Introducing Donna McCulloch, as she’s known to most of us, SulkyDoll – Stylist, Fashion EditorRiddle Magazine and Brand Ambassador – oh and she just so happens to be a hot Mama too.
Donna and I”met” through IG and eventually IRL at a Mothers Meeting x M&Sevent – where we bonded over our shared love for The ‘Toon (having both studied up in Newcastle). As a stylist, she has worked with the hilarious and vibrant Scummy Mummies and cake-maker of dreams, Juliet Sear.
Sulky is one of the most hardworking, genuine, honest, caring and colourful people you could ever wish to meet.
CB: HELLO SULKS PET, please introduce yourself and your concept. DM: So I’m Donna aka SulkyDoll, I’m a Stylist and a Mama. My job is varied as I am a personal stylist for both Men and Women, my most famous clients are the Scummy Mummies but I also style editorials for brands and magazines, I am the Fashion Contributor for Riddle Magazine and cover London Fashion Week as their Correspondent but I also run style events and I am very proud to be a brand ambassador for Donna Ida.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your name? DM: My brand name is so unique to me, it’s my childhood nickname.
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept? DM: A lifelong love of fashion led me to re-train in fashion in my 30s. I worked very hard and bossed it and it paid off.
CB: What is your brand ethos? DM: Be the best possible version of yourself.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? DM: A million different things, I see inspiration everywhere, film, music, buildings, travel, friends and other fashion industry creatives whom I admire.
CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up? DM: I have my first TV credit this month as one of my clients has their own to show this launches in May and I was the stylist/wardrobe for the show… I’ll keep you posted.
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? DM: Wipes! Even now my kids are older, they are the one thing you should have on your person at all times.
CB: Anything you wished you known before becoming a parent / best piece of parenting advice? DM: That kids do things in their own time, at their own speed, don’t push them to eat what they don’t want, potty train when they aren’t ready and sleep 7 hours when they are 7lbs!!!
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? DM: Bronzer, my son didn’t sleep until he was 2 and I looked like death for those 2 years but bronzer hid a lot of tiredness during those days as I faked the sun kissed look.
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? DM: That’s a hard one, working when they have something like an assembly or sport’s day, I try to make as much as I can but I find it heartbreaking to miss something. I don’t have any tips other than that a happy Mama is a happy child and guilt serves no purpose whatsoever.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? DM: Running and hot baths plus Kate Bush at full volume.
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? DM: I love for me, Donna Ida, Rixo, Zara and H&M, and the last 2 are fab for the kids and my husband too.
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? DM: My bf jeans as they are so easy to dress up or down.
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday. DM: Manic, sunny and coffee fuelled.
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people. DM: Erm… I love horses and my earliest memory is of me on my Aunt’s horse, Seamus.
CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? DM: Wow, good q, I have been very lucky to have met many people who have championed me and given me wings….too many to reduce to one.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year. DM: Lion is one of the best films I’ve ever seen but I loved La La Land, Big Little Lies was my fave series on tv, albums? Lemonade and 4:44, am a big fan of the Carter Knowles power couple & any book by Kate Atkinson.
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? DM: My angel wings, they are in my garden.
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? DM: Berlin! I am desperate to go, the fashion scene is insane.
DM: Thank you for these fab q’s and I am so happy to have met you Judy Pink xx
Thank you so much for taking the time out for our chat Donna!
DID YOU KNOW?
90% of women wear 10% of their wardrobe, if you are one of the 90% then Sulky Doll Styling can help. Whether its discovering your signature style, up-dating your current look or you are just looking for some help with restructuring your wardrobe contact Sulky Doll Styling with your requirements. To book Sulky Doll Styling, read about the SERVICES and get in touch via her CONTACT form.
Meet the wonderful Kerrie-Anne Bradley, co-founder of beautiful site and Chief IG-er for London Mothers Club. Kerrie-Anne is a Pilates teacher & Mama to Ivy. Like me, she’s also an avid fan of The Libertines (and perhaps, not so secretly, of Harry Styles!). With arguably the best wardrobe on IG (oh the bags and shoes she has!), Kerrie-Anne has a keen sartorial eye and lust for London life. She’s also someone I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with over IG for a long while – but sadly, we’ve never yet managed to meet up IRL! We need to sort that pet!
Here, Kerrie chats to me about her inspirations, the inevitable Mum-Guilt and her go-to fashion brands.
CB: HELLO KA! Firstly, please introduce yourself and your concept. K-AB: Hello, I am Kerrie-Anne! Mum to a very hilarious 5 year old called Ivy, a pilates teacher and founder of London Mothers Club. I used to be an economist too but that feels like a lifetime ago now. London Mothers Club is a lifestyle edit for mamas featuring mamas we meet on our journey, places we visit and things we love. It’s mostly a bit of fun and focussed on sharing cool stuff with like-minded mamas.
