As any working mum knows, it can be a struggle to balance work and family life. It's something that Clare Green, an accomplished fashion designer and doting mother, found challenging. But instead of becoming overwhelmed, she did what many dream about: started her own business. 'Just after the birth of our second daughter, Layla, my husband's job took him away for most of the week, leaving me juggling my job and the children. Two years after I had gone back to work, I realised that we still hadn't got the balance right. A friend suggested that she and I start our own business, and it was something I had always wanted to do, so I decided to go for it!'
Fast forward a few months and the pair are off to a flying start, allowing nothing to stand in the way of their ambitions. 'Board meetings are held at the local soft play area over a coffee, and followed up after bedtimes with action plans. We gel really well and are a great team, approaching LaylaMay from different angles with the same end goals. While Helen has taken more of a mentoring role, I'm the designer as I have the experience in this area; when I graduated from my fashion degree, I worked in London as a jerseywear designer, working on designs for high street shops including Topshop and Dorothy Perkins. I did lots of travelling to trade shows and factories, before eventually settling back in Yorkshire as a design manager.'
Both Clare and Helen have tunnel vision when it comes to what style of clothes they want to design and sell, creating a look that they describe as 'classic English vintage with a modern twist'. 'We have always found it difficult to find girls’ clothing that is not overtly girly, and also have found that many children's designs are not easy to put on or have unsuitable design elements for the wearer’s age. Our clothes are designed to be layered and have details that ensure a better fit, such as the turn-up cuffs and ruched hems.' The aesthetic process is met with similar gusto; the clothes, after all, have to look nice. 'Designing always starts with a small thing that inspires me, such as a vintage item of clothing which gives me the feel of how I want the collection to look. Once a design has been decided on, a pattern is made for a first sample, constructed in mock fabrics first, and once we are happy with the fit we make everything in the correct fabrics. We carefully scrutinise and trial the collection before making them up into different ages, then use these as final fit and photo samples before we give the go-ahead for production at the factory.'
Fabrics are sourced from a variety of places, from their Yorkshire doorstep to mainland Europe. 'Our tweed is from a local Yorkshire mill called Marling & Evans, who are located in a beautiful spot by a canal, so it's always a pleasure to go and visit; the kids can even feed the ducks! The jersey is also from the UK, and our other fabrics are mainly from the EU. As time goes on we would like to use more British fabrics and trims, so we will replace as we go along. It would be great to have everything sourced from here.'
The budding entrepreneurs have other big dreams, but not just in terms of pounds and profits; they want to give something back. 'We want to be able to work with local companies, and support the local business community and traditional trades, by helping to provide them with custom. Another ideal would be to employ other mums, passing on the opportunity we created, and we'd also love to be able to work with students to give them that all-important head start.'
Clare insists any mum, new or otherwise, can take the same steps she has to build a more balanced and fulfilling life; it's all about organisation. 'I do as much as I can when my oldest daughter is at school, as it's easier to phone people and do the stuff I really need to concentrate on. With modern technology I can answer any urgent emails and phone calls whenever I need to. My advice? Make sure you have a sound idea that you truly believe in and a great support network. Then just do it; the hardest part is exactly that, just doing it. But once you do, you'll never look back.'
LaylaMay Clothing, 01484 420705 www.laylamay-clothing.co.uk