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Exclusive Q&A with Karen Bailey, owner of Igloo

We chat to the founder of eclectic childrenswear webstore, Igloo, about her fashionable inspirations and busy family life

Posted: 26 June 2012
by Catherine Hudson

Karen as a child

Where were you born and brought up?

I was born in Limerick and brought up with my brother Mark on a farm by my Austrian grandmother. I stayed there until I was six then moved to Dublin with my parents. My younger brother and sister were not yet born, so I forged a very strong link with the Austrian side of my family who continue to be a big influence on me.

Do you have brothers and sisters? If so, can you tell me a bit about them?

I have two brothers and a sister. My older brother Mark is an entrepreneur in the healthcare industry and my youngest brother works at Goldman Sachs. My sister is a working mother to two children.

What were your favourite pastimes as a child?

Making igloos! We lived on a big farm that had a plantation of trees and my brother and I would build what we deemed to be igloos out of tree branches; hence the name of my business.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I didn’t have a clear idea so tried lots of different things – stockbroker, trainee lawyer, corporate affairs... I also did a degree in English literature. Despite not knowing what I wanted to be I did know I had a keen interest in business, and I wanted to find an outlet for more creative ideas. I’ve been able to utilise all my experience to create Igloo. It was obviously meant to be...

What was your favourite thing to wear as a child?

I loved dressing in fashionable clothes and still do when I get the chance. My grandmother would make me the most beautiful clothes – I would pick designs from women’s magazines and design child versions for my grandmother to make. I would however be terribly annoyed when they did not turn out exactly as they looked in the magazine and there used to be tears and a few tantrums until it was right. My poor long-suffering grandmother!

Do you have children? If so, how do you like to dress them? Or do they dress themselves?

I have three children; Max, Olivia and Mimi.  The girls always want to dress themselves and Mimi in particular has a strong fashion sense and loves skinny jeans and boots with heels, which she’s only allowed to wear at the weekends. She often comes to appointments with me when I am buying for the following season. 

One of my favourite quotes from Mimi is, "You forgot to remind me to wear my UGGs. Everybody else was...", when it was snowing at school. Olivia is less fashion-conscious but occasionally likes to dress fashionably, especially if her younger sister is around. Max is a typical boy. In summer term he can be found mostly in cricket whites, otherwise it’s jeans, tees, Abercrombie and Fitch and Converse. Throughout the year, though, he constantly forgets to wear his coat. He 'conveniently' leaves it at school.

What’s your family life like?  

Complicated, but not as complicated as it could be! My ex-husband and I get on extremely well and live five minutes apart. We share parenting and the children spend almost equal time with both of us.  My partner and I live together and his daughter has been staying with us for the past few months.  Luckily both our families get on well, despite the age range differences. It all runs very smoothly when my PA and our wonderful housekeeper and nanny are around which luckily is every day, to help with homework, activities, cleaning, cooking...  Family life has to be pretty regimented during term time to take all of this into account but like the people we work with at Igloo, we all know each other very well. That helps to know who does what and is supposed to be where. 

How did you get into what you do?

At the time of setting up Igloo I had one-year-old twins and was pregnant with my third child. I wanted a business where I could still be there for my children as I knew if I returned to the City I wouldn’t be seeing them as much as I would like. I found shopping with the children quite stressful and had to visit multiple stores to get everything I needed. I then thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could visit one store which catered for all the milestones - newborn, learning to swim, first shoe, birthdays - and to create a store which catered for my demographic. It was important the store had wide aisles, warm and friendly staff and that the experience was enjoyable for mothers and visitors with children. Igloo has been created to offer an eclectic range of products and services that appeal to both children and parents and we offer something for the just-born to the all-grown-up 12 year old.

What do you do in your spare time?

My life is mostly children and work but I do try to do some yoga. We have a home in Dorset and my partner has a house in Dubrovnik where we spend holidays. It’s great to visit either of those to relax and throw the rule book out of the window!

Can you tell me four interesting facts about yourself?

·      We are currently designing our own range of children’s clothes

·      I'm a budding Stefan Zweig scholar (Austrian author) and would love to write a sequel (or a prequel) to one of his unfinished novels

·      I spent a lot of my summer holidays in Austria playing in my aunt’s toy shop – perhaps a subliminal inspiration for Igloo!

·      In typical multi-task fashion, I had three babies within the space of one year – obviously not planned that way but seems to be the prevailing motif of my life…

Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?

Not right now. I am enjoying the journey and am very fulfilled by my family, work and relationships.

Thank you, Karen

Visit Igloo Kids online

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