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept? K-AB: It began in my flat in Kings Cross 5 years ago. I was lonely as I didn’t have any fellow mama mates, so I set up a few events in a few different places in London to try to meet some mums who liked similar stuff to me. At the time I was really into making jewellery and so I held some crafty events in Chiswick, Clapham and Islington. I connected with the mums who came to my Clapham event most and so we moved there and LMC was born. In the old days we used to run 2-3 events per year. We rebranded as a lifestyle edit in September last year and so far, all is going well.
CB: What is your brand ethos? K-AB: Only share positive stuff about things that we genuinely like. We trial everything before featuring it.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? K-AB: Cliché for a Mum to say but definitely my little Ivy. She’s so full of life, clever, witty and creative. She inspires me to be a better version of me – less grumpy and anxious. God, I’m welling up writing this. Actually, that’s a good point. Ivy has brought out a softer side in me. I never used to cry and now I bawl at anything and everything!
My pilates mentor Sarah Woodhouse. She’s been in the business a long time, is one of the most intelligent people I know (along with my husband Timmy K) and she’s so passionate about what she does. I’m constantly learning from her and I am so pleased to have met her on my Pilates journey.
CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up? K-AB: Because we are a lifestyle edit we are constantly reviewing cool places and things. There’s nothing major to share but definitely tune in as we are pretty good at seeking out new things that you will love!
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice? K-AB: Well my friend who doesn’t have kids told me that her mate had told her that giving birth to a placenta was worse than the birth itself. So…. When I had done the Ivy bit (and ouch) I started freaking out thinking the worst bit was to come. Of course it wasn’t true. And of course I was being ridiculously dumb in ever thinking that could be the case. Ha, sorry not strictly parenting advice but I can’t really think of any and that was the thing that popped into my head. Oops!
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? K-AB: Wipes. Ivy constantly has stuff on her face, in her hair, on her clothes, on my clothes, in my hair, in her bum etc etc you know the drill…
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? K-AB: Headphones?? Ha, just kidding. My mum-essential would be paper and colours. Ivy is obsessed and it’s a sure way to get her stopping with the, ‘can we do paper, scissors, rock again mama’ everywhere we go.
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? K-AB: When I get a shouty about things that are pretty small just because I’m an impatient bugger and sometimes the, ‘can we play paper, scissors, rock’ on repeat gets on my nerves…. Always solved with a big hug and a couple more rounds of the dreaded game.
On a more serious note, I also get the guilt sometimes about choosing to only have one child. Ivy is pretty independent around other kids and sometimes I worry that she prefers her own time because she doesn’t have any siblings at home (she does have three half-siblings who live in Oxford). Also, when other mums say, “aren’t you tempted to have another. It would be nice for ivy etc” that brings on the guilt. But whenever I ask Ivy if she’d like another sibling her answer is always the same, “Why would I want another brother or sister when I have some already, I have my cousin Edie and I’ve got my babies (a crew of 10 dolls).” So I think it’s alright.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? K-AB: I am not very good at zoning out tbh. I’m constantly on the move and splitting my time between my various jobs. I do love a facial and go to a fantastic girl duo at Nichola Joss. She’s a shelb fav so it makes me feel pretty important as well as relaxed haha.
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? K-AB: I love &OtherStories, Wood Wood, Ganni for everyday wear, Tophop and Zara for jeans, Bella Freud for a logo jumper, Burberry for a trench, Aurore UK for Breton, Eric Bompard for cashmere, L’urv for leggings and Solid & Striped for a swimsuit. My biggest binge is on shoes and I have an epic collection of Gucci, Charlotte Olympia, Valentino, Miu Miu, Saint Laurant etc – all stuff that I can’t really afford now/ need now as I am an activewear wearing Pilates teacher.
For Ivy I love Greenberry Kids, Minouche (Australian), Caramel Baby, a new brand called Little Borne for the ultimate jogger combo, everything from Archie’s Boutique (she picks well) and Papouelli for shoes.
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? K-AB: A leopard-print pair of Saint Laurent booties which I wear once in a blue moon (below).
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday. K-AB: Cold, busy and long.
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people. K-AB: Well I am an over-sharer on social media so people know a lot about me. I guess there are lots of funny things about me I could share but that would be a bit predictable so I will share something closer to my heart. When I was 18 my best friend died unexpectedly. She was my first soul-mate and I have missed her every day since. The wonderful thing is that little Ivy has certain aspects of Carmel’s personality and I like to tell myself that her spirit lives on through my little girl. God, I am crying again….
CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? K-AB: This is a tricky one isn’t it?? To be honest I am not sure that I can pin-point a particularly moment but my husband Tim is such a kind person and always has my back.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year. K-AB: I didn’t read it this year but I always recommend Just Kids by Patti Smith because it is a beautifully written journey of love & friendship. It gets me every time.
