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Marks & Spencer Q&A with Natalie Carroll: Best baby fashion brand 2014 - WINNER

We meet the designer behind the 2014 Junior Design Award-winning entry

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What is your name and job title?

Natalie Carroll, Babywear & Maternity Buyer at M&S

What did you love to wear as a child?

I was a real tomboy when I was little, so anything soft and comfortable – I remember a Minnie Mouse sweatshirt, leggings (and matching hairband!) being a favourite!

What’s so great about children’s fashion?

There’s so much opportunity to have fun with print and colour - and being involved with those first few pieces that make up a baby’s wardrobe is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

What are the highlights of your autumn winter 2014 collection?

We have really moved on with our knitwear offering – from cute graphics to super cosy lined chunky knits, beautifully hand embellished knitted dresses and classic soft cashmere cardis – there’s been a real refocus on that area.  We also have a great dresses offer for baby girl which is very exciting – traditional Christmas day velvet look dresses are back but then we also have prom dress shapes with dramatic oversize florals, cosy cord pinnys, modern geo printed tunic dresses... there’s lots of different looks covered within the ranges.

How important is it to keep up with changing fashion trends?

It’s definitely important – we make sure that a fashionable edge is reflected in our daywear ranges and we’re always looking for new fabrics and prints that will catch our customer’s eye.  For us though, comfort and safety is also really important – and graphic prints that have the ‘aaah’ factor.

How do you inject a fashion element into baby fashion designs?

We have some fantastic graphic designers who are always bringing new and inspiring ideas to the table – so even a basic bodysuit becomes a key fashion item by the time they’ve worked their magic.  We also constantly look at our shapes, especially for dresses and wovens, so that we create something fashionable that’s appropriate for a tiny baby!

What makes your brand stand out in the growing market of baby fashion?  

Our tight colour palettes and signature prints- the Heritage range we have in store at the moment is hugely popular with our customers.  On top of that, our essentials are the best on the high street – our bodysuits are all flat seamed, our sleepsuits have integral scratch mitts and anti-slip feet, we are incredibly rigorous with our popper testing, and you can wash our product time and again and it holds its shape and stays soft – we’re really proud of that.

If you could be a child again just for one day, what would you do and what would you wear?

A cosy pair of Christmas pyjamas, unwrapping the presents that Santa has brought for Christmas morning.

Why did you enter the Junior Design Awards?

Over the last year we’ve done at lot of work at M&S to elevate our kids ranges and develop a more fashionable and premium handwriting – we’re ready to shout about it now!

What do you predict for the future of children’s fashion?

In babywear I think we’ll see a return to some of the more classic, French handwriting – particularly with the traditional clothing that Prince George is often snapped in!  There’s also a lot more opportunity in shape than there has been previously  - I think we’ll see more ‘mini- me’ garments coming through on the high street that reflect the adult trend shapes particularly in jersey and outerwear.


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