From Paul Smith shoe designer to launching her own children’s nightwear range – meet Alienor Falconer, founder of The Bright Company. We discuss the importance of comfy pjs and how to get a good night’s sleep
Alienor, 32, lives in Brighton with her husband Simon and their two children; Corwin, nearly five and Effie, three.
Are you a morning person or night owl?
I used to be a middle of the day kind of owl… but actually I find if I’m up and at them then I’m very productive, I faff about in the evenings and lose concentration!
What time do you go to bed each night?
Around 11 or 12.
How much sleep do you get, on average?
Seven-eight hours, I’m so thankful we are now getting full night’s sleep (on the whole). Effie took a few years to sleep through the night, it was such a contrast to her brother who was an ace sleeper from the start.
So why nightwear…
Why did you choose to design/make nightwear over daywear?
After I had Corwin I was so excited about all the great kids’ fashion out there and the amazing brands but couldn’t find any cool nightwear, it was all twee or ill-fitting or dinosaurs for boys and butterflies for girls, which is so boring. I wanted to make a brand of nightwear that was as fashion forward as the cool daywear brands out there.
We work quite unusually (for a nightwear brand) in a seasonal way, always designing new things, so everything is limited, we never go back and make the same thing again. Nightwear is so important to children, sleep is so important for them. If you invest in making it lovely for your children they will be comfortable and hopefully sleep better.
You use distinctive prints on your products, where do you find inspiration for colours and patterns?
Oh gosh, everywhere! We have a new bee print at the moment and we designed it last summer with Sarah Dyer, the children’s book illustrator and author. I wanted to use a hexagon again as we had a brilliant hexagon print when we first started out and the more I was playing about with it the more it looked like a beehive, so then we just needed some inhabitants… designs develop from all sorts of places, for next winter’s collection, we started out looking at op art.
Your first collection for The Bright Company launched AW13, where had you been working previously?
I used to work in the world of shoes, I was the women’s product developer on shoes at Paul Smith, it was a very exciting and varied role, working with our factories and designers to make some really cool products.
How has it been, setting up a business – what are the greatest challenges, what makes it worthwhile?
Oh gosh, it’s been a lot harder than I imagined, and it takes up a lot more time that I had anticipated. I find it hard to constantly be putting on different hats: financial, managerial, creative, logistics etc. What makes it worthwhile is the buzz, every order we get I’m grateful for, every kind word or comment is a real boost. My son Corwin has decided when he grows up he wants to work with us which is so incredibly sweet, I hope that the children grow up to be proud of what we have achieved.
Do you manage to fit childcare/work/time with your partner/friends/me-time in, and if so – how?
Well I go the the gym once a week, not sure that hour counts as ‘me time’ but that is as close as I get to it at the moment! My weeks are fairly structured with nursery/school drop offs and then I get time to work. I have one day off a week with my daughter which is lovely, we like to hang out together and see friends etc. The weekends are mostly family time, we like to see friends too but are learning to have quiet time all together where we do very little. I’m exceptionally lucky that since Corwin was born my mum has been able to offer us childcare every week so Simon and I have opportunities to go out as a couple every now and then. Most weekday evenings are spent working.
What advice would you give to a fashion designer, starting out?
Go and work for someone else first, learn the process of getting a product to market. And when you are ready make sure you have help, delegate the things you can’t get your head around, the financial (in my case) or sales or strategy etc.
The secret to a good night’s sleep…
What is the secret to a good night’s sleep?
Having a relaxed mind, switch off your phone, read a book, meditate. Oh – and wear ear plugs so you can’t hear the kids!
What are your dreams for the business?
My big dream is that the business can support us as a family. We have so many plans for coming seasons, some great colabs and some fab new products in the pipeline. Our biggest push at the moment is overseas, we have some lovely UK stockists but we don’t want to overcrowd the market. I’d love to have a bricks and mortar shop one day.
And your personal goals?
Happiness, to enjoy every moment with the children whilst they are still little, the past few years have gone so quickly I sometimes forget how quickly it goes with children, they are special and they are why we started on this crazy pyjama journey!