In their London studio, Bryony Richardson, the creator of Palava, carefully crafts all of the brand’s prints by hand. The British collection for women and children has a rich history creating outfits that will have a special meaning, to be handed down from generation to generation.
We were excited to learn all about the brand in this fun Designer Q&A!
What inspired the name of your label?
We had to go through several name changes as a company, due to copyright issues – it felt like “a bit of a palaver” – the name sprung up naturally from that! It’s fun, a bit tongue in cheek and very English – which suits our brand perfectly. We don’t take ourselves too seriously – we like enjoying the fun side of life and seeing the world in full colour – which is why our prints are bright and cheerful!
We have settled into our name like we’ve never been called anything else. It’s also now our team catchphrase. If a design takes a long time to finish, or someone gets locked out of the office (which has happened!) it’s “What a Palava!”
Why did you choose to design for children?
My parents originally owned the family childrenswear label, which I inherited. When I picked up the reigns I started with children’s dresses.
I had an adventurous childhood, growing up in rural Yorkshire, climbing trees, going on woodland walks, getting messy. Many of my designs are inspired by my childhood – both in terms of the prints and also their practicality. We make pretty dresses, but they wash up well and can be worn on adventurous children who want to get a bit mucky!
Children grow up quickly – but I always felt I wanted to slow down fashion a little and put some meaning into our clothing. That’s why I created our storybooks – a little book that comes with our dresses and skirts and picks up the story behind the prints. We have our Walking in the Zoo storybook, for our animal-inspired collection, Kew Gardens, for our Kew Gardens inspired prints, our SS18 collection is entitled ‘Under the Sea’ and comes with a little storybook called Poppy and Fred’s Swimming Audition – about a little girl and her dog and their aspirations to join a synchronised swimming team!
What is your brand’s mission statement or goal?
Firstly, to spark the imagination and excitement of the children who wear Palava. That’s where the storybook comes into play, and our descriptive, unusual prints.
We also believe children’s fashion should be fun! Our prints are designed to put a smile on your face.
We are also committed to producing our clothes ethically and have moved our main manufacturing back to the U.K. We care about how our clothes are made and want to put something good back into the world – this counts for the quality of fabrics we use and the fact they are sustainable – through to the factories we work with.
Finally, most of us are nostalgic for our childhoods. In my designs, I aim to recapture something of days gone by, to recreate the fun and playfulness of my own childhood.
Why do you believe fashion/style is important for children?
At any age, fashion is how you express yourself. I also believe that children should be free to explore their personality through clothes and be confident in who they are. A favourite dress or a colourful shirt is a powerful way to assert your personality and help you feel confident!
We create matching dress styles for women and children, so many of our customers get matching dresses with their children for Christmas, Easter or birthdays. It’s amazing to see mothers and children in their matching Palava outfits! This aspect of our brand helps to forge fun and memorable moments for family occasions.
What are the motivations or inspirations behind the design?
Our current collection is called Under The Sea! It includes lobster prints, ice creams, synchronised swimmers, beach scenes. It’s a tribute to the days of the great British seaside! I was also very inspired by the vintage movies of Esther Williams who was known as the Hollywood mermaid for her amazing technicolour films featuring underwater scenes. I watched lots of those movies when I was designing the collection. I also spent days out in some of my favourite Beach towns in the U.K – Margate, Brighton, Southend-on-Sea…soaking up the atmosphere, taking pictures and brainstorming design ideas! In terms of colourways, I went for the brightest and most cheerful ones I could think of!
Our collection is perfect for holidays and special days out – but each piece is practical too and can be worn for any occasion. So I like to think I’m bringing a little bit of holiday sunshine and fun to the everyday!
Is there a style decade you are inspired by?
I love the classic dress shapes and knitwear of the 1950s and 1960s. Our Penny dress features a lovely Peter Pan collar, our Claudia dress has gorgeous ruffles at the front…all of these details are inspired by vintage dress designs I’ve come across from this era. If I see vintage children’s dresses out at car boot sales or vintage fairs, I buy them for reference.
I also love vintage children’s books…such as Millie Mollie Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley and the novels of Enid Blyton. So my designs also nod to these wonderful children’s books and the eras they represent.
What do you have coming up that you are really excited about?
We’ve just launched our childrenswear bedding range and wall stickers! These include four of our classic prints – our Walking Zoo print is particularly popular and features zebras, tigers, flamingos and peacocks! Bedding had been a dream of mine for a long time so it’s so exciting to have it finally realised. As with all of our dresses, the bedding is crafted from organic cotton – it’s very soft to the touch and breathable – perfect for a good night’s sleep.
What is your favourite piece (for boys and girls) from the current collection?
I do actually think that this SS18 collection is one of my favourites so it’s difficult to choose! But I would say that the Claudia Diver Rows dress is one of my favourites for girls, I love the casual element to this dress, it’s loose fitting so it’s easy and comfortable to wear but with the added ruffle design it just makes it that little more special. I love how you can dress up or down with our dresses, you could wear them at the beach or at a wedding! For boys, we have our Arthur shirt which will always be my favourite, again it’s so easy for them to wear!
How does your design philosophy change when creating for boy vs. girls?
It’s a tricky one for me really, I like to think that the majority of our prints are unisex anyway. However we do predominantly make dresses for Women and Girls, but we tend to steer clear of the ‘pink and sparkly route’ because I feel there’s so much more to children’s clothing than this. We have tried to branch out into shirts which we created to be unisex but the demand isn’t quite there for them yet. We create some babywear which is unisex and we would love to continue to grow a collection for boys and men in the future. So looking towards the future I like to think that the design philosophy won’t have to change as the prints will be gender neutral- here at Palava, we’re a real fan of different themes such as animals, nautical and woodland etc.
We recently produced a bedding range that is equally lovely for boys and girls, a lot of our fabrics are based on themes, so basing the theme around something unisex is a good place to start! We love animals here at Palava and so this was a great theme for our bedding.