand many many more years of providing colourful and safe children’s clothes and toys to kids and babies everywhere!

Enjoy 10% off all of Toby Tiger products with our special offer code: TIGER10


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