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? K-AB: The road. I am sitting in Planet Organic, Wandsworth. I am working in here because my wifi is down again.
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? K-AB: In Vivamayr in Austria because it is this amazing retreat that specialises in gut health and I have loads of digestive problems.
Thank you so much for taking the time out for our chat Kerrie-Anne. It’s been so lovely getting to digitally know you over the past few years. You’re one of the most lovely and genuine people I’ve yet to actually meet – and I’m gonna give you the BIGGEST SQUEEZE ever when we finally get our diaries aligned.
Meet Erna Leon, founder of MERCER7, an Artist, Fashion Designer, Stylist, Shoot Art Director and super Mama to boot! MERCER7 makes life easier for the Modern Woman; Erna’s keen (sartorial) eye and selection process removes all the barriers that online shopping often presents. Essentially, doing the research and quality control for you; taking the hassle out of online shopping! Because we’re all tight on time these days!
Erna is not only mega inspiring, she’s a joy to be with in real life too. Her accent is one of my favourites, she has one of the best smiles (and wardrobes!) and had SUCH an interesting upbringing! Here, Erna chats about her varied career background, her varied upbringing and the inspiration that drove her to create her start-up.
CB: Hello my darling Erna, please introduce yourself, your background and your concept, MERCER7. EL: I am Armenian, born in Georgia and New Yorker turned Londoner. I spent my formative years in New York, so I call New York home as I lived there from the age of 16.I studied fine arts from a very young age and when it was time to choose my future profession, I decided to go into fashion design at FIT in NY (Fashion Institute of Technology) and took my bachelors degree before working for brands like Halston, Betsy Johnson to Calvin Klein Jeans to name a few.
After marrying a Brit in New York seven years ago, we moved to London and the rest as they say is history. We’ve got two kids now, Luca is 4 and Lily nearly 3, so London definitely became my second home.In terms of concept:MERCER7 is a curated womenswear website for effortless style and collaborative fashion platform.
I focus on timeless, versatile and high-quality pieces that represent timelessness rather than fast-fashion trends. I combine a mix of brands which scale from entry level up to one-off investment. Every item I feature is easy-to-wear and simple-to-style taking you from day to night. The collection is curated to work together seamlessly, allowing women to easily build outfits and their own capsule wardrobe with sustainable pieces that transcend the latest season.
This edited approach helps busy women to simplify the art of dressing by creating your “go-to” uniform: a single aesthetic in endless combinations that never compromises on impact or individuality.
The magazine section of the website is a big part of the MERCER7concept. I interview other creatives and feature articles written by our contributors, so it’s all about giving voice to others, rather than being all about me.
CB: You’ve got so many strings to your bow Erna, but where did MERCER7 begin? What inspired you to start up the concept? EL: I come from a fashion design and art background, so first and foremost I wanted to create a collaborative fashion and lifestyle platform where it enabled me to work with others. From art directing photoshoots, working with brands to curating collections around capsule wardrobes and featuring other creatives on my platform.Online shopping can be overwhelming and websites are all too often saturated with too many options. I used to return most things I ordered online due to poor quality, it would look great on screen but the reality when I received my order was that the pieces looked completely different and I was never a fan of returns. So seeing how time consuming online shopping can be, I wanted to create a focused space with a single aesthetic all in one place, to make shopping easier for busy women.
My personal selection process removes all the barriers that online shopping often presents. Essentially, doing the research and quality control for you, and taking the hassle out of online shopping.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with MERCER7? EL: Coming up with a name was fun, but tricky at the same time. My NY friend David advised me to write my favourite words that had meaning to them. MERCER7was one of them, besides being one of my favourite streets in New York, the true meaning of the word is “Dealer of fine fabrics” which resonates massively with MERCER7 and my focus of quality.
The No.7 resonates with our belief in ‘collective consciousness’, collaboration and positivity. MERCER7 supports and collaborates with other creatives and brands through a series of interviews and features, design and styling.
CB: What is your brand ethos? EL: ‘Shop less, choose well’ Dame Vivienne Westwood said it better than I ever could, and it’s this mantra for sustainability that I live by at MERCER7. We don’t need more. We need better. Whilst this drives my mission, it’s the people that are at the nucleus of my brand.
I want to inspire, collaborate and create a lifestyle concept with a purpose: SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH TIMELESSNESS. I believe that our everyday can be lived in a more sustainable way by being more mindful, consuming less by choosing better.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? EL: Women inspire me. Sisterhood between women and mothers who are working to achieve their dreams. I meet so many incredible supportive women full of ambition and drive, it is truly empowering to listen to their stories. Connecting and seeing how hard everyone works inspires me daily.
