Fashion designer and mama to three girls,
meet Jessica Walsh of Atelier/Child!
As mums who love fashion, we want our kiddos to look fashionable and put together – all while being comfortable and enjoying what they’re wearing, of course. In this edition of That Mama, we chat with Jessica Walsh from Atelier/Child who is the founder and designer of stylish, 100% natural knitwear and all at accessible price points for tiny tykes. With the motto, “mini classics for the modern child,” its pieces are easy to wear and go with just about anything. It also has a celebrity following with the likes of Liv Tyler and Coco Rocha, so if these outfits are good enough for them, they’re definitely good enough for us! A mama to three beautiful girls, Winter, Arella and Paloma, she dishes on how she launched her company, and tells us fun anecdotes about being a mama in Hong Kong.
Tell us a little bit about yourself! How did you end up in Hong Kong?
We arrived HK in 2012 with our first baby daughter, Winter. Originally from Sydney, we moved to Hong Kong for my husband’s work. We have quickly grown our little tribe by two, with the births of our other daughters, Arella and Paloma… and then of course there is my fourth baby, Atelier/Child!
How did you get into the world of fashion?
I have always wanted to have my own business and being quite creative, I attributed that in part to my Steiner primary education. I pursued a career in communications at university which didn’t leave much time for hands-on creativity. Then in 2009, I decided to train part time to become a milliner (making and selling women’s hats), which I did for two years. It really reignited my passion for creating things from scratch and helped fuel my desire to have my own creative business. After I became a mother and moved to Hong Kong the stars aligned, and Atelier/Child was born.
What was the inspiration behind Atelier/Child?
Families are at the heart of everything we do. Our focus when we launched was on creating beautiful pieces that mothers love, and children love to wear. That aim is still a crucial part of our design process, but we are taking it to the next level by structuring our whole business so that it really reflects the way that many parents want to shop for their children. Essentially providing stylish, 100% natural clothing, at accessible price points.
A little birdie told us that you have a celebrity following! Can you tell us who and what items they’ve chosen for their kids?
We are very lucky to count quite a few celebrities as fans. People such as Liv Tyler (who loves our stripes), supermodel Coco Rocha (who loves our leopard print), Tiffani Thiessen and fashion personalities including Miroslava Duma and Anine Bing. We’ve also been so grateful for the support of publications like VOGUE and Buro247, and successful bloggers and personalities such as Amber Fillerup Clarke in the USA.
What are the price points for your pieces and where can we get our hands on them?
Our current range starts at USD$25 for luxury cotton cashmere blend knits and is available at our website, and a select number of premium retailers around the world. We are in the process of expanding outside of knitwear. We have many more categories and styles launching in the coming months, all made from natural materials, and [affordably priced].
Why do you think choosing clothes made from luxury materials are important for younger wearers?
Natural materials such as cotton, cashmere, wool and linen have a wide range of advantages over synthetics, which is why we only use 100% natural fabrics in our range. Natural fabrics breathe and regulate temperature better and are more comfortable for active little people. Natural materials are also safer. Synthetics often contain chemicals that aren’t great for kids, and among other things that can trigger allergies.
As a mother I want to know that my children’s clothing is safe and comfortable so they can focus on the important job of being kids! This belief carries through to everything we make at Atelier/Child. More broadly speaking, we are passionate about creating quality items that will last and can be passed on so we minimise our impact on the environment.
Three favourite children’s brands and why?
I love supporting small businesses and businesses started by other entrepreneurial mothers. My girls own a lot of Printbebe, an Australian label focused on pretty cotton pieces that are so easy to wear . For cool shoes, I love AKid Brand out of LA. And of course, Atelier/Child! Finally, I do have a weakness for classic luxury French brands like Bonpoint, but I find the cost impossible to justify so these are always purchased on sale or from the amazing RETYKLE.
Where is your favourite shop/brand when you’re looking for new duds for yourself?
I can’t go past the Australian label, Scanlan Theodore. These days I prefer to forego regular cheap purchases in favour of one or two investment pieces from Scanlan each time I go home. The one exception I make to this is the Hong Kong based Grana, which I love for basics.
How do you balance work and mama life?
The transition to becoming a mother of three has been huge for me, and honestly it has been really hard to find a good balance. Parenting well takes a huge amount of time, energy and focus, as does growing a business. Becoming more disciplined about allocating my time has definitely helped, but it’s a work in progress! Also, like many of us in Hong Kong, I am blessed to have amazing support at home, which has been crucial.
