I’ve been back from Paris for a month now, and I still have a delicious taste in my mouth. What a feast! Of course I couldn’t help but notice how much gorgeous children’s clothing there was. My first post on this topic included four shops, and today I’m happy to share four more with you. These shops all have some wonderful things, ranging from friendly and affordable to pricey and ever-so-precious.

Soeur's St-Germain shop is a treat for older girls with more sophisticated tastes

Soeur’s St-Germain shop is a treat for older girls with more sophisticated tastes

I was quite taken with Soeur, a shop that caters to girls aged 10-16. How delightful to see a collection for this age range that is stylish, well made, and — dare I say it? — age appropriate.  The pieces on display for Fall 2013 reminded me of the luscious corduroy and plaid preppy designs I lusted after at age 13, so sophisticated and chic, yet soft and comfortable. Their website lists three locations; I visited the St-Germain shop at 88 rue Bonaparte. The prices are a bit intimidating — for example, the cream-coloured sweater below is priced at €135 (about $180 USD), but it has a luxurious feel, and seems to be of very good quality (and this is Paris, where everything seems pricey to me). Founded by two sisters with a strong design pedigree, this is a strong brand whose corduroy pants and soft sweaters had me wondering “could I possibly fit into this?”

Drool-worthy sweaters at Soeur

Drool-worthy sweaters at Soeur

I can hardly discuss children’s clothing in Paris without mentioning Petit Bateau, one of the best-known and most beloved French clothing lines for both children and adults. I strolled past several locations in Paris (there are 164 shops in France, and many more internationally) and was amused to see that the windows looked virtually identical, thanks to strong branding. The line is made in France, and is expensive, but very appealing to those who like sophisticated, classic pieces.  On the U.S. site you can see the whole collection easily, in English.

At Petit Bateau, the Fall 2013 collection includes classic liberty prints, coloured corduroy and soft plaid, a very popular combination right now in Paris.

At Petit Bateau, the Fall 2013 collection includes classic liberty prints, coloured corduroy and soft plaid, a very popular combination right now in Paris.

If you prefer something that’s both more playful and easier on the wallet, you might like Du Pareil au même (DPAM). This year DPAM opened its 600th store, reflecting its popularity and accessibility. Designs are bright and childlike, with bold use of colour, and prices are very reasonable. While walking through one of their shops, it also struck me that this clothing was designed for comfort, with lots of knits and comfy shapes. The English language website is here.

French children's chain DPAM is bright, cheerful and affordable. Does a three-year-old always need to look sophisticated?

French children’s chain DPAM is bright, cheerful and affordable. Does a three-year-old always need to look sophisticated?

Did you notice in the photo above that the window of DPAM includes cards that list the prices of each item on display? Another Paris shop that does that is Tartine et Chocolat, at the higher end of the price spectrum.  This line is very precious, and to my eye, uptight; it was hard to imagine children playing in these clothes, but they would look lovely at a wedding. Dresses start around €90 ($120 USD) and go up from there, with fancier dresses in the hundreds. When I stepped inside, the first thing I saw was cashmere, and the first thing I smelled was snootiness. While I can easily appreciate beautiful, well-made clothing, this line was a little too conservative and precious for my sensibilities. I watched their Fall/Winter 2013 video with my children, and we all agreed that the children in the video look uncomfortable and sad. This is a classic Paris children’s shop with some beautiful things and a devoted clientele, but is not really my cup of tea.

The Tartine et Chocolat boutique on St-Germain is a temple of luxury for babies and children, but in a city so rich with luxury goods, I found it uninspiring.

The Tartine et Chocolat boutique on St-Germain is a temple of luxury for babies and children, but in a city so rich with luxury goods, I found it conservative and uninspiring.

Paris abounds with wonderful children’s shops. At times, I felt I was discovering a new one around every corner. While there were several things I saw repeatedly, such as delicate Liberty print blouses, plaid dresses and skirts, and luxurious collared coats, there was enough variety to satisfy different tastes, and although prices were generally high, it was possible to find some wonderful pieces without breaking the bank. I hope you’ve enjoyed my little (admittedly biased) reviews, and would love to hear your suggestions for great children’s finds in Paris!

À plus tard,

Red Thread Design

Ah, Jacadi. So international, yet so quintessentially French!

Ah, Jacadi. So international, yet so quintessentially French!

Last week I had the good fortune to spend five scrumptious days in Paris, at the end of a two week trip to France. But even though I had put Red Thread on a brief pause to soak up this stunning change of scenery, I could not resist scouring the city for beautiful children’s clothing. I was curious to see how Parisian children are dressed, and wondered if I might find some inspiration there. Inspiration was everywhere, of course! This will be a brief introduction, and I’ll post more discoveries in the coming weeks. First, here are a few lines that left the strongest impression on me.

