Toca Magazine chats with Emi Ozmen and Kirsti Hadley, founders of events & communications company Madlife.
- Ingrid Simone, Toca Magazine Executive Editor
Madlife is the UK-based influencer network for parents that “Brings new meaning to partying with the kids,” according to Vogue Magazine. We talked to the their two founders, Emi Ozmen and Kirsti Hadley, about kids and having fun with fashion.
Toca Magazine: Princesses and superheroes often dominate kids’ media and toys. Do you see this also influencing kids’ style choices? How do you feel about that as a parent and as a fashion stylist?
Emi: Ask Silver what she wants to wear and her usual answer will be the words I dread to hear: “a princess dress.” As a child to a children’s fashion stylist, Silver is lucky to be surrounded in beautiful, unusual pieces of clothing. But as with most 3-year-old girls, few brands can compete with a polyester Frozen ensemble.
As her personality grows so does her style and her imagination, and it’s amazing as a parent to watch. She’s broadening her horizons. She’s going through a superhero phase at the moment so I embrace that, and she dresses in long cardigans she pretends are capes.
Kirsti: We LOVE dressing up but tend to veer away from superhero costumes on the whole as Sonny doesn’t really need any more encouragement to play fight than he naturally has. He loves getting his face painted and wanted to dress up as the world’s strongest man for his 4th birthday because his middle name is Hercules. On the flip side, though, one day I arrived to collect him from nursery to find him dressed as a Disney princess, which I thought was really cool of him, just standing there all confident in a frock.
Toca Magazine: It’s interesting that for your daughter, Emi, the princess dress is something that makes you cringe, but for your son, Kirsti, the princess dress was kind of cool. It sounds like you both encourage fashion that challenges gender stereotypes.
Kirsti: Sonny has always been dead easy to dress, which I realize is just pure luck. He’s worn everything that I have chosen for him without argument, and — as that something has more often than not been leopard-print drainpipe jeans bought in the girls’ department of H&M or unisex leggings and slogan T-shirts — these are things that he feels really comfortable in and would now choose for himself.
The high street offerings for boys are changing more and more thank goodness and brands like Ruff X Huddle, Bobo Choses, The Bonnie Mob and Tootsa MacGinty are all championing unisex, playful clothing for kids which is exactly our attitude.
Emi: I don’t like to dress Silver in just what I think looks “pretty.” I love her in “boys’” clothes, I love her in vintage. Brands such as Mini Rodini and Bang Bang Copenhagen do great pieces which children can pretend to be an animal in.
It’s all about how we can encourage Silver to use her imagination and turn her outfits into role play or something we talk about. Even if it’s that we wear the same as each other, as simple as fluffy jumpers, we then talk about being fluffy creatures who only eat fluffy things like marshmallows and bananas. She also loves anything spooky, so loves to wear her black leather fringed vintage jacket and pretends to be a bat! I embrace her playfulness and her imagination through fashion.
Toca Magazine: That sounds very playful! Kirsti, does Sonny express playfulness through clothing as well?
Kirsti: Sonny is obsessed with Halloween — not just now but all year round — so bat prints & skeleton PJs are a wardrobe staple for us.
Age 4 he has just started to do shows now too … sooo cute! He dresses up as a clown he calls “Silliness The Clown” — rainbow wig, nose and big bow — then tells us really bad jokes which we as his parents obviously think are the funniest thing we have ever heard. I love the way that these simple outfits take him out of himself.
Toca Magazine: What can parents learn by looking at style through the kids’ perspective? What did you learn when your kids dressed you (for a change)?
Emi: When Silver had free reign over my wardrobe I was quite surprised with what she chose. She was attracted to the gold vintage dress — she said it was a space dress, which I thought was really cool. She teamed it with a sheepskin waistcoat to “make you cozy” and OBVIOUSLY added some Minnie Mouse ears for a bit of dress-up. I also let her do my makeup, and she chose bright red lipstick “to match your bow.”
She’s definitely taking after me or maybe I talk about clothes too much! I loved that she wanted me to be colorful, but cozy; it’s kind of my ethos when I dress her, so it’s rubbing off!!
Kirsti: Sonny picked out some things that I was really surprised at when he dressed me, actually. Although … he has such a huge rebellious streak that I probably should have guessed that he’d choose everything I didn’t think he would.
I’m quite casual with lots of denim and T-shirts/sweaters covered in animal print or cartoon characters, so I thought that would be the direction that he’d take, but instead Sonny picked out ALL of the brightest clothes in my wardrobe, and went heavy on the accessories — it’s the monochrome backlash haha!
A multicolored tea dress, a really bright silk scarf that he has never seen me wear — in fact I don’t think I have ever worn it — glittery belts, a little feather jacket and a clutch bag with a crystal elephant on the front. Then just when I thought he’d finished, he took the feather jacket away (put it on himself) and added a leopard mask to my ensemble. And then he told me that I looked really pretty, which is a word that we never really use in our house; I would always ask him if I looked “good” or “cool” when we are getting ready. I ended up looking a bit like a female Mr. Tumble!
He chose an outfit that he thought would make me feel happy and look nice <3 It has made me think that maybe I should start letting him pick out his own outfits to wear a little more … maybe I don’t know him quite as well as I think I do.
Toca Magazine: What do you hope kids express with their style choices?
Emi: As a teenager I used to make my own clothes. I would find vintage duvets in charity shops and make a Barbie skirt or a Thomas the Tank Engine dress. I hope I am teaching Silver to be brave and individual. Clothing should be an expression of who we are and how we feel that day, and I try to let Silver choose and express her own style as much as possible.
Kirsti: We love a jazzy tracksuit in our house, as Sonny is such a physical kid I always want him to be super-comfortable in his clothes so that he can play to his heart’s content — which is basically all day. EVERY day.
I can tell that it’s starting to change a little bit for him at the moment as he has just started school and is becoming slightly self-conscious of his clothes due to what the other kids say in the playground.
Who knew that we’d be teaching our children actual life skills through their outfit choices?
For instance, he didn’t want to wear a matching tracksuit because another child had said that he was wearing pajamas. So I explained to him that tracksuits are what athletes wear and that the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, is an athlete and that he wears tracksuits to help him train and become strong. He took that on board and the next time he chose to wear a tracksuit he told that story back to me.
Who knew that we’d be teaching our children actual life skills through their outfit choices? It’s powerful stuff.
Madlife is an events and communications company in the UK that organizes fun, creative, stylish events, for creative parents that want to meet like-minded families who have more than just small people in common.