Sometimes, when it comes to kids clothing, you can have style or you can have comfort, but you can’t seem to have both. Aerin Cloke, creator of KicKee Pants, is changing all that. The mom of 4 started the clothing line to allow kids to climb, crawl, and play (read: basically be a kid) but also look cute, too. Here’s how she did it — and it all started from being on bed rest.
How did KicKee Pants come to be?
We started KicKee Pants while I was on bedrest with my second child. I was on 13 weeks of bed rest and I don’t watch TV so I had a lot of time to really kind of put it together. The thing that took the most time was really getting to the bottom of how to do our fabrication and create the line and 13 weeks of having nothing else to do will give you time to do that.
Did you have a design background before that?
I have a textile background, but not so much design, although I did get to meet a lot of women designers and ended up getting exposed to it. But it was really my children that were the driving influencing. I mean, you have your own kids. You know, you become interested in things that have to do with them.
And how would you describe the line?
All of the pieces that we have are very kid friendly. In other words, I wanted everything to be not constricting; you can get on the floor and crawl around. We just wanted kids to be kids and the line to be more reflective of what kids do rather than just reflective of what parents want them to look like. We really tried to incorporate both, to create a product that was really comfortable and conducive to just playing and crawling.
What were some of the things that you learned along the way?
Well, one of the one of the biggest lessons that’s kind of a strange one is that fast growth can be a problem. It’s very important to maintain a level of growth and although sometimes you want to take these huge orders that come in, sometimes it’s better to put things off and just keep things at a certain level. That can be a tough lesson to learn because sometimes you just want to go with this exciting thing that’s happening, but you have to be really careful with that.
Where do you see the line going in the future?
We’d love to grow the line a little bit more. I’d like to expand our size range; we have a lot of people requesting more and more sizes, and particularly in our pajamas.
Now you’re expecting baby number four. So how are you balancing all this?
Well, oddly enough, this particular business is very supportive of families. We can bring our kids to a trade show and in fact if we don’t have at least one baby in the booth, our buyers are wondering where they are.
What is it like working with your husband?
I don’t know how I would do it without him know. When I first started, I was kind of on my own and he was actually in education. And then once the lines were crossed, he joined on. We have very different talents and we do very different things. But there’s just something about knowing what’s going on in each other’s lives in a very different way that you wouldn’t know if you don’t work together, that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Oh, that’s very sweet and very rare.
[laughs] People say that a lot. But I think it’s just important to keep each other’s job titles separate, just as you would in any other job. You don’t want people stepping on your toes at work, like you guys are doing separate things. And you need to share everything together like you would as a coworker, but you’re still in charge of your own business. I oversee production and design. He deals with all the national and large accounts and he’s really good at communicating with our stores. He’s very patient and I’m not quite as patient. [laughs] So we definitely have different areas of strength. Nick really loves to do the photography and as it turns out, he’s really good at it. My opinion. We have gotten more and more involved in our photo shoot process as we’ve done this and now, we really do a lot of it ourselves. We pick out the outfits, cast the kids, and we do the shoots together. And we do we do it all ourselves. It’s kind of one of our fun projects that we get to do together which makes the whole process even more special.