Getting to work at Playtime Paris

Kris Bon Tot Kids

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to attend one of the world’s most exciting international children’s & maternity trade shows? Kris and Graham from Bon Tot Kids are here to take us through their journey from the cobbled streets of Edinburgh to Paris, meeting their favourite brands and what caught their eye for AW 16! 

It wasn’t a simple decision to visit Playtime Paris. As anyone who works in small business knows, every penny counts. However, after a year of slowly and surely growing Bon Tot, getting to know our customers and building relationships with our brands, we felt we just had to. Being able to touch and feel the products in our bricks and mortar store makes such a difference and we wanted to see some of the brands we’ve been drooling over on Instagram for ourselves! Perhaps most importantly though, we’ve built some amazing relationships with brands we already stock, and we were really excited to meet them in person. We’re all about the people behind the products.

That decision made, Airbnb was booked, Grandparent accommodation for Clemence was secured, our lovely friend Susie and her son, Sean, volunteered for some French Bulldog Babysitting and plane tickets were purchased! One swiftly smooth Air France flight later and we were wandering the Marais; nosing around one of my favourite ever stores – Merci Merci (‘might’ have bought myself a little vintage Levis number, but that’s for another blog!)

We’d been to one trade show before – Dot to Dot in London, but that was at the very beginnings of Bon Tot, so this felt different. Over 300 brands show at Playtime, and we had poured over the brochure and earmarked around 30 that we really, really wanted to see.

Lots of people who’d been before commented to us that it was big, but I don’t think you can quite understand how big until you see it with your own eyes!

Playtime Paris | Chalk Kids BlogNorFolk Playtime Paris | Chalk Kids BlogFiona NorFolk Playtime Paris | Chalk Kids Blog

As we queued outside, we had our first little star-struck moment, spotting THE Fiona and Bobby Burrage, The Nor-Folk themselves, manning their slick, perfectly styled stand, just inside the door. Nor-Folk were one of the first brands we stocked and Fiona has been so incredibly supportive of Bon Tot. We’d been very excited to meet her, and the Mr, in person. Needless to say she is as stylish and fabulous in person as she appears on Instagram! It was really interesting to see what they have in store and to absorb their enthusiasm.

After spending a good long time chatting to the gorgeous girls at Petite Albion and watching my husband’s accent work some kind of magic on the lovely ladies at Mini Dressing (had to give him his moment!), we realised we would need to speed up if we were going to make it even half way round the show! Both Petite Albion and Mini Dressing have some amazing products in the pipeline by the way… (there might, just might, be some on their way to Bon Tot too if things work out…).

Thankfully we got a bit of advice from the experts. We managed to meet up with another incredibly lovely and stylish lady, and a Playtime veteran – Kinga, of Four Monkeys. We had a great time hanging out with her, and she gave us the scoop on how to ‘do’ Playtime; and what the best snacks were at the cafe! (Thanks Kinga!)

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There really were so many amazing things on show. Little Creative Factory’s imagery, and their clothing, were just beautiful. Anchovy deserves special mention for the progressiveness and creativeness of their amazing colour gradient shirts. (Lithuania was well represented in terms of creativeness and forward thinking actually.) One of our favourite stands belonged to one of our own brands as it happens – Fable Heart’s dark, brooding and magical set up was just amazing to see and experience.

One of the things that stood out most to us though was just how nice people were and how friendly an environment it was. Faye at Beau Loves, the girls at I Dig Denim and Donsje Amsterdam, the awesome ladies at Tiba and Marl; everyone was welcoming and thoroughly entertaining.

Another special mention has to go to the beautiful, and heavily pregnant at the time, Leia, founder of Diapers & Milk, who went out of her way to come speak with us. Her new collection is fabulous, just FYI –  quilted sweatshirts in a palette that reflects her Parisian surroundings- mauves, slate greys. Gorgeous.  And a huge thank you to the wonderful bundle of positive energy that is Nogaravin, for Clemence’s gift – she loved it! Nogaravin have been on our want list for a long time now and having seen their amazing plush toys and brand new puppets in person, we were not disappointed!

We were quite taken aback at how far people had travelled too! We hadn’t quite realised that we’d actually get to meet Cheyenne from Hugo Loves Tiki, or get to talk to Mr & Mrs Huxbaby in person! It seems unfair to name names, because everyone we spoke to was lovely, and totally committed to producing great quality clothing and toys. And we spoke to a lot of people!

Playtime Paris | Chalk Kids BlogThe Bright Company Playtime | Chalk Kids Blog

As I said earlier, meeting our current brands was a big goal for us. The Bright Company make THE best kids PJs and this was the second time we’d got to chat with Alienor in person. Her new designs look so good, but one thing we love about TBC is that they are constantly tweaking and improving the details. Next season will see some new detailing around cuffs, which, while sounding like a minor consideration, tells you everything about their ethos and explains why our daughter refuses to change into ‘real clothes’ some days!

And then, I have to confess, I had a proper little moment.. Gray Label was the first brand we approached when we set up Bon Tot, and their mustard sweatshirt really is the inspiration behind our whole business. Emily Gray might just be (is) my style icon and how pleased am I to report that she’s even more fabulous in person. Marijke and Emily were very possibly the highlight of the day. If you follow us at Bon Tot, you’ll know how much we adore Gray Label, so you can imagine our excitement.

Of course, Playtime isn’t the only trade show in town that weekend. We didn’t have time to visit Maison & Objet, but we did manage to spend a day at Kid, which is another clothing and accessories show, but on a much smaller, more intimate scale. We really wanted to go there to see one of our favourite brands – Repose Ams. We’ve stocked In-Yeo’s gorgeous lambswool blankets for a while now, but are really interested in her new clothing line too. Amazing mixes of styles and textures, all designed by one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet! AND she gave us chocolates! Sold! There were some amazing brands there, like Agatha Cub, Bobo Choses, Anais and I, Misha & Puff…

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So… what did we see that we loved? Well, we’ve already placed our first order with Go Soaky; an amazing dutch rainwear brand that make incredibly simple yet sophisticated rain jackets and capes for kids. We loved Caroline Bosman’s incredible collection. The materials she uses are amazing – neoprene and leather to give you an idea. We loved meeting Franky’s Playground and browsing their super cool collection; East End Highlanders was a special treat; Diapers & Milk was gorgeous; we’d been dying to touch and feel Misha & Puff’s knitwear for ourselves and it fully lived up to expectations. And there were definitely 2 or 3 more brands that we might just keep up our sleeves for a little while longer!

How did it help us as buyers? Touching and feeling the product really helps. Tiny Cottons was a good example. Tiny, led by the lovely and incredibly hard working Jo, have a HUGE collection. They had racks set up so you could pull items you liked, test colours and patterns against each other and stand back and view it as a collection.

And what little hints for AW 16 did we see – Textured sweatshirts, innovative materials, colour block knitwear to name just a few. There is going to be a lot to choose from and some incredibly stylish kids out there next Autumn.

All in all it was a great experience. The children’s fashion industry is filled with some amazing, hard working people, who are passionate, not just about the style, but about childhood in general and are genuinely trying to make a difference. We can’t wait to go back in July!

Thanks so much Kris and Graham for sharing your adventures with us. The new SS16 collections are hitting the shelves at Bon Tot now – You can keep up to date with their latest news and collections over on Instagram & Facebook.