Kids. In their best moments, they’ll melt your heart, but they can also be little terrors.
Francis and Lucy Frost understand this all too well, being parents themselves. But now they have also built a children’s clothing brand around the idea of grumpy kids.
Little Flock of Horrors (LFOH) takes an irreverent approach to children’s clothing, but cutting out cute seems to be working. The company picked up $15,000 of funding on Kickstarter last year to launch its all-merino brand at the ABC Tradeshow in Las Vegas, the largest kidswear show in the world.
From there it snagged a deal with elitist American clothing chain Barneys – a rare coup that puts it on a par with Karen Walker. Francis Frost says the range is now selling in Barneys' Madison Avenue store and some of the pieces are also on Barney.com.
"The head buyer met with Lucy last week to view the Spring/Summer 2015 release and she said that Little Flock of Horrors clothes are selling very well and they are looking at putting them into two more locations and expanding their buy with us."
LFOH brand imagery resembles the outtakes from most photo shoots – after the kids got tired and emotional
Although the Frosts are in New Zealand these days, they lived in the US until they decided to have kids, and their experience is with elite sports, branding and product development in the US. Which is presumably why they chose to launch their brand in America, rather than closer to home. (Only once the LFOH webstore is fully up and running next week will New Zealand parents be able to source the brand for their own grumpy kids).
Lucy says there was a gap in the merino kids fashion market: parents with plenty of money, but a realistic attitude.
“There are a few merino brands out there and they’re all quite cute – beautiful pictures of beautiful children. The hard reality of having kids is that they’re sort of little monsters.”
Hence the functional clothes and the grumpy baby shots. Little Flock’s brand imagery resembles the outtakes from the photo shoot – after the children got tired and emotional. Coming up with the Little Flock of Horrors name was the first stroke of genius, Lucy says.
Lucy and Francis Frost and their kids Frankie and Iggy.
“[At the trade show] people would walk past, look up and look in, stop in their tracks and say ‘Oh what a funny name, I love the name!’” It also helped pull in the deal with Barneys, which Lucy says they’ve been massaging for the best part of a year. The $US1bn turnover chain will stock some Little Flock items this winter.
“When I contacted Barneys the first comment was that she loved the name. In capitals – LOVE. This is a senior buyer who’s been buying for 20 years.”
If they have one tip for making it in the US market as a Kiwi start-up it is about pretending you are bigger than you actually are.
“In the States appearance is everything. When you go to these shows people make this assumption that you’re this huge brand and that you’re staying in beautiful hotels,” Lucy says.
Actually, the $15,000 Kickstarter money didn’t go far, and she was carting around the contents of their trade show booth in her wheelie bags and staying in “grimy, grotty” apartments in New York. Still, New Zealand brand does mean something in overseas markets, Lucy says.
“Our [product] is sourced locally and manufactured locally. That’s important. Having merino product that’s made in China, it takes away from the whole brand story.
“We think it’s important to meet the people that are cutting the patterns, sewing the product, then go buy the wool from someone that has the relationship with the farmer. It’s just part of the ethos.”
The main focus for now is the US, but the company has also done deals in the UK and the Netherlands and product will be hitting stores in Europe in September.
And New Zealand? "Our goal was to offer our clothes to the Southern Hemisphere at the same time or before than the Northern Hemisphere. We have now actively started showing the line to retailers around New Zealand," Francis says.