Today I wanted to introduce you to Bon Tot (www.bon-tot.com), a lovely new UK-based online store that I recently discovered. It’s the perfect place to shop for my little minimalist and I know you’re going to love it too. Having only just opened in November last year, this new kid on the block already has an impressive roll-call of independent kidswear greats on its brand list: Gray Label, Twig Creative, wallaby, Axl Brand and the soon-to-be-stocked Tiny Modernism and Mingo Kids (Bon Tot is Mingo’s first UK retailer, what a coup!). I could waffle on about its amazing custom knitted cardigans, the incredibly well-curated edit of clothes and toys that focus on simple yet good design, and the fact that its founders Kristina and Graham are one of the loveliest retailers I’ve met, but I’ll let them do the talking so you can get better acquainted…
Tell us a little bit about you both. What inspired you to set up Bon Tot?
KRIS: We set up Bon Tot after becoming parents and struggling to find the type of products (both clothing and toys) that we wanted for our daughter, Clemence. We were always looking for plain clothes and onesies in more sophisticated colours like greys, mustards and deep purples; cool blanket patterns; nice illustrations for the nursery – things like that. I was on maternity leave with two other friends; and, out of the three families, four out of six adults were architects so we were always talking about design and products and what we wanted but couldn’t find. I appreciate we’re not alone in wanting to avoid the pink-for-girls-and-blue-for-boys stereotypes, but we were amazed how hard it was to access products, especially in the UK, and particularly in Edinburgh.
GRAHAM: We felt we were in a unique position in that Kristina has a background in small business, and a love of fashion, and I work in design, and so we set about sourcing small brands that encouraged gender equality, with a focus on building and creating when it came to toys, and set up our own business. Our focus is on ‘good design, and to try and keep it accessible.
Kris, you had your own holistic massage business in the USA and then an artisan chocolate company in the UK, and Graham you’re an architect – how do you feel your incredibly varied professional backgrounds help with the running of Bon Tot?
KRIS: Although I’ve had a varied career to date, the common theme is small business. Small business is my passion and I love working with people and products and have a particular interest in brands and how they develop. In particular I love retail and understand the time and dedication that go into running a shop, so it’s helpful that that aspect hasn’t come as a surprise!
GRAHAM: I’ve worked as an architect for 15 years now and have spent a lot of my career working with a particular client, helping them to develop their brand and expand their business. I get to work with a lot of other design disciplines and you learn to analyse, edit and refine decisions. The best designs are the simplest; when they are pared back to their core principles. Architects can be rather obsessive creatures and I think my attention to detail coupled with Kris’s love of fashion, retail and small business have worked well for us and the type of business we want to run.
How have you gone about choosing the brands that you currently stock (and will be stocking) in your store?
KRIS: Lots and lots of research! I had an initial list of around 50 brands, and from there we started to edit the list down. We have two mantras at Bon Tot – ‘Simply Good Design’ and to only stock things we really love. Our final list is probably very different to what we thought it might be, but when we look at it now, it makes sense, as we personally aren’t very trend driven, we just know what we like. That’s become quite a key thing for us – to offer year round styles in the main, as opposed to seasonal one-off trends. I think me being from America has been interesting too. It’s made us perhaps more open to finding small brands from there and definitely brought a different scope of influence. For example, our Willaby collection: bringing to the UK classic designs and fabrics from the American South, which might be commonplace there but are more unique here. I think we’ll continue to source from places we have a connection to and designs that connect with us personally.
GRAHAM: We want to work with quite a limited number of brands, so that we can build relationships with them and so that we are able to represent them to the best of our abilities, and so that we can tell our customers exactly where their products are coming from, and who is making them.
There is a distinct concentration on minimalist, pared back designs on offer at Bon Tot – explain the idea behind your curated edit.
Yes, that is definitely what came out of our research and planning phase; that we wanted simple, design led and carefully detailed products. We are really passionate about excellent basics that are gender neutral and focus on modern, sophisticated palettes, patterns and cuts.
You’re based in Edinburgh in Scotland. Has this Scottish link contributed to the fact that you produced your own custom knitwear line? Tell us about Bon Tot Knits.
Anyone who has spent time in Scotland in the summer knows you wear knitwear year round here, so yes! Our daughter wore knitwear all throughout her first summer. The first three or four months are so much about softness and being cosy. We had a lot of knitwear made for Clemence before she was born, including a lot of grey pieces. We brought her home in a grey cardigan and hat set (the pattern has since been renamed by our knitter as ‘The Clemence’) and we just loved it so much. So many people commented on the choice of grey, (as well as the quality). It was traditional with a modern twist, which is what ended up really inspiring us. ‘Simply good design’ doesn’t just apply to modern products. Traditional skills most certainly fall in to that definition and we are really happy to be able to work with a family friend to add this to the mix. Our sweater range is evolving as our knitter, Rosa, loves to rework things and make new patterns, so we started getting the cardigan patterns made into sweaters and then playing with lengths and styles. This will be ongoing for us, and you’ll see new things on popping up on our site regularly. We are even playing with some shorts and leggings patterns! We’ve also just received the first samples of our baby Aran cardigans and sweaters and they are even better than we could have imagined. They’ll be going up on the site this week.
Are there any key trends and/or colours from the kids’ A/W 2015 collections that have got you excited?
A lot of our brands do minimal changes for the seasons, just tweaks on existing designs with some new items coming into play. We’ve seen some darker colours coming in. More black, which we are excited about. I don’t think bloomers are a trend necessarily, but we are bringing some bloomers in that we’ll be pairing with our own knits, so that’s our own trend for A/W15!
What are your plans for the future?
We are actively looking for a shop premise here in Edinburgh as having a bricks and mortar store was always the plan for us. We are super excited to get the right space for what we want to achieve, which is to have room for interactive events and hopefully a cafe. We love the hands on element of retail and we see having a shop as an every changing evolving part of the business. We want to slowly expand the range of brands that we carry and we’d love to collaborate with some designers to do some unique ranges for Bon Tot. We will also be looking to expand our own brand range as well, but only as time allows!
Tallis wears: Pink playsuit and navy scarf by Gray Label, toy camera by Twig Creative – all available at Bon Tot
Tallis wears: Grey long cardigan by Bon Tot knits, available at Bon Tot, and powder pink sandals by Donsje
Tallis wears: Grey salopettes by Gray Label, available at Bon Tot, and lips jumper by Caroline Bosmans
Blog Post by Apphia Michael. Follow Apphia on Instagram