Tulip & Nettle are possibly one of the prettiest childrenswear labels around. Orginally named after owner Amynta Warde-Aldam's two dogs – a pug aptly titled Tulip and her much loved Jack Russell, Nettle, the label is based in a converted stable in Northumberland and all manufactured on our own fair shores. So let us introduce you to the very lovely Amynta Warde-Aldam…..
Where were you born and brought up?
I was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Scotland and France.
Do you have brothers and sisters? If so, can you tell me a bit about them?
My own family was pretty fragmented and marked by illness and separation. I love it that my husband's family all adore each other and take huge pleasure in each other's company. My brother and sister-in-law have pretty much become my siblings as well as fantastic friends.
What were your favourite pastimes as a child?
As a child I spent a lot of time making clothes for my dolls and dreaming up elaborate and exotic lives for them to live. I'd sit on a tree stump in East Lothian stitching tiny outfits and fantasise about living in Londonand wearing beautiful clothes myself. I read a lot: A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. It strikes me now that all these books are about little girls looking for transformation who need to find their place in the world but, what I chiefly enjoyed at the time, was that they all gave brilliantly thorough descriptions of what everyone was wearing!.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
There was never a shadow of doubt in my mind that one day I would work with clothes. I used to pour over my mother's Vogues, and later,French Elle with a mixture of stern criticism and unconfined longing.I was in a vintage magazine shop in the Marais the other day looking at mounds of old copies of Elle. I was slightly horrified to realise how well I remembered the images and fashion stories of the period, it was like seeing old friends again. I still feel though that one of life's great pleasures is opening up a fresh, as yet unread magazine. Almost as good as finding the perfect frock.
Do you have any particularly funny childhood memories?
A strong childhood memory is my first day at school in the tiny French village we moved to for a time. The school had two rooms and two teachers; one for 'les grands' and one for 'les petits'. No one spoke a single word of English and I suppose the teacher was as terrified of my brother and I as we were of her. She would pace the room while we did our 'dictee' and make menacing moves with an enormous wooden ruler that was her constant prop. We enjoyed a brief period as quite the most exotic things anyone had ever seen before being absorbed into the daily life of the school.
What’s your family life like?
We live in a rural and very beautiful part of Northumberland where my husband grew up. The distances are vast so you have to drive a long way to meet up with friends: luckily my own children are quite self sufficient. As little things they liked to create their own worlds - the best and most loved present I have ever given anyone was a dolls house that my daughter played and played and played with, painting the rooms, making the people and directing the scene. She has just left school and started on a Fine Art degree but still draws inspiration from it! My son as a small boy was obsessed by vintage uniforms and we used to make many pilgrimages to the Imperial War Museum. Its lovely now that they are both at university to be able do different things with them.
They bring friends to stay and we all take it in turns to cook something delicious. An important part of family life in the country is that we have a lot of dogs! A hefty but delightful pug, a dauschaund/terrier cross and two Jack Russells - one had puppies yesterday though so technically we now have even more.
How did you get into what you do?
We used to live in Londonand it was a wrench to leave city life. At the time I was teaching on the Fashion BA at Central St Martins (where I had completed my own degree) and it was such a thrilling place to work - I found it very weird being in the middle of nowhere with no job. I started doing small runs of things that I felt were right for my own children at the time, and Tulip & Nettle has sort of evolved out of that. When I first started working here in the North East there were five amazing factories to choose from - most of them have gone now. It is so sad to see all that skill disappear and all those jobs lost. Keeping production here in the UK, and more specifically, Tyne & Wear, has become a bit of a mission.
What do you do in your spare time?
A fairly regular London visit is pretty important! We go to the Tate (Britain & Modern), the V&A (practically my favourite place in the world), see films, see friends. The nice thing about living in the country is being able to have masses of people to stay and talk to them properly. We all lead such busy lives that its nice just to go for long walks and enjoy where we live. I like a quick trip to Paris or Florence now and again. Different sounds, smells and tastes are always exciting. A beach is good too: baking in Spain or bracing in Northumberland. I also have a total addiction to step class.
Tell me four interesting facts about yourself
I can keep a secret.
I know the first chapter of Little Women off by heart - I have no idea how or why - it wasn't something I tried to do.
My father was an animal behaviourist - I think my early gurglings were recorded and compared to baby chimpanzee chat.
I can cook dinner for 30 at very short notice without crying.
Any unfulfilled dreams?
I am so lucky in my home and work situation that my ambitions are more about developing and refining things than fresh starts.