Read our interview with the stores owner, Ashlyn Gibson. She's also an author of two interior kids books, a stylist and style editor at Kidswear Living magazine...
Why did you start Olive Loves Alfie?
I became a single mum when Olive was 14 months old - 6 months later I was made redundant from a dream job as a footwear designer. I was heartbroken on two counts and my confidence and self esteem was rock bottom. I vowed to myself that I would take control of my own destiny. I had a head full of ideas from a decade of travelling the world sourcing and designing. It was time to step out on my own and to create a life for myself and my daughter where I could call the shots. I wanted a change and had worked in fashion all my life but had never owned a shop - it had always been a dream and it felt like the time was right. I found an empty store on Church Street in Stoke Newington in the neighbourhood where I lived and started putting together a store to please Olive and myself. In 2005 the children's market in the UK was incredibly limited to a traditional pink and blue approach and anything more interesting was either too classic or too twee for my taste. Sourcing things for the modern family and playing a key role in a movement to change that became my new passion.
All roads no matter how bumpy lead to your next adventure and every cloud has a silver lining.
How did you start Olive Loves Alfie?
I used my redundancy money to pay for my first delivery of stock and 6 months rent.
Where did the name come from?
I was really enchanted by a connection Olive had with her friend Alfie when they were at nursery together. I can remember finding them sitting together wearing deeley boppers, both with heads of angelic curls and talking to each other before they could really string more than a sentence together. There was something unspoken about their friendship and it made me realise that even children make connections and are drawn to their own tribe.
What has Olive taught you?
To live in the moment and to be present. That to a great extent children are their own people! That love knows no limits. That children have an infinite amount of wisdom.
What has been your proudest moment so far for OLA?
My opening party and having Olive by my side. It felt like a major achievement after loosing so much. It was something that I knew would have a positive impact on our lives.
What were the first items you bought and sold in your store?
I imported children's kimonos from Japan - had a handpicked selection of genuine vintage children's wear - and was one of the first stores to stock Scandinavian children's wear and collected and sold vintage globes and vintage Fisher Price toys.
How would you describe your own style?
It's hard to pin me down - i'm a Gemini. I have never really adhered to one style. I love colour and print, things that tell a story and I love to buy British made. Individual is perhaps the best word and is the message that Olive Loves Alfie carries. Its the way I have encouraged Olive to be - she is unique though its impossible to say how much is down to nature and how much is down to nuture.
My favourite outfit right now....A vintage kimono from my collection, Kate Sheridan dungarees and Gold high tops - and I'm all set.
Where do you draw inspiration for OLA from?
It all began by pulling my knowledge, ideas and discoveries together so its good to go right back to the beginning to home in on the values that I had when I first opened my store. They still apply today and give me lost of inspiration. Kids inspire me, raw creativity, my own dreams, nature and my travels.
How is Olive Loves Alfie different now to when you first set it up?
Our newest outpost in East Village is like Olive Loves Alfie's big sister - it caters for parents as well as kids - not just in terms of shopping needs but as a meeting place where we run workshops and Mama Meets in collaboration with Finlay Fox. I have loved curating a collection for Mums that we sell in Olive Loves Alfie East and also on our website. I'm not a big shopper so for me to have a store that I love that grows up with parents needs felt like a winning combination.
How has kids fashion changed in the last 10 years?
The landscape is very different to the one I set my business up in. There are some really creative and original designers and stores but there are also a lot of people barking up the same tree. As independent retailers and designers I think we have a responsibility to think independently.
How do you stay so unique and individual in a world where everyone is doing so many similar things?
If you have an authentic story it always shines through. Its important to stay true to your values and to allow the personality of your brand to develop with integrity.
What are your thoughts on social media?
I have very mixed feelings. Life was simpler and kinder before the explosion of social media. On the one hand it can be time consuming and distracting - on the other hand its a wonderful way to connect with people. For teenagers its a huge added pressure that can turn what should be days of happy exploration into a fast and furious game..
How do you find being a working mum and how do you get a good work/ life balance?
I don't think I do find a balance. My work is a huge part of me and my life. I would say we are very hard to separate but ultimately being my own boss gives me freedom that is priceless.
Whats the hardest thing about being a mum?
Being a parent can be tough but being a single parent is unbelievably hard. I salute anyone who has gone through that and raised children on their own.
Whats the best thing about being a mum?
The power and the love that is generated from nurturing your child is mind blowing.
Whats the most rewarding thing about Olive Loves Alfie?
That is is a true reflection of my ideas and my passion.
When are you happiest?
When Olive is happy.
How is being a mama different now to when you had Olive?
Social media has made a huge impact on parents lives. It offers a way to find your tribe and feel connected even if you are on your own. For a single parent it is a lifeline.
Do you still see yourself as an 'anarchic mum'?
Being a parent is a constant source of discovery - I don't follow rules or guidelines so life can be pretty chaotic but i think a creative approach to parenting makes for a wildly imaginative and rich childhood.
Whats your favourite song?
I guess the song I used to sing the most to Olive - Wild Is The Wind
Wheres your favourite place to relax?
I love my home but I'm never happier than when I am in my bell tent in the big wide open.
Do you have a mantra or any wise words of advice for mums running a business?Surround yourself with people you can trust who will champion your dreams.
What are you most excited about for the re-launch of the website?
Working with Emma is a great source of excitement for me. There is something incredibly uplifting about being on a journey together. My focus has always been my store so having the time and energy and a shared vision to put our combined knowledge and vision into a new website is dynamite.