CB: Can you tell us about, or give us a sneak peak, of something new that’s coming up? EL: I’ve got my launch party coming up May 23rd at the gorgeous space, IceTank in Covent Garden, which Push PR are helping me to organise.
I’m extremely excited about the party and the premiering of the fashion film that I’ve directed and styled, featuring gorgeous Zara Martin and Whinnie Williams. I am grateful to everyone who collaborated with me bringing the vision to life. I had an amazing team of creatives which I couldn’t really do without so it’s all thanks to them – Simon Wisbey was the photographer at my shoot, Sian Davis and Tara Darby filmed it all and Tahira Herold was my guru hair and makeup artist.
CB: How do you juggle being a working Mama? EL: I don’t juggle it very well just yet. I am a work at home mum with two days of childcare per week, which isn’t very much when I work 24/7. But I’m hoping I will learn how to balance it better soon and stop working when the whole world is asleep.
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you startedMERCER7 / best piece of business advice? EL: How hard it is but how rewarding at the same time. I’ve been so blessed with incredible people who have entered my life as soon as I started this journey. I am not naturally business minded as I am more of a creative type. I’ve always been this way so all I can advice on business front is just be honest, be kind, work hard to turn your vision into reality and…be organised. (I’m not when it comes to keeping receipts, etc so trying to be better at that!)
CB:Anything you wish you’d known before you became a Mama / best piece of parenting advice? EL: How selfless you become, overprotective and paranoid at times. Best piece of advice on parenting would be – listen to your kids, be present and don’t have too many rules.
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? EL: Snacks, gotta have snacks in your bag at all times! And baby wipes. I also carry a pencil and paper as Lily loves to draw so if she gets bored, I give her something she can scribble on. Luca is a bit older so he gets an iPhone with puzzle apps which he loves doing if we are out and I can’t entertain them on a bus for example.
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? EL: It sounds sad, but it’s got to be my iPhone and my camera. With the new business launch, I am on the phone…a lot. Managing my social media, planning my content, taking product photos, street-style, researching and replying to emails. The list is endless but I could never be able to do it without these two essentials.
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? EL: I feel guilty all the time especially since launching. I don’t have much childcare so I am trying my best to find balance and make sure I’m not constantly working around my children (which isn’t possible at this time but I’m trying). It is so important to spend quality time with them without any distractions.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? EL: Watch Netflix, meet up with my friends, or read interesting articles. It’s a rare treat these days.
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? EL: I love brands like Acne, Anine Bing, Iro, Joseph, and more accessible brands like & Other Stories, Cos, Tree People, Weekday, Me+Em, Samsoe, Toteme, to name a few. But my ultimate if money was no object brand would be Saint Laurent.
I only shop pieces I curate now as I am one of the customers I keep in mind – on the go busy mum. So if I buy something I wear and love, it goes straight to my shop.
The Outnet is a great one as well because you can get amazing deals on beautiful designer clothing so that’s where I look a lot too.
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? EL: A biker and a blazer. I live in them.
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday EL: Manic. Productive. Fun.
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people. EL: I didn’t learn how to ride a bike till I was 30 years old!
CB:Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? EL: My family has been incredible throughout this whole startup journey. My parents helped me massively to set up. And my mother in law is always there for me when I am desperate for childcare. She is also taking the four of us on holiday to Portugal this summer because she knew we couldn’t manage a holiday this year. I am really grateful!
Besides family, Emma Hart from Push PR has been a Fairy God Mother and a mentor to me. This woman is incredible, genuine and kind hearted. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so supportive and giving as her. 5 minutes in her company and you feel empowered and inspired. Some people have just got this skill to make you believe that anything is possible and she is definitely one of those people.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year. EL: I’m a massive music fan, I love old school rock’n’roll albums like The Rolling Stones, Hendrix, for example and indie bands. Also my friend from Alberta Cross is amazing and my LA friends The Peach Kingsare great too. Their new single Treasure Map is a soundtrack to MERCER7fashion film and it’s so good!
CB:What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? EL: I am in my bedroom at the moment so I can see my garden and a lot of green. We live in Highgate so we are surrounded by the woods and the Heath.
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? EL: I would love to be somewhere sunny this weekend! Anywhere, I won’t be too picky, but just sunny and be surrounded by palm trees and have fresh coconut water in my hands.
Thank you so much Erna for taking the time out of your mad-busy schedule ahead of your launch party (incidentally, which is tonight) to chat to me. You’re a wonderful person, so thoughtful, always inspiring – and taking in inspiration in the most curious of places! I’m so lucky to know you and I am MASSIVELY proud of everything you’ve achieved with MERCER7so far. You’re ace of frikkin base pet!
