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In the beginning...

Long before I had a family of my own, I couldn’t help but notice what little option there was to dress stylishly when pregnant. It was 1993, several years before the idea of yummy mummies existed, and I decided a revolution in maternity fashion was needed.

I was living in Brittany, Western France where I fell in love with the Breton style which had also inspired Coco Chanel. So with just Ł50,000 from the sale of my first business - but a wealth of determination and passion for design – JoJo Maman Bébé was born. I worked 70-80 hours a week on very little pay for the next 10 years and had two children without being able to take any proper maternity leave. But I had a niche market, a good product and an enthusiastic team, who are all still with me to this day.

Our design and innovations

When JoJo was conceived I might not have known about babies, but I knew about clothes and just couldn’t understand why the baggy tent dress and dungarees were all that were available at the time. So I set out to source a maternity collection that was fashionable, yet wearable. But perhaps there was one exception... Believe it or not one of our first styles was a cat suit! This involved a full strip each time you had to go to the loo, and not having had kids at this stage meant I didn’t know quite how often that was. Furthermore, skin tight may look great on skinny models but, as I was to find out for myself a few years later, not the nine-months pregnant...

While maternity wear might have been our first love, it did not take long to realise that we just couldn’t ignore those beautiful babies.

Our range of clothes for babies and children was designed not only to inject a breath of fresh air into the market, but with practicality and wearability always in mind. We’ve also always been big believers in being outdoors in all weather, hence our outerwear collections which keep little ones warm and dry – and spare parents from being cooped-up indoors all day.

Once I’d had babies of my own, I couldn’t help coming up with ideas. After using a scarf to tie my son to a chair in a restaurant, I realised that a fabric high chair which could fit in your pocket was essential. To date we have sold over 60,000 pieces of our design. And while in France I noticed that most parents were using baby sleeping bags which were unknown in the UK. We introduced them 15 years ago - long before anyone else jumped on the bandwagon. Our customers also want to use plastics, and so they should. But because I hate landfill, we placed ourselves firmly at the helm of manufacturing children’s clothing from recycled plastic bottles to offset our emissions.

Innovation never ends at JoJo. We are always looking out for new brilliant ideas and help many small manufacturers bring their products to market.

Our attention to detail

I am passionate about quality and can’t bear any minor details which might irritate little necks, so every item of clothing is clearly thought out from seam to seam, ensuring the styles are comfortable and the children are easy to dress. I was brought up with five brothers and sisters and a mother who’s motto was ‘Waste Not Want Not’, so I really understand the importance of passing on clothes when they are finished with - which is why we make them to last.

Our teams

I continue to work alongside my teams and get involved in every area of the company. I am totally non-hierarchical and empower managers to lead by example. Where possible staff promotions are from within. Many employees, who enjoy this working environment, stay and grow with the company, which I love! I’m so lucky to work with such wonderful people.

Naturally as the company has grown I no longer head all departments and have a fantastic team of directors, managers and staff working alongside me. Karen Fry, Operations Director joined JoJo in 2001 having spent many years in Mail Order and Customer Service. Mel Brown, Design & Brand Director joined JoJo as a Designer more than 12 years ago. Harriet Blanchet, Buying Director has been with the company since it was a start-up and has headed many departments. Last but not least, Emma Brannan, Marketing Director joined the company in 2005, after 15 years relevant industry experience.

Our ethics

We may have grown into a major retailer but we haven’t forgotten our roots for providing quality and value for money, and the emphasis we place on the service means we are a business our customers can trust. We also care more for the individuals who make up our teams than bottom line profit, and pride ourselves on the family atmosphere here at JoJo. Ours is a nonhierarchical structure which means all managers must spend time on the shop floor when all hands are needed on deck. We believe a job here is more than simply a way to pay the bills and our success is very much a team effort. I’m so proud of us all.