CdeC shop, Paris

The CdeC shop at 93 rue du Bac in the 7eme is like a tiny jewel. I wonder if this lovely shop could accommodate even a single stroller.

I was pleasantly shocked at the abundance of gorgeous children’s shops, from the tiniest shop I’ve ever seen, CdeC by Cordelia de Castellano, to the endless beautifully-styled rooms of Bonpoint.

The CdeC by Cordelia de Castellano shop at 93 rue du Bac was not on my destination list – I stumbled upon it and was delighted by its diminutive size. This is only one outlet of many, and the line is very traditional and precious, like many in France. Their website has a beautiful little video showing the photo shoot for their Fall Collection, just as precious as the clothing that’s featured.

Much larger and in a similar (high) price bracket is the legendary store Bonpoint. Housed in a stunning building at 6 rue de Tournon in the 6eme, Bonpoint is a visual feast with numerous small rooms revealing its delectable displays covering more than 10,000 square feet, with a stunning cafe and courtyard to boot. If you visit, I dare you to try to keep your mouth politely closed while perusing this temple of luxury for children. The web link above also features a stunning little video, in case you enjoy that sort of thing (I do).

A wall in the grand entrance hall at Bonpoint provides a graphic display of the Fall collection for girls

A wall in the grand entrance hall at Bonpoint provides a graphic display of the Fall collection for girls

Much of the high-end clothing I saw was very traditional, with an abundance of Liberty prints, delicate blouses, and classic cuts in luxurious fabrics. One of the most traditional French lines is Jacadi, and I really enjoyed perusing this collection, as it manages to be both elegant and unstuffy. Jacadi shops are found worldwide, so if it floats your boat it’s easy to find, at a price.

And now for something completely different: do you prefer lots of colour, Asian design, more modern shapes?  If so, you might love Petit Pan, as I did. This line was created through a collaboration between a Chinese kite designer and a Belgian artist, and includes clothing, toys, home decor, printed fabrics and accessories, with a strong focus on products for babies and young children.

Visiting shops in Paris in August is not ideal, as many are either closed or busy switching over their inventory to prepare for the new season. I caught Petit Pan full of cardboard boxes, but that not dimish my joy at this discovery one bit.

Visiting shops in Paris in August is not ideal, as many are either closed or switching over their inventory to prepare for the new season. I caught Petit Pan full of cardboard boxes, but that did not diminish my joy at this discovery one bit.

Classic styles and luxury goods are very popular in Paris, so I wasn’t surprised to find children’s clothing reflecting the same interest. But the abundance impressed me, as did the prices. In Part Two I’ll talk more about the variety of styles available at different price points. In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions of great spots you’ve found in Paris, I’d love to hear them!

À la prochaine,

Red Thread Design

SONP2013-pantsoff-250x250It’s just as exciting as it sounds, depending on your perspective. I’ve joined Summer of No Pants 2013, a special summer challenge in which the participants commit to making four skirts or dresses in the four weeks leading up to the first day of summer (May 27-June 21). Everyone posts their creations online, and pledges to not wear pants all summer long. I practically live in jeans, so this will be an interesting change.

I love to design and sew, but it’s always for Red Thread. I’ve designed dozens of women’s skirts and dresses in my head, but until now most of them have stayed there. No longer!

For week one I created a pleated skirt from a pair of jeans, and if this interests you, you can check out some images and an online tutorial here.  I’m also posting images of skirts and dresses I love on Pinterest, where I always share my colour and design inspiration. You can follow me there if you like what you see. I’ll be posting my four creations, and my inspiration along the way.

I’m looking forward to taking my pants off, and to sharing my projects with you!

Happy summer,

Red Thread Design
Studio Fabric Shop

Last night my sister came to me with a mission: she’s taking a quilting class and wanted to select nine harmonious fabrics to use in her first quilt. Because I own a vast amount of printed cotton fabric, she expected this task to be easy. It wasn’t!

As she pulled out bolt after bolt and ruminated over multiple possible combinations, I started to think about what makes a colour or a print pleasing to one person and ugly to another. I spend a lot of time making decisions about colour and scale and pattern, but it was interesting to watch somebody else engaged in this process.

We all know what we like when we see it – something in our brain just clicks. We live surrounded by visual stimuli and are constantly judging what we like and dislike from a multitude of choices. But I wonder how much of this is subjective, a reflection of our personal or cultural associations and biases, and how much is attributable to science.

A recent (2010) study at UC Berkeley by a team of psychologists devoted to the study of colour perception and aesthetics, postulated a new theory of colour preference. “Ecological Valance Theory” suggests that our preferences for colour may be part of an evolutionary process in which we naturally favour beneficial objects and healthy conditions. This might explain why the colour blue has near-universal appeal (because of its association with a blue sky), while dark yellow and orange, olive and brown hues are widely disliked in several countries they studied (perhaps because of a negative association with vomit, urine, you can use your imagination). I wonder what that says about me? I love mustard yellows, deep orange and earthy browns…

Other studies by the same team confirm what we all instinctively know about colour – that most of our preferences are based on association. Like our sense of smell, we’re wired to connect our senses with our experience, and this is what makes our reactions to colour so instinctive. That beloved childhood quilt, favourite food, or prized sports team all have an impact on our colour preferences, as do the things we dislike.