I’m so terribly sad to miss the MERCER7launch tonight (see my Insta @JudyPink🙁 ). But I know you’re gonna smash it and its gonna be super stylish and beautiful; with a room full of incredibly talented folk that all love you heaps! You’ve worked so bloody hard, so let your hair down tonight Mama, you really deserve it!
Meet Mark Lemon, the Founder & Author of independent Children’s Book publishers, Lemon Drop Books. Award winning Children’s Book Publishers, no less! Disillusioned with the lack of diversity in Children’s books, Mark Lemon (with two mixed-race children of his own) decided to create a series of exciting story books with non-white characters. With thrilling tales and beautiful adventures, the Otis & Thea Lemon series is fast becoming a firm favourite in family households.
We talk to Mark about some exciting collaborations, a cause close to his heart and exceptionally important campaigns, – including #diversechildrensbooksuk. Plus, what happened when Mark had a previous role in Silver service?!
CB: Please introduce yourself and your concept. ML: My name is Mark Lemon. I am the Founder & Author at independent children’s book publishers, Lemon Drop Books.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias/brand name? ML: With a name like Mark Lemon, we had to fit Lemon in somewhere! Lemon Drop Books seemed to have a memorable ring to it.
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept? ML: I have always enjoyed writing, but never thought to do it as a career. After our first child was born, I had the idea of writing Otis’ very own adventures. We quickly noticed a lack of children’s books featuring non-white protagonists. I wanted to find books that the kids could look at and relate to and imagine themselves being a part of. So, in an effort to diversify children’s literature, I created my own.
CB: What is your brand ethos? ML: Our brand ethos is to create beautiful and diverse children’s books, which all children can enjoy across the world.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? ML: On a day-to-day basis my kids inspire me. Creating Lemon Drop Books was for them, building a legacy for their futures. I am inspired by people who are brave enough to go it alone, grabbing their careers by both hands. Don’t get me wrong it’s tough, but the great thing about Instagram is the supportive network that shouts from the social sidelines, cheering you on! My main inspiration is my family.
CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up? ML: Look out for my collaboration with the brilliant parent merch Mama, Mother Like No Othercoming very soon. Using our Dad slogan, ‘I Dad It My Way’ we are releasing a t-shirt for the lead up to Fathers Day. From every t-shirt sold we will donate the proceeds to the amazing bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish. This is a charity close to my heart due to losing my father suddenly at the age of 12. Please keep your eyes peeled and join us to support this great cause.
We’re hoping to soon kick off our campaign promoting diverse children’s books across the UK. Across the UK there is a greater need for diversity in children’s literature in the mainstream. Over the previous two years a good friend of ours, Marley Dias, has been promoting her 1000 Black Girl Books campaign across America; meeting Barack & Michelle Obama at the Whitehouse and carrying out interviews on all major television stations. I would like to bring a similar campaign to the UK #diversechildrensbooksuk. We will be asking authors, publishers and organisations across the country to donate to us their diverse children’s books. Once we’ve received the donated books, we will then distribute to a large number of schools, filling that gap in the school Libraries.
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice? ML: SLEEP! Sleep as much as you can pre child. More importantly, just relax and enjoy the early years.
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? ML: Snacks. ALWAYS make sure you have some form of food to plug the shopping aisle or bus meltdown! Children get hangry just as much as adults, if not more.
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Papa-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? ML: It would have to be my phone.
CB: What gives you ‘Dad-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? ML: Using my phone too much is probably my main ‘Dad-Guilt’. I’m sure this is happening across the parenting land, but I do need to remind myself to put my phone down and listen to the children. My wife is very good at letting me know when to STOP.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? ML: Just sitting down and listening to music is usually a good zone-out for me. Basically, anything that allows me to shut off my brain. My mind is constantly trying to think of new ways to get our books out there.
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? ML: I love brands like AllSaints, Reiss and for a long time my footwear only consisted of Nike Air Max 1’s (still does). I’ve got to shout out the brilliant Parent Apparel ladies for their Dad-merch. My most comfortable chill out jumper has to be my ‘Breaking Dad’ sweat – go check them out!
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? ML: It would have to be the AllSaints denim shirts. The fit is really comfortable and they age well.
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday. ML: Holidays, sunshine, kids!
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people. ML: I worked at Claridge’s Hotel in London as a silver service waiter. At the end of a shift I was taking dirty plates and cutlery down to the basement. I was waiting for the service lift when a lady wearing sunglasses and a very large minder came out of the lift. It was Mariah Carey and her bodyguard. “Good evening.” she said. I think I mumbled something like, “Yes it is.” It was good fun working at Claridge’s.
CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? ML: I would have to say that one of the kindest things that someone has done for me is to support me through a very difficult time when I was a teenager. Throughout your life you meet people that keep you on the right course, offering amazing support. The kindest acts are generally the selfless shows of support.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year. ML: I discovered the Robert Glasper Experiment last summer. He’s a brilliant musician with a great style.
