Hollyz: The Making of Us
Mama chats to Jessie J and Joanne Wallace-Thompson of Hollyz about their beautiful children-swear brand.
Absolutely Mama: Tell us the background to the brand.
Jessie J: The company was launched in 2015, founded by myself and Joanne. I have a degree in logistics and Joanne has a degree in technical textile design and surface pattern. We both have daughters who are 8 years-old. When we looked at the choice of girl’s clothes on the high street, we just saw pieces that were flouncy, not seasonal appropriate or downright uncomfortable to wear. What we couldn’t find was anything warm and comfortable yet stylish. The fusion of our skills resulted in a partnership of two like-minded people who wanted to create a new brand of warm luxury cashmere and cashmere blend garments with hand finished details for girls and boys aged 2-13.
AM: What were you doing before Hollyz?
Joanne Wallace-Thompson: After a career in fabric design I was looking for an opportunity to use my creative skills in a new flexible working environment. For Jessie, working as a logistics manager offered little flexibility too. So, for both of us, working from home and fitting our working days around school runs and being a hands-on parent was important.
AM: What inspires your designs?
JW-T: Jessie and I have a mutual passion for fashion.
We don’t struggle for inspiration as there are so many avenues to pick it up. We are both very visual and there is so much to see in everyday life, if you are open enough to see it, store and record it for future reference. We love visiting and taking photographs in interesting places, such as the National Sculpture Park and Chatsworth, in Derbyshire. We bounce ideas off each other, so when it comes to putting together our bi-annual collections, everything falls into place quite smoothly. Our daughters model for us and their fashion likes and dislikes, particularly wearability and comfort, is something we take seriously when creating our range.
AM: What are your favourite pieces from the collection?
JJ: We pretty much agree that our Classic range of pure cashmere cardigans is our favouritie. They are so soft and comfortable for the wearer. Our age-appropriate images on the reverse of the garments, which include ballet pumps, kittens and shooting stars, are all decorated with diamante trim and hand embroidered, making them gorgeous and unique. For an older girl, our cashmere and fine wool blend cape – as featured in British Vogue’s Centennial edition – is a firm favourite.
AM: Where do you source from?
JJ: All the logistics and design operations are based in the UK and we source our cotton prints from Liberty of London. Some of the manufacturing is done at home too, whilst the manufacture and knitting of the cashmere garments is done in China.
AM: You’re working mums – tell us how you balance the business with motherhood?
JW-T: For both Jessie and I a typical day is juggling work with looking after family and doing the school runs. Fortunately we don’t live too far away from one another, so after doing the morning run we meet around 9am, have a full working day looking through colour cards, exploring design ideas, hand drawing new designs and then disappear around 4pm to pick up the girls from school. Regular use of email and Whatsapp keeps us in touch when we are not in the same room.
AM: What has been your greatest achievement with Hollyz?
JJ: Definitely when British Vogue found us on social media and invited us to feature in their centennial edition. Our daughters were featured wearing the cashmere and fine wool capes with the diamante heart trim on the reverse. The baby pink colourway sold out overnight.
AM: And your biggest challenge?
JW-T: To gain market awareness for the Hollyz brand. For Jessie and I personally, it’s improving my IT skills so I can work quicker and smarter, while for Jessie it’s to have an clearer understanding of business operation and procedure.
AM: What’s next for Hollyz?
J W-T: Jessie and I plan to continue the growth of the brand through trade shows, our website and social media. Also, with a relatively new brand, the friends network plays a key role in market exposure. For the current season we have redesigned the bestselling cape into a seasonally-appropriate weight and introduced some very different cashmere styles and shapes that will appeal to an older girl who might want a more ‘street’ fashion look. We are receiving positive feedback from mums who are asking if we make some of the girls’ styles in sizes that will fit mums. We plan to increase the range of boys’ garments too. Recently our biggest growth area has been our handmade hair accessories, which we are now selling in the UK and internationally. It’s a very exciting time for us both and we look forward to putting our plans into place.