In Conversation with Lotte Goodwin, founder of OTTI.
On a cold March morning, i met kidswear designer Lotte Goodwin who is starting a kidswear line called Otti that puts style and sustainability at the forefront from her living room, in what has to be Peckham’s coziest pub The Montpellier and discussed her plans for the future over paprika croquettes, and a glass of their finest organic house wine.
Lotte started her creative career at the University of Gloucestershire while studying on their Art Foundation course. It was this course that gave her the skills, and the versatility to go on to study a Bachelor of the Arts in Fashion Design at the University of Brighton. Brighton is known for being an amazing environment for creatives and the course has an alumni including the internationally acclaimed womenswear designer, Julien MacDonald. Lotte technically trained through interning with Christopher Raeburn and Christopher Shannon, both amazing designers whom she remains fond of today and also assisted stylist John Colver. “John lives in New York now, but I assisted him when he was based here in London for 9 months, which was really fun. Working with a stylist is interesting because there are so many different aspects to the job. I’d be in Italy on a shoot one week and then back in the office or in a studio on location here in London the next. It was what you would expect fashion to be, very fast paced, really exciting.”
Lotte then assumed the position of a full time nanny for 4 month old Frida (who is now 3). This is where it all started. “Kids-wear was not on my agenda until I started looking after Frida. I really enjoyed it, and had grown an attachment to her but I wasn’t doing anything creative – with that being my passion, I had to do something… so I decided to start a kidswear line. I got the name ‘Otti’ from Frida actually, it was when she was just learning to talk and she couldn’t pronounce my name properly so she was calling me Otti. I was racking my brains trying to think of a name for the brand and she was literally just shouting it at me!” Otti is a new kidswear brand that Lotte is developing at the moment, with a main focus on creating gender-neutral denim. With the kidswear industry worth an amazing 5.6bn pounds, it’s an attractive part of the fashion world to start a business in at the moment. The small range of brands available parents to choose from include lots of spin off’s from designers such as Gucci, or Kenzo – but they unfortunately do not cater for those looking for a stylish, environmentally friendly option, which is the gap that Lotte is aiming to fill. “One of my inspirations for the line is photographer Vivian Maier’s work, she did a series where she photographed her children in New York back in the 80’s, and I just love the style back then. I’ve also been looking at pictures of myself as a child, and I’m dressed in baggy clothes, like dungarees; which I think is really important. Kids are always running around in skinny jeans, and biker jackets which is quite un-natural, my collection will provide space for them to be children, and to be messy and active which is important. Through my market research, I’ve learnt that there is not a lot of denim available, but there is a lot of jersey because it’s comfortable, but i’m making efforts to make sure mine is. I remember feeling really scared as I thought whether there was a reason that no-one had done this before me. I also think it’s important for clothes to be quite gender neutral, we’ve got to allow our kids to grow in every sense of the word.”
Growing up between the distinct and equally beautiful London and Cheltenham, Lotte is very passionate about being sustainable and caring for the environment. This is why one of the main values of Otti is sustainability. “It’s really important that we are more aware of how our lifestyle impacts our world. Whilst we still have people who buy their meat from Iceland and shop at Primark, we also have a growing population of people who are starting to think about how we can treat our environment better. It’s hard because it’s almost become like a trend, so lots of brands are now saying that they are sustainable when they’re actually not, so it’s also important for people to do their research. It is as simple as intelligently sourcing materials, and where we produce our clothes, for example here in Britain to reduce air miles, are just two of the ways that I will be making sure Otti contributes to reducing our footprint on the world. Its really sad because we used to be such an industrial hub, and now most of that if not all has gone overseas because it is cheaper – so I’d love to contribute to bringing that industry back.”
Funding a fashion brand is as expensive as you’d think it is. With PR, Production, Shows, Hiring a team, having a space to work from and running a website to name but a few to consider, it is expensive. Dedicated bodies exist to help with the costs of this when it comes to adultswear, for example Fashion East, Vogue’s Fashion Fund and the LVMH Prize – however the choice for kidswear is not as vast. This is an obstacle Lotte had to overcome while looking to start Otti. The Prince’s Trust is a charity headed by Prince Charles, which funds the bright and aspirational young things of Britain. “They help you write a business plan and also give you a 4k loan with a good interest rate. I was also assigned a mentor which is pretty cool as he helped me to figure out the logistics of my project and work out what I was definitely doing. I did look around and the Prince’s Trust was the best body to help out, Virgin also do a similar thing however I don’t think they offer a mentor, which is really useful as I am doing this on my own, as opposed to with a business partner, I have to make all the decisions by myself which is quite lonely so it really helps to be able to run things by him and have someone with lots of experience’s opinion.”
London is the creative and cultural hub of England, and Lotte could not of picked a more prosperous and appropriate city to start her business in. “London is great because we are just moving from strength to strength. It’s like we have a such a strong sense of community, that through the struggles of hardship we always find a way to overcome obstacles, and succeed. It’s such a great place to be young and creative. I’m obviously different because I am doing childrenswear but my friends who are doing adultswear are all killing it at the moment, for example Caitlin Price, has been sponsored by Fashion East and also been shortlisted for the LVMH Prize, which is absolutely amazing, and it just shows London is a great place for talented young designers, which I find comforting.”
When I asked Lotte if she had any advice for fashion students at the moment, her advice was invaluable “Intern! And intern whilst you’re studying, don’t wait until after. I initially interned during my sandwich year, but I would say to start even earlier than that. As soon as you know you want to work in the fashion industry, do it. The friends of mine who would intern during their summer holidays, and not just go off and rave, are the ones that are doing so well now – it’s not going land in your lap you’ve got to work for it! And work hard, get in early and leave late, make sure you stand out and don’t go in and expect to learn anything because you will most likely be making tea, running errands or sewing on tiny buttons. It is easy to feel really cocky in some internships, like why are they making me do the shittest jobs, do they not know I am a student and I am competent. Don’t be too cocksure of yourself, ever, and be ready to get your hands dirty. Intern now so you that when you graduate and have the inevitable feeling of uncertainty, you also have some experience under your belt to help you stand out to employers, and don’t have to intern for much longer – which is horrible as London is so expensive.”
The future of fashion is bright, with the fashion show evolving and the ever-growing workforce getting stronger, it could be argued that the only way is up. With the UK being home to 4 out of the top 10 best fashion design courses in the world (Central Saint Martins, Kingston University, University of Westminster and the London College of Fashion) as rated by the Business of Fashion, we cannot help but be optimistic. The talent that comes out of our fashion schools, and the land itself is remarkable. Brands like Wales Bonner, Thomas Tait and Craig Green are all breaking new ground every day, and it’s so exciting to be working in such a fast paced industry.
To conclude i asked Lotte who should be on our radar at the moment: Alan Auctor, by a friend of mine called Lily Cornell – she designs premium casual wear for women, and also Margo – by my good friends Bronwen Marshall and Charlotte Good who’s aesthetic is described as a ‘balance between earthy comfort and bold modernity’. And other than Otti, her favourite kidswear brand is Mini Rodini, a Swedish brand who are dominating the scene. Well that’s until Otti emerges.
Princes Trust is a charity headed by Prince Charles, who support young people between the ages of 14-30. Check out their website here: https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/ for information regarding obtaining an opportunity like Lotte’s and how to donate to support young people like her.