Discovering a new brand is always so exciting — seeing gorgeous pieces, someone’s ideas, hopes and dreams made real, the result of so many decisions, influences… It’s something we could never tire of. Last year we were delighted to come upon newly launched Valya Kids, with their colourful, nostalgic designs and ethical production. This collection is proudly made in the USA, and there’s clearly a big Russian influence… Super interesting! Tatiana agreed to tell us more. Here are her answers to our 5 questions:
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and about your family.
My early years were spent in a small village in Russia, about two and half hours from Moscow. My weekly chores involved biking to our neighbour across a pond to pick up our order of milk. At the age of seven my family moved to England where we stayed for a few years. After that we moved around constantly. And this continued even after I married my husband who I met in Washington, DC. What can I say? There’s so much world to discover out there I can’t help but want to see it all!
Today we live in the US with our two children – Valya and Teddy. We also have a pug named Miles and a kitty named Franny. Until a few months ago we also had a few chickens, but we tragically lost them to a raccoon. We love the outdoors, the quiet that comes with living in the country and we love our animals. Almost every week my daughter suggests a new pet we should add to the mix! We’re tentatively looking into goldfish this summer.
On weekends we love to cook a big breakfast, my husband dj’ing at the record player and Valya helping with the pancakes or waffles. Afterwards we leave the mess out all morning and into the afternoon as we laze by the fire and read or nap. Weekends are precious – it’s a chance for all of us to be together all day. Our children look forward to it all week!
2. Tell us a little bit about your brand and how you came to create your label.
I suppose the first little seed for Valya Kids was planted well before my first child was even born. I’ve always dreamt of being a mother and once we began to talk about it, I couldn’t help but start looking at baby clothes. It started innocently enough – one pink pointelle onesie for “someday” and yet two years later I had a 15 gallon plastic bin brimming with baby things!
Once my daughter was born I quickly learned what babies and children liked on their bodies, what was practical and what was worth the money and I began to educate myself on sustainable clothing. It also turned out that both my children have extremely sensitive skin. I learned that harsh chemicals would not do in our household and worked hard to minimise their exposure to plastic, chemicals and processed food.
Over the years I slowly built wardrobes for my children full of organic, or at least 100% cotton or wool, clothing. The items I bought, though expensive, could be worn by both; they were well made, beautiful and timeless. However, the more I delved into this area of the market the more I found a lack of well-made, organic and beautiful clothing for children that was… child-like. In our family we love, love colour! Especially the kids! You can find it all over our home. But finding colourful, whimsical clothing that is also ethically made and good quality is not easy.
So I had a thought – what if I were to try and fill that gap? What if I was able to bring parents like myself a well-rounded selection of ethically made, beautiful, durable, practical and yet fun, playful, colourful and whimsical clothing for children? And out of that thought was born – Valya Kids!!
Once I made the decision to create Valya Kids I drew so much inspiration from my maternal grandmother and my daughter’s namesake – babushka Valya. For over sixty years she supported her family of six children, and a husband who was often away for work, with the children’s clothing she knit and sewed. You would be hard-pressed to find someone in her village that didn’t grow up wearing the handmade creations she sold at the local market. Babushka Valya has passed away but she lives on in the eyes of our Valya. And now with this shop – a place that will always pay homage to the humble, hardworking, creative and fearless woman that babushka Valya was.
3. What is important to you when designing your products?
It is my goal every season to create clothing that makes children happy, allows them to be themselves, is comfortable and will never prevent them from enjoying all the best things about childhood. I like to think that I’m bridging the gap between what parents love and kids enjoy. I have always appreciated aesthetics so it’s important to me that the clothing is pleasing to the eye. At the same time, as a mum to two little ones I don’t have time for fighting over what they will or will not wear.
Selecting the right fabrics is the most time consuming part of my design process. Finding fabrics that are organic and ethically made but also colourful and fun often times feels like a herculean feat. But with enough sleuthing I almost always find what I’m looking for. There’s no better feeling than when the design in my mind finds its mate in a fabric. When the two become one, resulting in a perfect item of clothing, there is no better feeling in the world!
4. Where do you look for design inspiration?
My inspiration inadvertently comes from bygone days. Often times a photograph from my parents’ childhood, a scene from a show like “Call the Midwife” or a vintage book of patterns. Interestingly enough I’ve found that even though society in past eras had specific gender designations, children’s clothing didn’t! I wonder how much of it had to do with economics, the fact that people could not afford to have large wardrobes dedicated to each child and their specific sex? Regardless of the reasons, I love how clothes were simply – clothes. You see a lot of primary colours or tones that work on girls and boys.
By studying mid-century clothing I’ve also learned the importance of versatility. You notice a lot of pinafores, coveralls, rompers and overalls. The reason being you can style this one item in a variety of different ways and over the course of several seasons. A pinafore can be worn with bare legs and a tee in the summer, a long-sleeve shirt and socks in the fall, tights and a sweater in the winter and so on and so forth. I love that!! I’ve never had the luxury of a big clothing budget so I’ve always been careful to pick items both my children can wear and wear often.
I spent a large part of my life growing up feeling like a misfit – I was always the new kid, the nerdy kid, the “different kid”. When I started Valya I kept telling my husband and my loved ones – I want to do something different, something new. That was my biggest driving force! Now I’m doing it and it’s a thrilling feeling. I love dreaming up new silhouettes or colour palettes that feel exciting and fresh. It also makes me so proud to be producing right here in the US and to be working with companies that are just as committed to being sustainable and organic as I am. Our manufacturer here is all women-owned and women-run and they have been some of my biggest cheerleaders. As a mother of a daughter it’s incredibly empowering to see just what a “girl” can do!
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