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We were able to interview one of the designers behind Imps & Elfs! This is a real treat four readers. Please enjoy!
On Sustainability – When you make baby clothes “out of love for them then you must have a twisted mind not to care about the environment”
You’ve been around since 1997 and much has occurred in the world of fashion since then. Do you feel that you have moved away from your original goal of being, “…a modest children’s label without frills or fancies, which concentrates on the shape of the child”? Or do you feel that each season you reinterpret and reinvent that philosophy?
We put a lot of effort in following this goal. It is more than a goal; it is what we believe in. It is our mission. We study the anatomy of children. We invest in own patternmakers, CAD cam systems, etc. When we start designing, we do not make drawings but we design from the sewing machine, putting ideas in 3D form.
It seems so counter intuitive that many children’s clothing designers don’t know where their products are coming from or by whom they are being made, especially considering they are designing for children. What prompted your initial move towards fair trade, child labor-free?
When you start a label for children out of love for them then you must have a twisted mind not to care about the environmental and social aspects of producing the actual clothes for them.
In 2006, Ode Magazine named Imps & Elfs the “Top Organic Company of the Year” for your contributions to sustainable selling practices. How was that for you? Have you changed your practices to become even greener since then?
We just try to do our best. Our aim is to use as much green material possible and to try to move our factories to the highest possible social standard available.
With the economy as shaky as it has been in years, do you find it difficult to stay true to your beliefs while still trying to make a profit? Is it possible to have “small numbers, big prices” in this day?
We just do not put different options on the table.
On Spring/Summer 2010 Collection – This season’s Imps & Elfs collection was inspired by the need to “clean up”
Let’s talk about the current IMPS&ELFS baby clothes collection. It has several great classic, basic pieces; a lot of black, grey and white and with the exception of stripes, not many patterns. What was the inspiration for the collection? How do you find inspiration before you design a collection?
Every season we find new inspiration. This can come from everywhere: a movie, an old piece of clothing, but also a political change, recession, etc.
This season we felt that we had to CLEAN UP. After all, with the problems in the economy you could not open the newspaper and avoid seeing them. We felt the need to open all the windows and doors and clean/clear our minds and house. This led to the design inspiration going back to the essence of our brand: form follows function. Colors used were pastels, summer greys, ton sur ton.
How is this season’s baby clothes collection different from your past collections? What pieces from your spring and summer collection of Estella’s line are you most excited about?
Every season is different, but you can recognize the IMPS&ELFS handwriting of each collection. I think that we are different in making shape in a product.
How far in advance do you work on your collections and what is the process?
Almost 10 months. In September we start working on Fall/Winter 2011. That collection we start delivering to the stores in July 2011. We start making a concept, a theme. Then we think about a title and start making initial designs on the sewing machine. In the meantime, we make a product plan. Then we start making fabrics, trims and color proposals. We work in different teams at the same time on patterns, artworks and designs.
Your clothing fits every personality — the Everychild, if you will — which is wonderful. There’s a great range and departure from pink frills for girls and tiny men’s outfits for boys. Was this a conscious decision, or did it come about, pardon the pun, organically?
The design of the clothes should complement the child rather than overrule him. That is why it suits almost every child.
Who or what inspires the designs? How would you describe your style of fashion?
Children! Sporty, no conventions, intellectual.
Besides the core group (Fons and Jacqueline) what and who does the IMPS&ELFS team consist of?
Design team, product teams, back office, wholesale team and retail team.
Can you tell us more about cotton? Aside from the obvious lack of pesticides, why do you feel it is so important to use cotton?
It is a natural fiber and so it good on the skin. Farming it is not so nice. There is a lot of water wastage and use of chemicals. We try to work on these last two aspects. It would be better not to use cotton at all but there is not a real good substitute yet.
On Fashion – “try to avoid making little adults out of children”
What current trend or style in fashion is exciting you?
At the moment, due to the recession probably, it is not really exciting. But we really admire designers and brands as Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens, Anne de Meulemeester.
How did you decide to get into fashion? Did you happen upon it serendipitously?
Are there any designers, past or present, that you would have liked to work with?
Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens, Anne de Meulemeester.
Do you have any fashion advice or styling tips you could give to our readers?
Do not be afraid to mix and match! Try to avoid making little adults out of children. Do not let your children wear oversized clothes!
On Life – I make designer baby clothes because I admire children!
I read an older IMPS&ELFS press release which presented some terrific golden rules: Let’s Not Behave; Let’s Get Dirty; Don’t Be Boring and Speak Up. A great list for today’s child, to be sure. IMPS&ELFS asked us to speak up. What would you love children to speak up about?
The theme of that collection was “SPEAK UP”. We were fed up with all the so-called “wise people”. We wanted to hear the children speak about their own future.
And speaking of children, I love the quote, “I admire their smile; I admire their pureness; I admire their happiness; I admire their sense of humor; I admire children for being the most precious gift on earth.” That is beautiful. Is that the ultimate motivator for everything IMPS&ELFS does?
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.
Thank you for carrying our line!