Living in Northern Europe, you really need to learn to live with the weather – to make the most of the seasons and of their sometimes, well, peculiar charms… How do you do that when the days are short, the temperature cools and the rain lashing down in sheets? We’ve long been inspired by London-based Natasha, a mama of 3 who welcomes the outdoors with open arms, and who runs children’s outdoor clothing brand Muddy Puddles by day (and night?). We thought it would be fun – and helpful with Autumn approaching! – to ask Natasha to tell us a bit more about how she embraces life, with all the glory of the seasons, and how she manages to combine work and family. Here are her answers to our five questions:
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and about your family.
When I look back on my childhood my memories are full of a mad rabble of open air escapades. I grew up in a rambling house in the countryside as one of 9 cousins all together and when we weren’t in the routine of school we were allowed to roam free. I didn’t realise it at the time but now I cannot believe how lucky we were to grow up in such a beautiful and unencumbered way full of imagination and homemade adventures.Now I have 3 children, Eliza, 9, Albie, 7, and Wilkie who is 4.We live in London but I long to fill them with the same sense of the magic of life that was given to me. When the weekends and holidays come along we race down to our cottage in Somerset and spend our days consumed with outdoor activities come rain or shine. In London, when we are all back at work and school, I work from home which means the usual chaos of work and children mixing in together. Meetings interrupted by a football flying in to the office through the garden door or tea time paused for a work phone call, but most the time it all muddles along ok.
2. Tell us a little bit about Muddy Puddles and how you came to create your label.
Muddy Puddles is the story of a brand revival. It was started on a farm in Devon twenty years ago with a waterproof suit that stopped muddy pups getting grubby when they raced around the barns and fields. I took over the brand just three years ago in 2013 and have loved every second of building the business.
One of the many things that drew me to the brand was that living in England where there is no shortage of rain, it was drummed into me as a child that ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong kit’. I adore thinking from beginning to end about creating products that can work perfectly to protect children whatever the weather. I believe that every child is wild at heart and that it is crucial that children don’t lose the opportunity to express this by playing and learning outdoors. With the rise in screen time, fears about safety and more and more cars on the roads children now have 60% less roaming space than they did 30 years ago. Everyone in the Muddy Puddles team arrives at work every day motivated by the desire to reverse this. We want to enable every child everywhere to explore the outdoors.
3. What is important to you when designing your products and where do you find inspiration?
All the energy I bring to the business really comes from the time I spend with my children. They are at such glorious ages where they are still so carefree and happy and excited by everything they come across that it helps me see the world with fresh eyes. I adore the thrill of September and heading out blackberry picking in the hedgerows or the swell of pride they get climbing to the top of a big hill and shouting to the wind. I try and absorb all the colours and vibrant images from these times and take them with me back to my desk for when we are designing our products.
We have just launched our Cloudy Day collection for this winter and I am really excited to see the finished products heading out the door to our lovely customers. The range is inspired by the brightest colours from nature working with prints that express the tempestuous British weather with upside-down umbrellas, windswept autumn leaves and sharp lightning bolts.If you’re not from the UK then you probably think our obsession weather is crazy. My sister now lives in New York and when she came back to the Highlands this summer she did pass comment that Americans ‘really don’t discuss the weather every day’. Living in London it is truly part of daily conversation. I love the drama of the unexpected with British weather, leaping outdoors for the rare burst of sunshine or racing along head bent with the rain pouring down. It really does feed into the way I think about the Muddy Puddles collection.
4. What is your current favourite product in your collection?
I have a real soft spot for our little Scamp suit and feel very sad that this is the first year none of my brood will be able to fit in it. I love the soft teal and grey colours and the delicate raindrop print. I think the pointy hood makes little ones look like such sweet imps wearing it whilst playing in the open air! It was the first new product I introduced to the brand when I started running it and combines the two elements that I really want to bring together – lovely design and high level technical performance.
It’s an all in one suit made from a herringbone fabric that’s ultra-waterproof — muddy pups can literally sit in puddles when they are wearing it. it has a zip-out super soft fleece as well which means it can be used all year round. I always used the fleece when camping or travelling as I knew it would keep Wilkie so snug and warm. I’ve climbed to the top of the highest Scottish mountains in freezing winter weather with Wilkie on my back in thescampsuit so I really know it has excellent technical performance in the harshest conditions!
I am also thrilled that we have launched our first EcoSplash range this winter which is made entirely from recycled fabrics. The fabric is woven from disused plastic bottles but is still incredibly soft and waterproof to wear. I love the fact we are finding ways to use items that would otherwise go to landfill. I hope it will be a big success this winter and that we can develop many more environmentally friendly products for the next.
5. How do you juggle motherhood and your career?
For me juggling motherhood and a career is one giant compromise. I cannot imagine life without one or the other, but trying to do both properly sometimes feels impossible! I am very lucky that I work from home which means I can fit quite a lot in my day. I tend to get up at the crack of dawn (about 5am) and get a bit of work done before everyone stirs. Then from 7 it’s the mad dash through breakfast to the school run. By 9 I am back at my desk gratefully clinging to a coffee. I have a very wonderful husband who shares looking after the children and supports my work life too which makes all the difference.Even so I work a full four days a week and am very conscious that there are a lot of things I miss by choosing to work. Only one day a week do I greet my children as they come out of school and get that first download of information or the first read of their faces. By the time I see them they’ve often exhausted all their sharing for the day. Over the gigantic summer holidays they have wonderful stretches of time with each set of grandparents which is amazing, but a bit of me would adore to be able to take all that time instead.I believe that Muddy Puddles fulfilling its potential will take a huge amount of work and commitment, which I am completely committed to giving it. inding that time and not losing sight of my most important role of being mother means squeezing in work around the edges, in the mornings and evenings, but doing this means I can almost always be there for school presentations or meetings or other important moments – which I am very grateful for.