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? ML: I can see a main road. I’m currently in a café drinking coffee. Yep, I’m one of those guys on his laptop with his headphones on.
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? ML: Probably sat on a sunny beach in Jamaica, drinking a bottle of red stripe.
Loved chatting with you Mark! Really hope to catch you at an event sometime soon! Wishing you lots of luck for your impending busy ventures!
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for those incredibly important causes and campaigns that Mark has highlighted. You can follow Mark on Instagram: @LemonDropBooks, Facebook and via his website: Lemon Drop Books; where you can also find the wonderful Otis & Thea Lemon books for purchase too.
Say hello to Jen Fuller, founder of ETTA LOVES – an incredibly stylish collection of sensory baby muslins designed with love and science to support your baby’s development. We love to champion a family-run business and Etta Loves was founded from the sofa by Jen! When you buy from a small business, you’re supporting a family. And that always feel’s nice. Even better when the products are this clever and functional!
CB: Firstly, please introduce yourself and your concept. JF: Hello, I’m Jen Fuller and I am the founder of Etta Loves, we produce stylish and sensory baby textiles that are designed with science to support babies’ eye development.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your brand name? JF: Funnily enough I love my daughter Etta’s name (it was my choice; my husband would have called her Aida) so when I devised the idea of sensory baby textiles it seemed to slot into place. It was discussed at length with my NCT friends, who are a bunch of smart, creative and inspirational women, and everyone agreed it was unusual and catchy, with a sense of authenticity given that Etta is chief product tester!
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your Brand/Social account(s)/Business/Service/ Movement or Concept? JF: I was sat on my sofa during one of the fairly boring early days feeding 4 week old Etta and watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race, when I realised that Etta’s gaze was locked onto my black and white patterned jumper. It was the first thing I’d notice her actively try to concentrate on, that wasn’t a face, and something just clicked. Muslins are so omnipresent for the first year of life, and beyond, so when you add in how multi-functional they are and the close proximity they come to a baby’s face it made sense to start there and make them do something far more valuable than just mop up baby yuck!
CB: What is your brand ethos? JF: To make products which start with the science, but never forget the style or the function. Products that both you and your baby will love. Products which complement your little one’s visual development whilst retaining a real sense of style for you.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? JF: I’m inspired by all sorts of random things, but am also lucky enough to live in Walthamstow which has the most amazing community of entrepreneurs and wonderful small businesses. I really feed off the people I have met during my journey so far, and when I team that with two of my NCT friends who are actively involved in the business it’s just a joy and hard not to keep being full of ideas.
CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up? JF: We are about to expand the Etta Loves Animals range into washcloths and dribble bibs, and the second “Etta Loves …” collection is in the design phase, with samples due soon. The new collection will have the same stylised unisex appeal but is a very different inspiration from “Animals”.
SENSORY WASH CLOTHS // COMING SOON
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice? JF: The best advice for me was that everything is just a phase, which is so commonly banded around but so so true. When you’re stuck in the deepest despair about them not feeding, napping, pooing etc it can feel like you’re totally helpless and that it will never change, but it always does. That and to ask for help, lots and lots of it.
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? JF: Funnily enough muslins, especially given that Etta is the snottiest baby I’ve ever come across! Second only to Calpol and Cedric the zebra!
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? JF: Dark chocolate and eye cream. They were essentials before and whilst my world has shifted they are just as important, if not more so!
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? JF: Going to work (not Etta Loves) 4 days a week. Being on my phone when Etta is in the room. Doing anything at the weekend which doesn’t involve her. The usual really. I don’t get round it I think I just justify all types of work as being essential to our future, and have to tell myself that I do need to prioritise myself every now and again as ultimately it will make me a better, well rounded mum.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? JF: I really enjoy Yoga but have been a bit crap sticking to it. Reading a book is a rare but enjoyable treat, and actually gardening in these spring / summer months.
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? JF: I am a big fan of Zara for Etta and I, and I also love Born at Dawn, a new curated online shop for stylish and classic piece for adults. For kids clothes I adore The Mini Edit as they have the best collection of cool clothes I’ve come across and within it I’m addicted to Mini Rodini for Etta. I also discovered this week that Cos does baby clothes… which is dangerous information! I’m a huge fan of interiors so will lose myself in House of Hackney or the John Lewis haberdashery department.
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? JF: It’s between my Hush boyfriend jeans and a new Stella Nova jumpsuit from Born at Dawn.
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday. JF: Paris, workshop, wine.
