IN A converted stable block in the Northumbrian countryside lies the headquarters of Tulip & Nettle, a children’s clothing label founded by Amynta Warde-Aldam.
It promises a range of ‘modern interpretations of vintage items’.
Tulip & Nettle (Tulip for girls and Nettle for boys) came about when Amynta had her own children.
“It all started around them, really,” she says. “It was so easy to find nice clothes for girls but not so much for boys. My son wasn’t into football so he didn’t want to wear a football strip.”
Already a trained designer, Amynta began creating one-off items for her children around 10 years ago.
“It started in a very tiny way, making one or two pieces,” she says.
These initial pieces were the cropped trousers, Yum Yum dress and Hero shirt, which are all now signature pieces and return to the collections season after season.
Amynta, originally from Edinburgh, learned her trade at acclaimed Central Saint Martins design school in London. After graduating with an honours degree in fashion, she worked as a designer in London and Paris. She later returned to the college to teach BA (Hons) in fashion.
The mother-of-two moved to Northumberland a decade ago with her husband, who comes from the region.
However, feeling a million miles away from her fashion past, she decided to set up the label and her new surroundings inspired her designs.
“There is definitely a soft, romantic edge to the clothes and that comes from being in the country,” she says.
“This is very different to seasonal fashion. Our main focus is that children are comfortable and happy in our clothes.”
The Tulip & Nettle headquarters are in Healey, where Amynta lives with her family.
A key member of Amynta’s close-knit team is her assistant, Helen Copeman, whom the designer describes as ‘amazing’.
“I couldn’t get by without Helen,” she says. “She is mainly involved in the office work and marketing but she also oversees the production of the clothes – making sure we have the right fabrics, buttons and ribbons etc.
“We mostly use natural fabrics, such as cotton, poplin and moleskin, and for the winter polar fleece material. It’s not covered in labels and the colours are very quiet.”
Other child-friendly fabrics used are corduroy, seersucker and calico in delicate gingham, floral and tartan prints.
Fashion gurus Trinny and Susannah list Tulip & Nettle on their directory of top children’s clothing websites and describe the range as ‘to die for’.
As well as children’s clothes, the label produces a number of one-off items for ‘grown-ups’ such as Easy T-shirts and dresses in soft pastel shades for women and the Hero shirt reinterpreted in adult size for men. All of the Tulip & Nettle line is manufactured locally and “always has been” promises Amynta.
The factories are in Tyne and Wear and County Durham but she won’t give away their locations.
“I’m reluctant to reveal the names of my suppliers as it is so difficult to source quality,” she says. “We also have a local lady who runs out specials. Finding good production is the ultimate key to our business.”
By keeping every part of the business local, Tulip & Nettle contributes to Think North East First, The Journal’s campaign to help the region’s businesses by circulating money locally. Every pound spent in the area will make a difference to the local economy.
“We’re very keen to be involved in this as well as for ecological and ethical reasons,” Amynta says.
Tulip & Nettle’s policy is that the clothes are made for children, not by children and proudly bear a ‘Made in England’ tag.
“All of the people who produce our clothes are properly paid for their work,” she adds.
The emphasis on Fairtrade and high quality means that the clothing costs a little bit more than high street brands.
“It’s our biggest problem. People look at the prices and compare us to the likes of Tesco,” Amynta says.
Tulip & Nettle may not be able to compete in terms of price but for Amynta the driving factor is the quality that the label can promise.
“When you compare us to children’s labels such as Bonpoint, Rachel Riley and other skilled French and Italian artisans, we are staggeringly reasonable.”
The clothes are sold online at www.tulipandnettle.com
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Think North East First
AS the global financial crisis took hold at the start of last year, The Journal launched its Think North East First campaign to help the region’s businesses.
With the backing of key regional figures including former Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall and the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, we appealed to families to do all they could for the region’s economy.
We asked readers to buy North East products wherever possible to help keep money circulating locally. To get families started we published our 50 reasons to Think North East First and an A-Z of foodstuffs, drinks, household goods, clothing manufacturers, and local holiday and day out destinations.
As part of a regional strategy led by regional development agency One North East, we helped encourage families to make 2009 a ‘staycation’, so money earned here could be kept here.
Dozens of celebrities, sporting figures, regional business leaders and readers lent us their support as the campaign got under way.
Among the first to praise our efforts was Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who sees the North East as a strong, resilient region.
He said “It is great to see The Journal supporting its readers and local businesses during this difficult period and adding its weight to the network of Government, business and local organisations working to take the region through this tough time.”