For professional designers in all disciplines, the use of colour combines art and science in ways that we might not fully understand, but that have powerful resonance for us all. It’s a fascinating challenge.

p.s. On an unrelated note, if you’d like to check out an interview I did last week on The Weather Network about dressing your children for Fall and Winter, you can check it out on YouTube here.

A few weeks ago I did another photo shoot, this time for my Spring/Summer 2012 line. Once again my amazing photographer Lise Varrette worked her magic, this time in her new studio space over a five-hour period with a total of nine children! The children were amazing and the photos are beautiful.

As I reflect on these twice-yearly photo shoots I can’t help but feel that in addition to tracking my development as a designer, they’re also tracking the growth of my three daughters, my nieces and nephews, and our beloved friends who have generously acted as my models, some for years.

My Caterpillar Dress is a particularly difficult one to photograph well. Because one size fits from about 1-4 years, I like to show it on different ages in the same photo to illustrate its flexibility. But it can be challenging to photograph a 12-month-old, and I don’t know very many right now (all the children in my life are growing too quickly!). Visiting friends with tiny toddler twins fit the bill perfectly. Their older “helper” was the lovely Anika, turning 4 next month, the daughter of other beloved friends. Acting as the senior model with two rowdy toddlers was certainly not the easiest task Anika has undertaken, but she handled her role with aplomb.  Here’s one of the photos I love, showing Anika with little Alia:

The thing that I love most about these shots is that Anika was once the baby in these photos. Here she is at the age of 11 months, not quite walking on her own, modeling the Caterpillar Dress with my daughter Georgia, then 3 and a half. Little Anika held on to the brick wall and shuffled along, turning every so often to check out the camera, while Georgia, amused, shuffled along with her to stay in the frame. Sometime Georgia would take Anika’s hands to steady her and there were quite a few amusing moments.

Fourteen months later, just after turning two, Anika modeled the same dress, and to say that she was delicious would be a huge understatement. Anika is quite tall for her age, so it was already getting a little too short to wear as a dress.

Next month will be Anika’s fourth birthday and the start of kindergarten, and the dress still looks great on her as a top. As with all children we love, watching her grow has been a delight, and documenting our growth together through these fabrics and dresses and images feels much more like a wonderful journey together than just a photo shoot.

Normally I avoid pink when I’m choosing fabrics for a new season. It’s so overdone, so painfully gendered, more about being pretty than powerful, sweet rather than strong and playful, and more imbued with symbolism than perhaps any other colour when it comes to dressing our children. My customers often tell me that they’re on the lookout for anything other than pink!

Be My Valentine DressBut.

As the mother of three girls, there have been times when each of my daughters wanted everything to be pink. And when I’m designing, I occasionally fall in love with a print that features pink, if it’s strong and vibrant and gorgeous. There are so many amazing variations on the colour spectrum, so many interesting combinations and juxtapositions.

Last month I found myself facing some gorgeous pink fabric, a lovely eco-blend of soy and organic cotton in a deep rich shade of fuschia. It was a stunning match for a cotton hearts print I’d been saving for the perfect occasion. How could I resist? And so I made a special dress in 100% pink, in honour of Valentine’s Day, and I offer it to you in all its pinkness, proudly. Turns out I can do pink after all.

Hope your Valentine’s Day is full of love and pink. Why not?

When I first made the transition from sewing for the love of it to starting a business, I had a lot to learn about production sewing: planning for the best use of precious fabric with minimal wastage, ideal pattern layout, and sewing as efficiently as possible without losing any attention to detail. Because I love to use beautiful, high quality (therefore expensive) fabrics, pattern layout is of special interest to me. Ideally, to maximize yield, fabric should be non-directional so the pattern pieces can lie both up and down, and the print should be consistent throughout.

Breaking all of these rules in the name of beauty over function, I recently fell in love with this fabric from Japan. This fabric would certainly make beautiful curtains, but how could I use it for clothing? The answer was instantly clear to me, and it determined the design of two of my new pieces for Fall:

As you can see, the skirt is cut from the upper section of the fabric with its soaring birds in a woodblock-print style, simple and elegant. The dress is cut from the lower section, centering the birds on the chest regardless of pattern size. The lowest section of the fabric, the rich green leaves, and the areas in between each dress, were used to cut the smallest pattern pieces – the front and back facings. And thus a piece of fabric that at first glance seemed so wasteful turned out to be both efficient and beautiful, after all.

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