CB: Tell us something that might surprise people about you. JF: Perhaps that I am working full time in my role at a media agency and running Etta Loves in the spaces in-between. Or that I lived in Spain for a year, and it turned out that my old boss is now being hunted by Interpol…
CB: What’s the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? JF: I generally find that people are kind more often than not, however my husband Chris often surprises me with little acts of kindness. I knew he was a good’un when after a few weeks of going out I caught a nasty cold. My doorbell rang and when I opened it no one was there but a box full of everything that I both needed to tackle a cold plus a few of my favourite treats was sat on the doorstep. It was such a thoughtful thing for someone to do, it really stuck with me.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year. JF: I’ve just finished reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and wow was that a beautiful yet harrowing read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? JF: It’s dark and we live on a fairly busy road so I can’t see much through the obscured window film! New people have just moved in across the road so my view is normally them mooching about their daily life.
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? JF: In the countryside breathing clean air and with a 24-hour beauty therapist on hand. I need some serious buffing and revitalising at the moment!
Loved chatting with you Jen – you’ve created a wonderfully functional and SCIENTIFIC baby product; that is super stylish too. Eli is almost 5and we have muslin’s still in use – proof that this is product that you’ll be using for a long time after those new-born day’s are over! Looking forward to watching how Etta Loves evolves!
Be sure to follow Jen & Etta Loves on Insta: @EttaLovesand shop the latest collection: Shop Now.
ETTA LOVES // THE STORY
Sat on my sofa with a heap of mucky muslins by my side, I realised that 4-week old little Etta was staring at my top. It was the first thing I’d noticed her actively trying to focus on and unsurprisingly it was a simple black and white pattern.
After a month of trying to rotate black and white clothing (which got both difficult and boring) this got me thinking; why isn’t one of the most seen items by babies designed to stimulate them and capture their attention? And why wouldn’t you use medical knowledge of babies’ visual development to make them the best that they could be at doing this? And while you’re at it they should be stylish…
Functional, developmental and stylish muslins are what I wanted to create.
Now don’t get me wrong, I own other lovely muslins and some are black and white. But whilst these provide some stimulation for my little one through the very fact that they are high contrast, they haven’t been developed with this as their primary objective.
Etta Loves muslins are not only practical, super-soft, absorbent 100% cotton, but they have been designed with input from an early years visual expert, to ensure that they stimulate babies’ visual and cognitive development. As such the range is split between 0-4 months and 5+ months.
As an added bonus they look fabulously stylish, so whoever uses them will look great, regardless of which bodily fluid they might be trying to catch…
ETTA LOVES // THE SCIENCE
At birth, an infant’s vision is very limited as their visual system is not fully developed. Over the first few days and weeks of life vision improves steadily and infants will be able to see high contrast patterns in black and white.
Very young infants do not see in colour because the cells in the retina which detect colour have not yet fully developed. Their main focus will be on objects 8-10 inches from their face – which is happily the approximate distance from their face to your face when you are interacting with them.
By around 6-8 weeks of age babies can focus on your face more easily, and that is when you might notice that gorgeous first smile being returned right back to you.
During the first few months the brain is working out how to work the eyes together as a pair and vision starts to improve quickly. At this stage babies will start to learn how to track objects and will start to reach out for things that they find interesting.
It is generally thought that by the age of 5-6 months children have much better colour vision, although at this stage it is still thought to be not as sensitive as that of an adults. Children of this age will mostly be attracted to bright, strong primary colours.
Vision continues to improve steadily through the first 12 months and beyond into toddlerhood. It is possible to assess vision in infants, babies and preverbal children and any concerns about your child’s vision should be discussed with your GP.
CB: Please introduce yourself and what you do.
AS: My name is Anniki and I work as Super Editor at Selfish Mother with the fabulous Molly Gunn and also co-founded The Hotbed Collective with Cherry Healey and Lisa Williams. I’m a freelance writer, branding consultant and copy writer.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias/brand name?
AS: Well it’s interesting as I didn’t come up with either of the brand names I work on at the moment but have done loads of work in branding in the past. It used to be my bread and butter. A good name needs to get your idea across really quick and ideally have a bit of humour too. People have the attention span of a gnat these days so nothing too wordy or laborious I feel.
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept?
AS: I can only really talk about The Hotbed Collective here as Molly obviously created Selfish Mother and was inspired to create a platform for Mums to share stories and engage with one another. The HBC is different in that we want to encourage women to be more open and honest about sex. It was sparked by a conversation I had with Cherry about 2 years ago when we realised that women feel awkward ‘fessing up to the reality of bad/dull sex lives. We wanted to change that and so we’re creating a website and want to create events and other media that make it feel more permissible to talk about this stuff (without having to neck three litres of prosecco first).
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
AS: The people that inspire me are often American for some reason. There are so many great writers and performers in the states. I love Lena Dunham. Tina Fey. Lindy West. Cheryl Strayed. Nora Ephron (the late great). I basically love anyone who has a sense of humour and is outspoken and honest. I think there needs to be more honesty but we can be silly too.
