Meet Zoe - Toby Tiger founder & designer
To celebrate our 25 years in the organic kidswear business, Zoe reflects on how the company has grown and where we plan to be in the sustainable future.
Our founder and designer
I studied textiles and fashion and have always loved big, straightforward graphics. Consequently, I began my career as a knitwear designer, and the brand was also established after my son, Toby Tiger!
In 1998, I founded Toby Tiger, named for my 25-year-old son Toby, whose real middle name is Tiger! I wanted to create bold, playful, colourful, and timeless designs. My philosophy has always been to dress kids like kids, with clever design details that make it easy and comfortable for them to wear our clothes. I was the first organic brand to use colour, azo-free dyes, and sustainable prints and manufacturing that are good for the environment. I have always advocated for organic cotton. Kids and I have always adored bright colours.
Our colourful history
Before moving to Brighton, I started my career designing from a small studio in Clerkenwell, London, called Cockpit Studios. It was a fun place to be and a hub for a group of young designers; When I moved to Brighton, I opened our first shop, which served as a cutting room for new designs and garments. We used to have a group of knitters and sewers who worked as t-shirt printers locally to make our first collections. It was a lot of hands-on work, but as demand increased and more stockists wanted our designs, we gradually and organically started making more clothing in Turkey, India, and China factories. Ultimately, we moved into our flagship store on Gardner Street in the heart of Brighton's bustling north Laine district in 2003. This shop is still here today!
In 2008, we moved into our warehouse along the coast, five minutes from the sea, after outgrowing the shop's offices and storage space.
The shop is still there, but we need more storage. We have always been fortunate to have excellent independent department stores that recognize our environmental credentials. When I started, organic and sustainable practices weren't as standard as now. Slowly, however, this eco-messaging has become more and more common. It's great that new parents are more aware of the environmental effects of what they buy and how it is made. Sustainable purchasing is becoming an increasingly important factor in purchasing decisions.
Of course, I have no doubt that the brand's bold prints and fun designs are why they like it!
Our most recent move since Brexit has been to establish a new business in Berlin in 2020. As a result, we can continue selling to our European stockists, and I adore splitting my time between Berlin and Brighton!
Our 25th anniversary
Naturally, we will celebrate with cake and tea in our Berlin and the United Kingdom offices! In addition, customers should keep an eye out for special promotions online!
We will also thank our stockists, some of whom have been with us since the beginning! So keep an eye on this space!
Our clever designs
I started with cute slogan t-shirts and hand-knit sweaters for kids and babies. Nevertheless, as my son Toby grew and our retailers requested a more comprehensive selection, we began producing a wide range of garments in our recognizable happy colour palette, including t-shirts, baby grows, sweatshirts, raincoats, and twirl-tastic skater dresses. Our prints and appliqués are designed with the Toby Tiger sense of fun that everyone knows and loves! Our designs now cover ages from newborn to eight.
Our sustainable designs are striking, vibrant, and simple to recognize; We believe that children will always enjoy our playful designs, so they are child-focused. I always design with longevity in mind, and I love it when customers pass on our classic designs because they can be worn throughout the year; It's not fast fashion. We've been going strong for so long thanks to daring, fun, sustainable, and high-quality clothing. We always have new collections for each season, but we don't follow the crowd because we use our own colour palette, and you can wear new and old styles together and still look great. This design strategy is more environmentally friendly and opposes the fast fashion model.
Our German company
We quickly decided to open a German company in light of Brexit! We want to keep our European customers because we have a loyal following! Fortunately, I speak German, so that was very helpful! But, sadly, Brexit has rendered competitive European sales from our UK headquarters impossible.
Our product is needed just as much as sustainable and organic brands are getting more popular. We are fortunate to have devoted UK small independent stockist customers and will always collaborate with them. Additionally, we have a functional wholesale website from which our stockists can order.
Our sustainable practices
We have used organic cotton in our designs for the past 25 years. We are proud that all of our products are made from recycled polyester and are GOTS-certified, and we are constantly working to improve the manufacturing process. We've always done business this way. We also use environmentally friendly packaging, including mailing and garment bags.
Our ethos and beliefs
Organic cotton and ethical production were new to us when we first started. However, the brand has maintained its identity because we have always simply adhered to our beliefs and maintained a solid, clearly defined ethos. As a result, we are pleased to see other brands joining the sustainability movement we have been a part of for 25 years.
Our plans for the future
In 2023, we will experience numerous exciting events; In these difficult economic times, we are working hard to maintain our focus and optimism! Our designs have been around for a long time. We are grateful to all our devoted clients, especially given that we know that every family is constantly affected by the cost-of-living crisis! They are aware that supporting us is also making a sustainable decision that will benefit our children and the environment in the long run.