Sybil Harriman (Nee Macgowan) was born in Dublin in 1919. Both her mother and her grandmother were passionate artists; her childhood memories were family gatherings with the artists and creatives of the day discussing art, culture, the fashions of Coco Chanel, Hermes scarves and the celebrity icons of film, Gloria Swanson, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Her young life was infused with her passion for designing and making clothes. She loved her dolls and teddies and made many beautiful creations for them. She fell in love at 18 with a handsome Jazz pianist, Rene Harriman, who became a big influence in her life. Rene was brought up in France, surrounded by chic Parisian couture, and he shared Sybil’s love for beautiful fabrics and elegant attire.
When her fourth child was born Rene and Sybil were living in Vienna, where the four beautifully dressed children became the centre of attention, so Sybil started to hold sewing circles where the ladies came and learnt how to create exquisite smocking and intricate hand pleating, remaking old fabrics into beautiful clothing for their own children.
The Harriman family relocated to England. Happily living in Royal Tunbridge Wells, the family, with six immaculately dressed children, became well known in the town. Sybil and her Austrian nanny continued with the ladies sewing circles, which had been so popular in Vienna. Soon the pastime became a business and her house had a busy workroom. By 1952 and with her own brand, Joy Models, in full swing (named after her first daughter, Joy) they rented a shop premises and The Childrens Salon (the french word for boutique) was born, the name conceived by her husband Rene. The workroom quickly became filled with orders from across the country, including orders from Royalty and celebrities of the day.
With the shop producing increasing demand, Sybil soon realised she would need to add other brands to her offer. With their connections in Paris they imported lovely French brands, also adding Fairisle knits and Harris tweed coats, wool kilts from Scotland and Irish Linens from Ireland and of course her own brand, Joy Models, created by her little band of smockers and seamstresses from around Kent and Sussex. The wholesale business was busy but Sybil’s passion grew for having her own shop full of beautiful brands, so she decided to stop wholesaling and her own brand became exclusive to The Childrens Salon. Rene had artistic talents as a photographer, and many of his pictures adorned the little shop, with her six children as models, it was a unique shopping experience.
The early fashion shows she pioneered were famous and customers traveled from far away to visit the shop.
The 1960’s arrived bringing with it the need to relocate to bigger premises, and by the late 70’s her daughter Michele had joined and brought her own creative impulses. By the late 90’s Michele, married to a successful designer and illustrator, (famous for painting the iconic Mamma Mia picture) decided to bring their unique offer to the world-wide-web. The Childrensalon website launched in 1999, to immediate success, attracting customers from all over the world. The customers loved the old-fashioned emphasis on “after sales! comes service”, the original slogan from the 1950’s.
Today there are 13 members of the founders family out of a team of over 500, working in the unique business started all those years ago, the vision of an elegant French jazz pianist and his talented wife.