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Meet The Maker - Pigeon Organics

When I started Small Stuff, I knew I wanted to stock not only the finest well made and ethical toys and lifestyle products, but also clothing that would be kept and handed down to brothers, sisters, cousins or even kept in a keepsake box. I looked high and low for timeless classics, made from high quality, GOTS certified organic cotton baby clothes and one day I happened across Pigeon Organics - now a staple in my store and with the new season around the corner, I caught up with Jane founder of this fantastic brand.
1 - Tell us a little bit about the brand and how you started?
I had been working for an environmental charity in London for several years and that's how I found out about organic cotton. I was absolutely amazed by the problems associated with conventional cotton (using more insecticides than any other crop globally being one of the greatest problems, together with all the associated health and environmental risks), so I decided there and then that I would only ever work with organic cotton.  I had always been interested in design and when I moved with my family from London to Oxford, I (like so many others with young children) decided that this would be a good time to start a new adventure.  Organics for Kids (as it was then called) was born in 2004 and what a journey it's been!  I'm not hard line about organic - it's certainly not appropriate for all farmers (it depends on factors like the soil condition and support structures) but when it is introduced effectively, the positive impact is great.

2 - Some of your pieces are made in the UK, however some are made elsewhere, can you talk a little more about how you found a factory and what was important to your decision?
UK manufacturing has always been a passion.  The first UK factory we worked with right from the start was wonderful and they were almost like family.  However, they very sadly closed down in 2013 and we were left (overnight in fact) with no supplier so we had to work very quickly to find alternative factories.  We couldn't find anyone else in the UK so we started work with three factories overseas - each of which we already had links with - in Hungary, Ukraine and Turkey.  My heart remained with UK manufacturing and in 2015 we supported the son of the original UK factory to open another smaller unit.  It was a dream. However, as demand for our seasonal collection grew significantly, at the expense of our basics range, we could no longer provide enough work for the Nottingham factory and despite our best efforts to find them alternative customers, they decided to close earlier this year.  It's such a difficult and sad situation, but by the end we were pretty much losing money to keep them going and that was obviously not sustainable.   So now we work with one factory in India - we have a good relationship with them (we visited in April) and they are both organic and Fairtrade certified.  The quality they produce is fantastic and they have the technical skills to do almost anything we ask.  We're also just starting to work with a factory in Turkey - again, we've known them for several years and we're hoping to build up a good long-term relationship with them too.  
3 - Can you talk a little bit more about the charities that pigeon works with and why it’s important to your brand?
This excites me almost as much as the collection.  Sometimes I am completely amazed that some of the large (sometimes household) names in the corporate world have treated their customers with so little respect. I find it hard to believe that they have so little concern for their position of responsibility in our society.  It is unlikely that Pigeon will ever grow very big, but this is not what's important to me.  The important thing is that we behave responsibly and that we respect both our customers and our suppliers, remaining fully accountable to them.  And on top of that, we love to support great causes with the resources we have available.  So we've been really pleased to be able to support women's refuges in Oxfordshire - it's such a huge problem - and to send stock to the refugee camps in Greece.  We've also provided modest financial support to MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) through the sale of our greeting cards.  The reason we love MSF is because they just seem to get into the most difficult situations to provide medical support.  They are staunchly independent and speak out on behalf of the most vulnerable people all over the world.  If we can marry our available resources with fantastic charities then we love to do that.  And we want to do more.
4 - There has been so much in the media recently about fast fashion and the pollutants and waste that have entered the oceans and landfill from the fashion world, even before this was on the front page of most papers and in the news - you’d created Pigeon Organics; was this always a important factor as to why you wanted to create a brand that was eco-conscious?
I think it makes absolute sense for any new business to start with the highest possible environmental (and social) standards that they can.  It's not always easy and sometimes one has to take a pragmatic approach, but it's good to aim for the highest standards possible.
5 - What can we expect for next season from Pigeon Organics?
Our seasonal collection is going from strength to strength.  The summer collection, arriving in February/March, is the largest yet and includes a huge amount of choice.  The it's onto AW19, which will be launched at the trade shows in January and we're also half way through the development of SS20.  We're usually working on three seasons at once which can be quite confusing!

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