How do you save time? Can you share any organisational tips and tricks?
On the home front, keeping a family calendar really helps so that everyone knows who has to be where and when. Like in most households, school mornings are crazy for us so it really helps to have bags packed, clothes laid out and breakfasts and lunches organised the night before.
On the work front, I am trying to be more organised with to do lists and short, medium and long term goal setting to track my progress and productivity. This really helps me focus on the important things, rather than getting too caught up in the little day to day things.
What do you do to get in that “me” time?
Exercise is my hobby, meditation and ‘me’ time all rolled into one. I try to do some type of exercise every day, and some days it’s the only thing that keeps me sane. I highly recommend regular exercise to all mamas – especially if you’re going through a rough patch.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of parenting?
I think the most challenging part of parenting is the fact that the goal posts are always moving. Just when you think you’ve got it worked out, something changes. The job is constantly evolving.
Favourite family holiday spot?
It’s hard to choose just one, but we had an amazing summer holiday in Niseko last year, complete with cherry picking, farm tours, fishing and hiking. We loved it.
What are your favourite spots to eat at with your family in Hong Kong?
We eat at home a lot, but love going for dim sum on the weekend. The girls love the trolleys at Maxims or we’ll try somewhere totally random. On the weekends in the warmer months we love making a day trip of it and hopping on the ferry to Lamma for lunch at Rainbow.
Can you tell us about how your career was pre-baby as compared to post-baby?
I worked in events and communications for a number of large organisations for over 10 years, including three years with Amnesty International, before having my children. Large organisations are wonderful for learning and building your network, but I knew when I had my children that I wanted to have more flexibility. This was a huge part of the motivation to realise my ambition of owning my own business. Running your own business isn’t without its challenges, but I love being my own boss and being able to be around for the girls.
What’s the best advice you’ve received as a parent?
Trust yourself, and drown out the noise. You are the one who knows your child best, and it’s up to you to decide how you want to raise them. I love the saying “the days are long, but the years are short”. For me it’s always a sage reminder that no matter how tough your day has been, time passes quickly so we need to try to enjoy life in the moment.
I’m not sure it qualifies as advice, but I wish we hadn’t tried to put our first baby on a strict routine so early. At the time I found it helpful because I had no idea what I was doing, but as my family has grown I have come to believe that it’s important to find your own rhythm. I think that routines do have an important place in making sure babies are well rested and getting what they need, but I don’t think there’s a one size fits all approach.
Something that you wish someone had told you about motherhood?
I wish I’d been better prepared for how isolating it can be in the early months and years. Everything in your life changes – your relationship, career, friendships, body… everything. Although many of these changes are for the better, they can be really hard at the time. Especially given that you are also learning how to care for a new baby and manage on little sleep!
What has been your most humbling moment as a mum?
I don’t think anything compares to the moment you meet your new baby for the first time. It’s such a vulnerable time, and there are so many raw emotions to deal with – joy, hope, relief, fear, wonder and a deep sense of responsibility. Nothing else I have done compares in terms of the enormity of that moment.
How do you keep the romance between you and your husband alive with such a busy work and family life?
We love anything that gives us a chance to catch up and talk. We do lots of hikes together and try to do regular date nights, but the best thing we do is get away together once a year for a week or so without the kids.
Favorite date spot in Hong Kong?
I personally don’t like very formal restaurants, especially for dates. We love casual places with great food. Yardbird is a perennial favourite, and we have been eating at Samsen in Wan Chai a lot lately.
As a mama, I wish I were better at…
Being truly present and living in the moment. I often find my mind wandering off to think about something work related or some task I have to complete.
I wake up in the middle of night thinking about…
If I am up late working I find it really difficult to switch off, and I sometimes dream about my to-do list. This doesn’t make for good rest and is really unhelpful for productivity, especially as I am usually up once or twice each night for the girls. Now I try to switch off from work mode by around 8 or 9pm to give myself time to wind down before going to bed.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
Everyone is relaxed. We try to be as chilled out as possible in the evening so that the kids are able to wind down and have a few quiet moments before they go to bed.
My favourite moment of the day is…
I don’t have one favourite moment. There are so many little things I am grateful for. I love any chance I get to have a quiet moment with one of the girls on their own. I love chatting with them when walking them to or from school. I love how little Paloma’s face lights up when I come home. I love the feeling when I’ve finished a long run. And I think every parent loves watching their children sleeping, and enjoying a few minutes of quiet downtime!
Thanks to the talented Michelle Proctor of Michelle Proctor Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram @michellejproctor