It all started in back in 2004, when Jessie and James New met while working for the London designer Vivienne Westwood. Love soon blossomed between the pair and later, after the couple married and their first son Billy came into the world in 2010, a new idea was born. "After the birth, Jessie developed an interest in and passion for kidswear," recalls James. "Whenever the baby was asleep, Jessie began to experiment in designing little rompers and trousers for him, then dresses and blouses followed for girls."
James then took on the branding reins — "I became involved and inspired in creating the name and designing the logo", he says, while Jessie’s creative vision informed the pieces themselves: "The unique and playful approach to creating patterns that she learned at Vivienne Westwood enabled her to create exciting new designs for children . . . Jessie and James is children’s clothing that is out of the ordinary."
New for this Season
Celebrating the label’s joyful, offbeat approach to children’s clothing, the autumn/winter ’23 collection brings together sculptural yet wearable occasionwwear alongside everyday pieces with a tailored twist.
We caught up with James to discover more about the inspiration behind the brand and the couple’s passion for unique design.
Where do you look for inspiration when designing a new collection?
"Rather than getting inspired by other childrenswear brands or trends in childrenswear, we research the new fashion shows and collections of famous fashion designers. Jessie likes to work with big ideas, then tame them down if necessary. Textile and fashion exhibitions are inspirational too but most of our inspiration comes from whatever surrounds us — nature for example, different shapes of leaves, colours of flowers, textures, and patterns. Creating new silhouettes from shapes — circles, spirals — is really playful and the result is usually very unique. Working with Vivienne Westwood taught Jessie this way of working and many of our designs are created from scratch. Working in this way, we will never run out of ideas."
Reflecting back, how has being parents influenced the way you design clothes for children?
"Having children enables you to understand that comfort is one of the key factors in childrenswear. In their first five years, our boys [Billy and Georgie] did not wear anything but jersey trousers (ideally leggings) and hoodies with as few seams as possible. They also loved football kits and occasionally Spiderman suits! Elastics on sleeves, irritating fabrics and itchy seams can easily lead to rejection. Our designs are extremely fashion led, as this is our background. Designing childrenswear, we also pay great attention to details, finishing our clothes to the highest standards and selecting only quality fabrics to ensure that kids love to wear our clothes and feel comfortable in them."
From the Collection
You started out designing for boys and girls — what made you refocus just on girls?
"We began our business offering both girls’ and boys’ clothes and, of course, we designed with our children in mind, offering a mainly jersey collection. We loved developing a range of stylish bomber jackets and cool cut jersey trousers in wicked prints. The collection was smaller and, even though buyers shared our love, it was simply not big enough for them to buy into. [Focusing on girls] also allowed us to express our creativity with a more extravagant fashion approach. Confident girls love to wear our dresses and stand out from the crowd. Hopefully we can reintroduce boys’ clothing again in the future."
You have made it a priority to source your luxury fabrics from the UK and Europe. How far does sustainability inform the way you design and produce your collections?
"It is important to be in control of as many steps as possible. We regularly visit our manufacturers and suppliers in the UK and Europe to work closely together and ensure good communication. This is extremely important, especially as the cuts and fabrics of our garments are unique and intricate. Producing in Europe entirely also keeps shipping distance to a minimum. Sustainability plays an increasingly important role in all fashion businesses. We always use cotton over polyester, even though we produce mainly occasion dresses. Our fabric suppliers now offer organic cottons and recycled fabrics too, which we love."
And finally, outside of work and the world of fashion, what inspires you both on a personal level?
"We are quite romantic and traditional. We love living near the sea, going for walks as a family and enjoy browsing through antique shops and charity shops along the south coast . . . it's a bit like a treasure hunt. Of course, having lived in London for many years, where Jessie and James was founded, we do miss the city sometimes. We return occasionally for exhibitions at the V&A and Tate, to dine and, of course, to go to the theatre. London in itself is a very exciting and inspirational city — it is full of interesting people and different cultures, and it is a great place to people-watch."
All images by Jessie and James London
Shop the latest collection for girls here.