It’s always hard to get your head around the spring/ summer collections dropping amongst the snow showers in mid-February. But that said the fresh visuals provide hope for a warmer future. Bobo Choses recently launched their first drop of the To Make a Garden SS19 collection. I was fortunate at the end of last year to talk to Bobo Choses founder Adriana Esperalba about The Nature of Business. Here we share the article. Best read with a cuppa for warmth… dreaming of summer, beautiful flowers and bees.

When thinking about independent children’s fashion labels it’s doesn’t get much more successful than the pioneering and ethically conscious BOBO CHOSES. After ten years Bobo Choses has proven its longevity and continues to produce collections steeped in creativity. In 2008 two gifted friends and mothers founded the much loved Spanish brand. At the head of the Bobo family remains co-founder Adriana, with a team that has grown and flourished from the humble beginnings of three people to over thirty strong.

A pioneer of organic cotton use in their collections. In the beginning, Adriana found that nobody really knew about organic cotton. Even the clients didn’t understand or appreciate the environmental benefits of the material. But fast forward to today and the benefits of using recycled fabrics and sustainable materials such as organic cotton are widely embraced by both client and the end consumer.

Sewing the creative seed Adriana introduces the main concept for each collection to the Bobo Choses family design team who then germinate and nurture the idea by finding references to develop the story. Usually, when they’re preparing one collection Adriana’s thinking about the next. For example, when they started work on the Happy Sads she already knew To Make A Garden was the next important message to transmit. Not quite remembering how she had heard about it, Adriana discovered that the brother of their online store sales manager was a beekeeper. Interested to find out more, Adriana discovered the immediacy of the bee populations decline and their importance to life and how to act.

Realising too many hats was neither tenable, fruitful or enjoyable Adriana relinquished the ‘business side’ beenie to her brother three years ago. Her sibling Pim had worked his way up from being an intern six years prior. He had been elevated to International sales manager then went on to study at the prestigious EADA Business School in Barcelona before accepting the role. Adriana also works closely with her trusted head designer and copywriter Lucho Torres. Lucho is the Bobo Choses family member who writes their beautiful engaging stories that form the foundation and backdrop to the collections.

Bobo Choses is a much loved, well established and often emulated independent. As such we discuss ‘the nature of business’ with its founder Adriana Esperalba…

Adriana Esperalba Bobo Choses with her team
Adriana Esperalba with members of the team at BOBO CHOSES HQ

You were working as an Artistic Director at an advertising agency in Barcelona before having a child and embarking on Bobo Choses. How would you say your approach to the business of fashion has changed in the 10 years since? When we started everything was new for us. But we quickly detected that there was a gap in the children’s fashion market. I remember that the brands we admired were Nordic, but there were no brands in Barcelona, or shops to find those kinds of designs. Everything was much more classic, with a huge difference between boy’s and girl’s clothes, differentiating a lot the child’s clothes from the girl’s that were too often overdressed. As we came from the world of graphic design: prints and colour palette were something we felt very comfortable with. Apart from this, we also created a concept, explaining stories through clothing. I think that was the key factor to differentiate us from the other brands. For us, it is capital to reach the child with stories through our clothes. We want to become his or her favourite t-shirt!
During these years we have seen many new brands born following our steps, and we are proud to have started a small revolution. Suddenly, children’s clothing also has its place in fashion.

What have been the biggest challenges in the course of the 10 years, and how did you overcome them? I come from the design world, so I didn’t know what it means to run a company. Finding the balance between the two worlds is one of the most difficult things for me. Luckily, I have always been surrounded by my family, and for three years now I have delegated the direction of the company to my brother. This is one of the decisions that I feel proudest of.
In this industry challenges are constant. On one side, at a creative level, we always want to surprise with our stories and collections. On the other, at a business level, you often have to make complex decisions, due to growth and new objectives.

Bobo Choses offices

The upcoming SS19 To Make A Garden collection is made 89% locally. It’s impressive as many (brands) have diversified production during that time. Can you explain why local production is important to you as a company? 
Local production has many advantages, but perhaps the most important has to do with our way of understanding the world. We strongly believe that local production allows us to work with our suppliers as members of the Bobo family, and we are fortunate to know them all. This generates a dynamic of trust and quality that is difficult to delocalize. You can relocate production, but not the intangible value of working as a family.

Bobo Choses t shirt

300 references per collection from baby, kids, accessories, home & women’s. With embroidery techniques knitwear, cut and sew, from rugs to clogs. With your business hat on what is it like to oversee Bobo production? Our garments seem simple at first sight, but they have an almost artisan production process. Having the suppliers close to us makes production easier for our team. Design and production department work hand in hand to take care of every detail.

Bobo Choses addresses many social issues through the brand such as plastic polluting the sea, honey bees disappearing globally and children’s ability to convey confusing emotions. As a children’s label does it feel somehow even more important to be ethically focused. An ethical role model to your little customers if you like? Although it seems contradictory, Bobo Choses is not a clothing brand. Bobo Choses is a way to understand the world. That’s why our collections are stories that evolve beyond clothing. It is not possible to separate our essence and spirit of a better world from the business. That’s why everything we do intends to share values and actions that spread positive values to children and adults.

There seems to be a lot of fun involved with the creative process at Bobo Choses that permeates your collections and your marketing …
Is fun involved in all aspects of the organisation? And if so how does this approach benefit Bobo as a business? I am not the one who should say it, but in Bobo Choses our motto “Have Fun!” is the prevailing mood in our day to day. Creative freedom, family conciliation, respect for people and trust in each member of the team make the week really positive and entertaining!

Bobo Choses team meeting

Bobo Choses team at work

Is growth still the predominant force behind Bobo as a business or do other factors now dictate the business model? A business without growth is a poorly focused business. But luckily, our strategic decisions always find a balance between the benefit and the fulfilment of our values. We are not a company focused on the simple benefit, and if one day this happens we would be betraying the spirit of our brand.

Bobo Choses work space and campervan

Flowers and mail at Bobo Choses work space

As a brand matures it can be a challenge to stay true to the original brand ethos and identity. In a variable economy, the market applies pressure for a business to adjust at different points. From seed inception, germination, growth, reproduction, pollination to dispersing the seeds over and over again Bobo Choses sustains its growth whilst carefully nurturing its roots. As Adriana said ‘a business without growth is a poorly focused business’. Perhaps the nature of business for Bobo Choses is about cultivation and creativity rather than dominating the landscape.

The Nature of Business: BOBO CHOSES, original article for Kid’s Wear magazine Vol.48
Founder Adriana Esperalba by Katie Kendrick