In Conversation With: Kat Vandal, Vandal Kids
Katheline Vandal is the mum of a 6 year old boy and founder of VANDALKIDS. While struggling to find comfortable clothing for her son that wasn't heavy, stiff or not breathable, and yet wanting not to worry about wear and tear so he could concentrate on having fun, Kat decided to design children's clothing that is crafted to suit the lifestyle of your "little rascals".
Vandal Kids believe that clothes should be inspiring and enablers rather than a source of restriction or concern. And that buying less and wearing for longer is a key step towards a more sustainable fashion industry and... it makes parents' lives easier! So with that key mission in mind, Kat set out on her journey to develop a collection and launch a crowdfunding campaign.
We noticed early on when Kat became a Professional Member of The Sustainable Fashion Collective®, that she was driven, determined and very clear in what she envisioned for her business. The branding and story is exceptionally considered, and each product has heart. Here in this interview, we discover more about what Kat and Vandal Kids is all about.
What is your business mission, and what drives you?
Vandalkids is not just a clothing brand, it’s a lifestyle brand that champions kids’ creativity and embraces the mess that comes with it. As a mother, I have spent so much time washing, mending, and replenishing my son’s clothes and came to the conclusion that kid‘s clothes are not adapted to their lifestyle.
My mission is to create clothes that are truly thought through to be practical, resistant and comfortable for kids to wear without worry and no fuss, over and over. All this without compromising on style, because I believe that every kid is an artist, and their clothes should be inspiring and enablers rather than a source of restriction or concern.
Because I believe that wearing clothes for longer is kinder to the planet and easier on parents.
What has so far been the biggest challenge for you in launching your business? How did you overcome this?
Suppliers and factories
The main issue I found is having access to good suppliers/factories that care about my project, are ethical, sustainable yet accessible price-wise with my low volumes.
I initially did this all on my own, Googling, but once I started to reach out to some experts, being part of The Sustainable Fashion Collective, working with Rachel Kan who is the founder of the Ecosystem Incubator, and now working on my production with Lora Gene, founder of the brand LORAGENE, has helped so much.
Especially finding recycled fabric was hard unless I upped my volumes. Initially I wanted my polyester to be recycled from plastic bottles. I was even ok to pay more for this feature. But I haven’t been able to access this with my low volumes unfortunately and some options I received were not resistant enough.
So I had to make a decision: either I don’t do polyester but my concept about my clothes being mess-proof and more durable won’t work, or I focus on longevity. Which is what I’ve done. It was tough to give up on this (for now) but I believe I did it with integrity and that a durable garment is more sustainable than a recycled one that won’t last.
The other challenge was, after being such an important client working for big companies, I suddenly became nobody, very small and at the bottom of the priorities for suppliers. I’m very used to working with suppliers, managing budgets and timing, but as a start-up I had to adapt a lot, with the feeling that people are doing me a favour and without negotiation power to get commitment on prices or deadlines.
As I want to be transparent with my customers about how the products are made, I also found it difficult to get this information from my suppliers. When asking too many questions about provenance, worker’s wages etc. they tend to lose interest in me, some even take it bad. I overcame this by accepting it, choosing my battles but also again, working with people who have a network helped a lot.
What knowledge have you gained in becoming an entrepreneur, that you wish you had at the beginning? And what, if anything, in your background has supported this new journey?
First of all, coming from a different background (cosmetics), I learnt so much about the fashion industry and the technical aspects of it but also about the different ways to be sustainable (for instance, it’s not just about the fabric but it’s about designing to last, it’s about the workers as well).
Secondly, I think I improved on a personal level. I tend to be control-freak and a perfectionist, but I had to learn to trust the process, accept to compromise and choose my battles to move forward. I learnt to choose what is most important to me and not get too worked up by details and anything that won’t make a difference. Most of all, accepting that it’s a journey and you can’t be perfect from the start is key.
Overall, my marketing background has helped a lot, especially to put together the concept of the brand and its identity. And for the fashion and business side of things I have been lucky to be find great help from classes to 121 consultations.
How have you found being a Professional Member of The Sustainable Fashion Collective®? Why did you join, what guidance have you found, what has been your favourite aspect?
"I’m glad I joined the Collective as there is a wealth of resources that is priceless. I even wish I had more hours in the day to be able to read everything and watch all the Masterclasses. What you guys do is amazing."
I’m also part of the Mastermind group where a few start-ups share various issues in their journey and help each other, all hosted by Charlie Bradley Ross. It’s a great platform to brainstorm, get out of my internal discussions that don’t go anywhere. Sometimes you need a pair of fresh eyes.
My favourite aspect is being able to have a one stop shop to learn about everything sustainable but also meet likeminded professionals in the industry. And I am looking forward to go to a IRL event too.
What do you still require support with in your business; how can the community help?
My main challenge for my 2nd collection will be to improve my margin. Currently it won’t be viable to sell on a retailer’s platform unless I manage to bring my cost down. And of course, I want to do it without compromising on the quality of my product, or the quality of life of the people making it.
So it’ll be a constant quest to finding clever ways to design, sharing volumes with other brands to bring the cost per metre down, and increasing volumes a bit without risking the waste.
Get your own pieces here on the website.
Find Vandal Kids on Instagram.
Also want to receive dedicated business support and be guided holistically through launching a responsible business? Join The Sustainable Fashion Collective® today.