In 2013, Pepa Gonzalez launched online childrenswear boutique Pepa & Co., bringing UK customers a curated line-up of timeless, handmade Spanish labels. Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength, including the launch of a Pepa & Co. own-label frequently spotted being worn by Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and the recent opening of a London boutique. Laura Turner reports.
Laura Turner: What was the motivation for setting up www.pepaandcompany.com back in 2013?
Pepa Gonzalez: I moved to London from Malaga six years ago and at that time, was working for the marketing department of the Spanish Embassy. Whilst in between jobs, and looking for a permanent role in marketing based here, I realised how difficult it was to find lovely, traditional clothing for babies and children at affordable prices in the UK.
In Spain, we truly care about what we wear. It’s a means of expression and makes us feel good. We also care about the quality and the provenance of both our children’s and our own clothing. In Spain, the childrenswear is much more classic in style; shirts with Peter Pan collars, soft colours, floral prints. It was this aesthetic that I found was not readily available here and essentially what I wanted to bring to the UK.
So, in 2013, I decided to launch Pepa & Co. Initially it started with me handpicking my favourite children’s clothing brands from Spain and bringing them to the UK via my online boutique. Listening to what clients liked and didn’t like allowed me to build up a huge knowledge bank and it was based on this feedback that I launched my own Pepa & Co. label, which has since become our most successful collection.
LT: How would you summarise the ‘look’ of your own-label?
PG: I design the collection myself and always with the clients in mind. The style is classic, inspired by the clothing from past decades that we, and our parents, once wore as children. I come from a large family of four brothers and my mother always dressed us in smart, traditional clothing. My brothers were often told they looked like princes and that sentiment still sticks with me today. My aim is to create timeless clothing reminiscent of past generations.
LT: And what does the product line comprise?
PG: We offer a wide variety of clothing for newborn up to eight years including babywear, bespoke christening outfits, everyday dresses, separates, shorts, trousers and knitwear alongside footwear and accessories. We recently expanded our accessories collection to include hair bows and bands, which have been extremely popular and literally flying off the shelves.
All of our brand’s clothing is made in Spain and the quality of each garment is second to none; this means high quality materials and ethical production. Each of our hand smocked pieces is stitched by hand for instance, which guarantees the high quality and detailing of each garment. Our collection is also limited edition; that way our customers can be sure to have exclusive clothing that not everyone else will have. Despite all of this, our clothing is affordable compared with other childrenswear brands.
LT: What are your bestsellers?
PG: Our bestselling items are the Pepa & Co. hand smocked dresses, frilled collar Liberty print baby bodysuits, the knitted cardigans, sweaters and moccasins.
LT: Has media coverage of the royal prince and princess wearing Pepa & Co. helped boost sales?
PG: It hasn’t changed our brand overall, but the ‘royal seal of approval’ has certainly given us a platform to make our small independent brand known worldwide. It was lovely to receive so many positive messages from around the world and we were pleased that mums were able to discover Pepa & Co. because as they say, it is very difficult to find elegant and traditional children’s clothing at affordable prices.
We always enjoy seeing any of our clients pictured in our clothing, but both Prince George and Princess Charlotte wearing our brand has been an honour for me. The best thing to happen out of this was to introduce Pepa & Co. to new customers from around the world.
I feel very curious when we send orders to obscure places worldwide; I always try to imagine where the families are, what their daily routine is, and how amazing it is that someone on the other side of the globe decided to click on our site, fall in love with our collection and place an order with us.
LT: Are there any plans to make your own label available wholesale?
PG: We currently sell through Harvey Nichols’ online children’s department, but there are potentially plans in the pipeline for us to go wholesale in the near future.
LT: Which other childrenswear labels do you stock?
PG: Initially, when I started the business, I sourced Spanish brands to bring to the UK; ones offering classic styles in premium quality fabrics yet which were affordable. Now, we mostly sell our own Pepa & Co. label with a few handpicked items from renowned Spanish brands such as Nanos and Bonnet à Pompon.
I have built up good relationships with my manufacturers since launching my own label and the plan is to continue developing and expanding the Pepa & Co. product line to include even more pieces in classic styles with a modern twist. I fly regularly to Spain to meet my manufacturers so that we can discuss the design of every collection and I can personally check the quality of the materials used to produce it.
“Demand and interest in Spanish childrenswear has increased in the last five to 10 years, not just in the UK, but worldwide.”
LT: Who is your target audience?
PG: I see our customers as global and not restricted to any location. We are lucky enough to have had orders from all over the world, including Korea, Brazil, Russia and the USA as well as the UK. We mostly sell to females between the ages of 25-45, those who love fashion and enjoy shopping for timeless pieces for their little ones and to see them look like children.
LT: How do you ensure a great customer experience?
PG: We do the hard work for the customers by organising and photographing our products by looks, including clothing and accessories, which allows customers to visualise an entire outfit.
My background in marketing and my previous experience in this field has definitely helped me in communicating my brand to a wider audience. We also offer a private boutique in Fulham where customers can browse through our collections from the comfort of a physical space.
LT: How has the Pepa & Co. boutique enhanced the business?
PG: We opened a boutique and head office just off Kings Road in Fulham back in March 2016. This was really to give our customers the chance to browse through our collections in person and to enhance the online shopping experience. It has also gave us a space to run day-to day head office activities.
LT: Are there plans for further stores?
PG: We organise and attend various pop-up shops throughout the year, but currently there are no plans to open another store.
LT: Would you say demand for Spanish childrenswear labels is increasing in the UK?
PG: Demand and interest in Spanish childrenswear has increased in the last five to 10 years, not just in the UK, but worldwide. This is thanks to many of the European royal families who are choosing Spanish brands to dress their children.
LT: What’s the next phase for the Pepa & Co. business?
PG: We would like to improve our clients’ online experience and offer them a more personalised service. We are growing, and would love to have more presence in other European countries and the USA, as response from these territories has been fantastic.
We will continue listening to our clients in order to design what they want and need and we will do our best to bring the most beautiful summer and winter collections to dress babies and children up to eight years of age.