Spotlight On: Stripey Squirrel
In the next instalment in my series of blogs highlighting great local businesses, I asked Chloe about Stripey Squirrel, her upcycled children’s clothing business. Chloe has a regular stall at Herne Hill Market, where she sells her fab tops, trousers and shorts for under fives. Here’s what she had to say…
What is Stripey Squirrel and where did the name come from?
Stripey Squirrel is my homegrown, homesewn little business! I make babies and children’s clothes using second hand and pre-loved clothing and fabrics. I make everything myself at home in Herne Hill in my spare room. Whilst I was setting myself up and getting started at forming a little business I spent a lot of time talking with a very good friend of mine who is a web designer and owns his own business in Dublin. I had so many ideas for names for the business and he helped me to narrow them down to something that would be memorable, catchy and flexible too — he made the excellent point that you don’t want a name that limits you to making one type of product only in case you ever want to branch out. Once I had decided on the final name, my friend gave one of his interns the job of trying to come up with a logo — after some teething problems of the squirrel looking decidedly chicken-like, we ended up with what I think is a really funky little design which lends itself to the quirky nature of what I make!
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and the business? Was it hard to get set up at Herne Hill Market?
I spent seven years working at a leading Think Tank in London but after going back to work after having my daughter I felt that something was missing — I needed to exercise my creative side a lot more and felt like I was just stagnating behind a desk every day. I had always loved sewing and making little bits and pieces of clothing for my daughter when I got the chance, but it took quite a while for me to pluck up the courage to actually make the leap from a permanent, reliable and safe employment set-up to working for myself, by myself and being my own boss! I have never looked back. My husband was massively supportive of the move too and helped me form a sturdy business plan and believe that I could really do this!
Shortly after setting up on my own, I fell pregnant with my son who is now two. I’ve spent these first two years of Stripey Squirrel sewing manically while the wee man naps, and I had a lovely little companion with me at all my market stalls around London for a long while too!
I was lucky enough to be offered a stall at the Herne Hill Christmas market back in 2014 after a friend mentioned me to one of the organisers and from there I managed to secure a place at the regular Sunday CCFM markets and I’ve had a stall there at least once a month for the last two years now. I’ve met so many interesting people since. There is a real sense of community amongst the stall holders and the shoppers alike. I always look forward to my market days for a bit of a catch up with people!
Do you have a favourite place to find the fabrics for your clothes? What was the very first thing you made (if you can remember?!)
I source my materials from charity shops all over the place and have bought stuff in Scotland and Ireland too — I always make time for a quick sneak around the shops when I’m in a new place! There are so many fab charity shops all over the place with people who work tirelessly to try and move the sheer mountains of the population’s unloved clothing. I probably do a fabric-run twice a month or so, but I can never pass a charity shop without popping in to see if I can find any gems! I also get given bags of people’s clothing they are getting rid of — I get first pick before the rest goes to a charity shop. I do commissions too and have made people’s favourite old jumpers into a pair of trousers for their child. That’s always great fun and very rewarding.
I don’t remember exactly what the first thing was that I made, but sometimes I find the odd old pair of trousers or an attempt at a top or skirt or something at the bottom of a fabric drawer that I may have been trying out back at the beginning of this endeavour, and it amazes me how much I have learnt and how well I have perfected certain techniques since then! I feel a bit sorry for my daughter sometimes — when she was a baby she really got put in some odd creations whilst I tried to work out how to do hems or seams or other techniques more professionally!
What’s the most bizarre place you’ve found some great fabric? I imagine you can never switch off from the hunt!
My mother-in-law was clearing out some cupboards in her house and came across some amazing fabrics she picked up in Japan and Africa in the 1960s! I’m yet to use them — I feel like I can’t make any mistakes when I take the scissors to those!
I’ve been invited to sift through the remainders of a jumble sale before too — that was a bit of an eye opener. Its amazing what people get rid of!
What other local businesses would you recommend in Herne Hill/SE24. Do you have a favourite place to go?
With two small children in tow, I find myself pacing the same streets and frequenting the same places over and over again and there’s nothing dull about that in Herne Hill! It’s a lovely area where you can find all sorts of lovely food, independent shops and some great pubs. One of my favourite places is Fison Fitness in the arches on Milkwood road. I have been doing exercise classes with Anne Fison for about four years now and I just couldn’t imagine ever going to anyone else! Her colleague Jonny does a fab exercise class twice a week too that you can bring your under fives along to and they can play while you sweat it out with his circuit-training type programme.
I love the Prince Regent pub for some really decent grub, it’s a great place to watch the world go by from out the front. The Bullfinch Brewery is a lovely cosy spot for a pint or two, and I’m looking forward to getting a moment to try out the newly refurbished Half Moon too!
Thank you Chloe for answering my questions, it’s great to hear the story behind one of the unique businesses which Herne Hill’s market has to offer. I can also vouch for the quality of her clothes (there are no holes in the knees of my son’s trousers yet!). If you have small people in your life, check out her stall next time you’re in Herne Hill on a Sunday.