The Bonnie Mob’s designer Tracey Samuel talks shop with Playtime New York.
Fun, colorful and comfy are the three words Tracey Samuel, the designer behind the U.K. based line, The Bonnie Mob, uses to describe the brand. The name Bonnie Mob, says Samuel, “represents our merry, colorful band of babes and kids doing what kids do best – running, playing and having lots of fun.” (Of course the word “bonnie” means beautiful in the designer’s native Scottish parlance.)
The brand has captured the hearts of boutique buyers the world over for its gorgeous knits with a hint of quirk and sweet designs with just the right dose of funk. Samuel grew up in Scotland, studied textiles at Glasgow School of Art, and attended the prestigious Central Saint Martins in England for an MA in fashion, studying alongside Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. Making a career in knitwear, Samuel spent 10 years at Sonia Rykiel, a company revered for its bright and whimsical knits. When she had her baby, the designer was determined to keep creatively busy (knowing she couldn’t maintain her pace of commuting Monday to Thursday from Brighton to Paris), and began her own children’s wear line that would fast be known for its beautiful heirloom, yet quirky, knits with fun use of color.
The current SS17 collection, says Samuel, “was inspired by the nostalgia of the 70’s and that feeling of energy, happiness and love that comes from a weekend at a sun kissed music festival.” Her favorite piece of the collection, she confides is a little knit romper with a David Bowie inspired intarsia cloud and a rainbow flash.
The Fall/Winter collection, just shown at Playtime, also nods to the 70s, and has an eastern theme, featuring the secretive creatures of the Himalayas, like peeping pandas and baby tigers. Gorgeous knitwear with quirky details and richly colored separates with hand drawn prints keep it fresh for the new season.
As anyone who produces clothing can attest, the choice of factory is critical in the success of a fashion line, and her factory has been key to her ability to grow. Samuel was lucky to have forged a long term relationship with factories in Hong Kong and China since her days at Sonia Rykiel, so she engaged them when she launched her own line. “For me it’s about the people. They have become part of the Bonnie Mob family, and there’s a level of trust and understanding that means they know what I expect and we work really well together.”
Cross pollination is a buzz word this season, and The Bonnie Mob recently cp’ed with blogzine Selfish Mother, and made a capsule collection of cashmere sweaters for mothers and rompers for babies. “I met Molly (Selfish Mother) when she lived in Brighton, we hit it off straight away, as two likeminded ex fashion design mamas. When she mentioned she would love to try some knits, the fit was obvious and it meant I could get my womenswear design hat on again, which I loved.” The initiative was wrapped around raising awareness about a charity, ‘Refugee Support Greece’, that had been started by a friend, who would send new refugee mothers and their babies to a local hotel (in lieu of going from the hospital to a makeshift camp post-birth) for 5 days of care, privacy and bonding. This project helped her reach new audience while exposing the strong ethos of The Bonnie Mob.
The Bonnie Mob has been ‘mushrooming’ yearly, and is now a robust family business. 2017 brings new opportunities for the brand. Says Samuel, “I’m really excited to see The Bonnie Mob continue to grow in new markets like the U.S. It’s lovely to hear customers who return to shows like Playtime give great feedback on good sales saying they want to grow more with us as a brand in the coming seasons.”
Although Samuel has recently finished a book on a yogic search for inner calm (The Celestine Prophecy), her pace is anything but. The brisk business keeps her on the road between trade shows, visiting her factory, and taking trips like a recent one to Seoul Korea. When giving advice to other brands in the industry, Samuel notes her words hold true for most things in life: “Keep moving. They can’t hit a moving target!”