CB: Can you tell us about, or give us a sneaky peek of something new that’s coming up?
AS: Well have two things right now that are exciting. On Selfish Mother we are creating a new travel section to the blog and are looking for writers who can give us tips on greats places to travel to. Just because we’re parents doesn’t mean we have to give up on all that good stuff. Selfish Mother is always changing and adapting to new things so watch this space!
On The Hotbed Collective side, we have just done our #backinthesack survey and have spoken to 750 people about their sex life post-kids. We are launching a website and then there will be an event further down the line. We are going to use the site to talk about our own sex lives but also to interview a range of different people. We want there to be tips and practical things to do when your love life sinks into the doldrums. We want it to feel intimate, fun and a bit sexy too.
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice?
AS: It’s hard. I wish I had been better prepared for the lack of sleep. The fact that the first few months feel really hard. That it’s normal to feel like you’re losing your mind. Sometimes the only thing that got me through was visualising Oprah Winfrey. In the middle of the night I’d be so tired that she’d just appear to me and I’d get comfort in talking to her. That sounds mad but offers up and insight into how un-hinged I felt!
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
AS: Snacks. More snacks. I find the minute we leave the house my daughter starts telling me she’s hungry. I have to have a few different options. And always one or two sweets. You can try Danish parenting/French parenting/whatever but a sweet ALWAYS works when you’re in a tight spot and need to use good old fashioned bribery to get home/in the car/leave a playdate/go to the shop etc.
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
AS: If it’s for me then it would probably be make up. If I have make up on then I feel human. In the early days my neighbour came up to me and told me I looked awful. I find that people think it’s perfectly okay to say you look dreadful when you’re a parent. After that I made sure I always had slap on. With the slap on I can fake not being tired. My other essential is the Aveda Chakra spray. I keep talking about it but so far they haven’t offered me any freebies. I feel quite sore about that I can tell you.
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
AS: I get it every time I leave my daughter at nursery. I do this calculation in my head and think about how she’s going to start pre-school soon and yet I’m leaving her a couple of times a week and don’t see her. The reality is that I am now freelance and can’t get any work done at all when she’s with me. I end up shouting at her and telling her to get lost so the time she spends with me when I’m working isn’t very good quality. I have to remind myself of that. And the fact that seeing a working Mummy (who shouts sometimes) is probably a good thing.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
AS: I love to watch reality TV but never get a chance. Sometimes if my daughter is playing in the garden I will sneak into the front room to watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians or America’s Next Top Model. If I can’t sleep at night I come down and watch it. Their lives are so different to mine and their problems so out of my realm of experience (Kim is usually worrying about the launch of her new butt cream and whether Kayne is having a row with her Mum or not) – pure escapism. I am really into low-brow culture and am not ashamed to admit it (I also like reading to balance it out).
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops?
AS: The FMLY store tops – my main look is a sweatshirt with an A-line skirt and blue bruises on my knees. I love Selfridges but can’t afford anything there anymore. I also love &OtherStories as they have really original clothes and styles. I basically can’t go in there anymore as it’s too dangerous for me. I even tried to buy a jacket in a size 8 because I loved it and it was the last one. For kids stuff I love Next, Boden, Gap, FMLY store. I also love Aveda Chakra spray as I mentioned before ha ha.
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
AS: Dungarees. I wear them all the time. They aren’t flattering on me as I have a big bum but I don’t care. I just like that combination of a casual dungaree and a feminine top. I also like the A-line skirt and sweatshirt combo. I struggle to find jeans I like or that fit properly
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday.
AS: Hungover, panic-attack, moments of happiness.
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
AS: I used to be the singer in a band and had a hit – you can see the video on YouTube.
CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
AS: I had a friend who is a midwife and she came to visit me every other day for about a month when my daughter was born. She knew I was struggling. She is basically the nicest, kindest person I know.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year.
AS: I love the new book by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel (We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere). I haven’t seen any films apart from Trolls which I thought was okay. Music wise I am listening to the theme tune to Big, Little Lies- Michael Kiwanuka- Cold Little Heart. When I listen to it I pretend that I’m one of the characters driving along the Pacific Coast Highway (rather than driving to Lidl down the Uxbridge road)
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
AS: I can see my cat who is busy burying her business in the neighbour’s vegetable patch.
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
AS: I would like to be at a spa. I really feel like I need a massage. I want to lie in a pool of warm water and listen to Michael Kiwanuka and pretend I’m Reese Witherspoon.
CB: Anything else you’d like to add in?
AS: When you get past 40 you really don’t give a crap about what other people think. Like really! It’s good.
I absolutely loved this chat with Anniki – thank you for taking part in our series! Be sure to follow her on Insta: @AnnikiSelfishMotherand via her brilliant blog: Anniki Sommerville