The woman who makes superheroes
Scamp & Dude is, according to the fashion bible itself, is Vogue’s ‘favourite new children’s clothing range’. Launching in Liberty of London this weekend, it feels like they’ve hit the jackpot already. But the story behind the launch is as incredible as their rise to industry adoration.
When you hear the story behind her gorgeous new clothing line, the word inspirational seems a little inadequate to describe Jo Tutchener-Sharp. In little over a year since suffering a brain hemorrhage, Jo has undergone life-saving brain surgery, launched a new business (a second new business, she already had one!) and continued to be a hands-on mum to her two young children. We meet the inspirational superhero behind Scamp & Dude’s superheroes.
You are launching your new range in Liberty this weekend. Why Liberty?
Liberty has always been my favourite store, it always feels so special and almost magical when you go inside. My brand means so much to me, it has such a personal story behind it that I wanted it to go somewhere where I knew they would appreciate it and love it as much as I do. They are the perfect partner for Scamp & Dude.
It’s such an exciting time, what have been the big things to get right?
I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for so long. I’m spending a few hours in Liberty tomorrow, so I can meet some customers and see Scamp & Dude it situ. It will be quite a moment!
It has been a complete mission trying to get all the samples to arrive in time. Two boxes were stolen in transit, which was a nightmare, so that means a few sizes of one of the designs are delayed. There is nothing you can do about things like that though.
The main things I wanted to get right was to design clothes that adults would love as much as the kids, cool prints and faded washed out fabrics. Our adult sweatshirts have sold out in some sizes already so that looks I’ve done something right! I also wanted to to make sure everything felt super soft; that was important to me as it makes such a difference when you touch a garment and it feels amazing.
Are you surprised at the response you’ve had to the collection?
It seems everyone worries about their kids struggling with separation anxiety and totally understands what I’m trying to do. I have had an amazing reaction since I launched the website a week and a half ago; we have sold out of some items and are very low in stock of a lot others already, too. When Vogue called us their ‘favourite new children’s clothing range’ two days ago I nearly burst. It has taken a huge amount of hard work, love, sweat and tears (and a near death experience) to create this brand and to receive such an amazing reaction has been just incredible. I am so lucky in so many ways.
For every Scamp & Dude Sleep Buddy purchased, you donate one to a child in need. What prompted that?
I had to spend a long time in hospital recovering from brain surgery in January this year, (I had a brain haemorrhage in October last year). When I was in hospital missing my children I came up with the idea behind Scamp & Dude. I wished there was something I could have given to my boys to help them feel better when they were without me. I created the idea of a Superhero Sleep Buddy, which is a superhero dinosaur or bunny comforter. It’s a shaped cushion that sits on the bed watching over them, keeping them safe, with a little pocket on the back to hold a photograph of someone they want to keep close.
I would have loved my boys to have had this when I was in hospital, it would have brought them a lot of comfort. They really work, too. My son won’t sleep without his Superhero Sleep Buddy now – he came downstairs crying the other night because it had slipped down the side of the bed.
When I was in hospital myself I had a strong urge to help kids who were struggling with very sick parents, had lost a parent, or were in hospital themselves. When I came up with the idea for the Superhero Sleep Buddies I decided I wanted to donate one to a child in need for every one sold. We work with three amazing charities. One is the largest children’s hospital in London where I donate Superhero Sleep Buddies to the patients; another is Grief Encounter which works with children who have lost a parent; and Don’t Forget the Kids, which supports children dealing with a parent struggling with cancer. We donate Superhero Sleep Buddies to the children they are supporting to try and help in our little way.
What do you think is the most important thing for kids, if you’re separated for some time?
They need to know you are still there and that they are safe. They need to know you are coming back most importantly! I have created Kiss Catching Wall Stickers, which are great for when you have to spend time apart. They have the special ability to collect kisses so, when you have to be apart, you kiss the superhero a kiss for every night you will be apart. The child can collect the kiss before bedtime each night until you return. There’s also a superhero flash on the arm of the clothes, for kids to press when they need a boost of super-power confidence.
I wasn’t open with the kids about being poorly, they were too young. Sonny was only three and Jude one when I had the surgery – and it was hard for them to understand. They knew I had a poorly head and needed to have it made better. Sonny used to call my scar a ‘graze’, which was funny because it was actually a huge cut down the whole right hand side of my head (which was shaved), with 18 metal staples! He used to come and kiss my head each morning and ask ‘is it better yet mummy’ before looking and seeing the cut still there and saying ‘no, not yet mummy’. He dealt with that so well, as I actually looked like Frankenstein, yet he was so calm.
When you were so ill, was there anything special that your husband did for your children, or any rituals that supported you all?
My parents came to stay at mine and helped my husband with Jude, which was a huge help. They brought their dog, who Jude is obsessed with, so that was a good distraction too. Sonny went to stay with my sister, he is best friends with his cousin so we turned it into a big adventure and he was sent off to have a holiday with them – no mention of me going into hospital. We tried to use the distraction technique and focus on him having a great time away on his adventure. They were so young and he never went away without me, so it was strange for him but he dealt with it all so well. Now they are that bit older I would need to explain things a little better and things like the Kiss Catching Wall Stickers and Superhero Sleep Buddies would be a huge comfort to them.
Do you think there’s a bigger question around separation and confidence for kids – and do you think Scamp & Dude can help them too? For example: parents who travel a lot, or little ones heading to boarding school for the first time.
Absolutely, these have been created to help children whatever the situation: kids going off to boarding school; kids with parents who work away; kids who have to go into hospital themselves; kids who lose a loved one; kids being sent off to camp; first day at school or nursery; and they even help kids who struggle with the very common separation anxiety issues at bedtime, even when you are in the very next room.
Is there an opportunity for taking this to a wider conversation about superpowers, confidence & mental health?
There could well be. A lot of adults have commented on needing a Superhero to have their back too. The clothing line has our slogan ‘a superhero has my back’ along the inner neckline and across the back of some of the designs. I have two women’s sweatshirts (which have the slogan ‘someone’s superhero’ running along the inner neck) that have nearly sold out already – just from a week of preorders! TV’s Ben Shepherd tweeted me asking me to make men’s sweatshirts too, as he needed a Superhero to have his back! It seems we adults need a Superhero too!