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Why I set up The Girl Element

I have never been a traditionally “girly” girl or woman. My ambition when younger was to be a truck driver or a rally car driver (to be honest I’d still quite like to do that now). My eldest child is a boy, so by the time I had daughters, our house was already full of what might be called traditional ‘boy’ toys. My son grew up asking questions about everything and anything, loving science and creativity, and that formed my style as a mother, which I just took naturally into mothering daughters. We have a house full of non gender-stereotyped toys, and I am very passionate that my daughters have access to every kind of input to inspire them – from science kits, dinosaur models, robot bugs and dolls houses.

So, I had ticked the box of inspiring toys, which included a lot of STEM toys. How about clothes?

My son had some amazing clothes – dinosaurs and space being two favourite themes for him. But when it came to finding clothes I liked for my daughters, it was far more challenging. It was hard enough avoiding pink, never mind actually finding clothes that would educate and inspire them while wearing them. So, they both used to wear his old t shirts and pyjamas. Which is great, but why should they have to do that? While the topics were exciting, the styling and designs were still for boys. I wanted my girls to have those same clothes that inspired them and made them curious about the world, but were created specifically with girls in mind.

While I could find daytime clothes we liked if I looked hard enough (the Boden sale being a favourite haunt when they were younger), nightwear was another matter. Everything was cute: pinks and pastels, with designs featuring typical stereotyped girl’s imagery. Bunnies, kittens, flowers, fairies and unicorns abounded. And don’t even get me started on the slogans. Children are surrounded by gender stereotyping in our culture all the time – in colours, clothes, toys, books, music lyrics and TV programmes – subtle messaging that influences and limits our children every day unless we actively challenge it. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something to challenge these stereotypes, and give girls a greater choice.

So, this idea had been in my head for a while. I’d shared it with a couple of people, who both reacted in an ambivalent way and felt it was just too niche, so I put it to the back of my mind. Then, in 2017 I started a course to become a business coach, and as part of that coaching course, we coached each other on various personal challenges. At one point, my coach asked me if there was anything that I wished I’d done. And the first thing that came into my mind was “pyjamas”. I said that I wished I had had the confidence to pursue my idea and create a range of pyjamas for girls like my daughters. My coach observed that I lit up and became very animated talking about this, and I realised that I did still feel passionately about it and that if I didn’t at least try to take it further, I would regret it. I sketched out the first range of pyjamas that same night!

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