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Childrensalon – Royal Tunbridge Wells

Michele Harriman-Smith 


Michele has an inspiring background… Her grand- and great-grandmother had been artists… Her mum, “Childrensalon” founder Sybil Harriman, first opened her boutique store in Royal Tunbridge Wells in England, 1952. It quickly gained a reputation as THE destination for beautiful children’s clothes… her customers had been including Royalty and celebrities… Michele remembers, that her mum’s life was infused for designing and making clothes. She did smocking, hand pleating constantly remaking old fabrics into beautiful clothing for her kids. Michele’s Dad, a Jazz Pianist, who had been brought up in France, surrounded by Parisian couture, shared her mum’s enthusiasm for fashion and beauty.
First they lived in Vienna, then when the 6th child was born, the Harriman family relocated to England… and Michele and her immaculately dressed siblings became well known in town. Soon the ladies sewing circles Sybil had established, became a business and her house a busy workroom – the beginning of “Childrensalon”… by the late 70’s current CEO Michele had joined and brought her own creative impulses… she and her husband George, a designer and illustrator, took the business online… .offering over 270 of the world’s most coveted brands… and continue the vision of an elegant French Jazz pianist and his talented wife…  

1. How would you describe the concept of your store?
Dressing children beautifully.This is the passion that Childrensalon was founded on. Our founder Sybil – who is also my mother – had six children and simply wanted to dress them beautifully. Everything grew from that simple ethos and is still at the heart of what we do today.

2. Which are the latest new labels you add to your assortment?
Sophia Webster, Automobili Lamborghini and Graci to name a few. We have more exciting brands coming next season too, such as the beautiful Borsalino hats.

3. You are based in Royal Tunbridge Wells … What’s the best place for kids there?
We’re blessed with many lovely parks in Royal Tunbridge Wells that all offer a wealth of activities, from beautiful walks to playgrounds and boating. We also have The Pantiles, which is rich in history and lovely for a wander and an ice cream! 

4. Do you have a hint for parents when shopping for their kids?
Everybody has different needs, but I have always believed in investing in quality clothes that can be passed down through generations, especially as I come from a big family. I was always taught to focus on fabric that feels good to wear, washes well and retains its shape. Whilst that forms my foundation, I do take great pleasure in those occasional pieces that are all about the beauty!

5. What was your favorite toy when you were a child?
My grandmother Madeleine used to hand-crochet poodles that we would sell in the shop. I had one of my own that I was very fond of, as well as a doll called Betty. When I got a little older, it was my pogo stick and stilts!

6. What are your plans for the future?
For Childrensalon, it’s simply to continue to put our love into dressing children beautifully, and do so in the best way for our customer at the time. For me personally, I’m looking forward to another dog joining our family and befriending my loving French bulldog. 

7. How do you think online shops will evolve in the next future?
The overwhelming change we’re seeing now is mobile.  

8. Are you realizing mood images for your website? If, yes, do you think that these images could influence the shopping experience of the costumer? 
Yes, we actually do two or three photoshoots a week, and have a large photography studio that’s always busy. We put a lot of focus on images, whether it involves a model or not. It’s our way of bringing the clothes to life and communicating the beauty of the items digitally, so it definitely influences the experience. 

9. kids and internet… what do you think about that?
When used correctly I think it’s an amazing thing. In almost unlimited ways, it broadens your horizons and understanding of just how wide and diverse the world is beyond your physical environment – something I didn’t have the luxury of as a child without going to the library, which still had many limitations. 

10. What is your favorite website?
It changes all the time, but I currently love Pinterest and Guilty Dogs on YouTube! 

Please complete this sentence: 
Kids should always… be free to be kids.

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Text by Claudia Antonia Merkle

May 26, 2015