Maria Busquets, founder and creative director of luxury childrenswear brand Cashmirino, is taking me around her new head office in Hammersmith, London. What started as a brand focusing on cashmere for babies with a store in Milan and a flagship in Burlington Arcade in London's Mayfair, is now a fully fledged e-commerce business providing a full wardrobe range made from natural fabrics for children, and now even a 'papa' line so fathers and sons can match. I met with Maria to find out what inspired her to launch the brand – was it simply a gap in the market? We sat down for a little Q&A, and as it turns out, it was never purely business. Carmen’s charming sister has a profound appreciation of family, love of babies – and beautifully made things...
When did you launch Cashmirino and what sparked the idea?
In late 2000, inspired by the birth of my first child, Sofia in 1999. I had bought her this cashmere cardigan in a pale beige as there were no other options. She was so white and this was so pale, and I needed something with a little more color. So, I decided to do a line of cashmere for children. I called it ‘Cashmirino’, because it’s cashmere in Italian, but diminutive, as it’s for little ones.
Your styles are very classic – would you say that you’re a traditionalist?
I don’t believe in fashion for kids. I don’t think they should enter the world of fashion. They should be dressed like kids. Now there’s this tendency to dress them all ‘street’, which is cool, but when are they going to be children? Time flies and then your baby is gone, and so it’s nice to have them looking like babies for a while. You have to value that moment. When you dress children as children you are prolonging their innocence, their magic. When you dress them like you, you are turning them into mini adults. I find that sad, it’s not a sweet look and children by nature are sweet.
"When you dress children as children, you are prolonging their innocence, their magic."
As you evolved, what came as a surprise in terms of best-sellers from the collections?
The difference between what sells in the shop and what sells to wholesale. In the shop, people buy a lot of yellow for example, something which I’ll never sell wholesale. So we’ve had to produce say three different dresses in yellow because it goes quick. The popularity of the reversibles was also a surprise. They had a normal stitch to the interior and cable knit to the exterior, and people loved them. The hats also - I’m surprised at how many we sell when they are between 60-90EUR, as people have many options to buy something for less. I am thankful and touched to see that many people still value quality.
While it may be the norm in Milan and in many parts of London, a lot of people may wonder why make such high-quality babywear at higher price points when they grow so fast. What would you say to that?
Firstly, I am a big believer in quality. I think my children should have the best fabrics and the most natural fabrics because their skin is so soft. Secondly, because I want the memory. I want to be able to look at a picture and say, “Oh my god he looks so cute! Look how he was dressed!” Because that moment flies, but you have the picture. Thirdly, for the long lifespan. When you buy something of quality it’s something that you can pass on to your other children or to your cousin or a friend. It lives longer and that's not only out of respect for the people who made it, because each of our garments is finished by hand, and takes a lot of time, but it is better for the environment to not throw away so many things.
Can you tell me a bit about where your cashmere comes from?
I get the cashmere in Inner Mongolia – it’s where the best cashmere in the world comes from.
And it’s also produced there? Why not Italy?
If we bought our cashmere in Italy I would produce it there. I produce where people are passionate and believe in high quality.
I source the cashmere direct in Inner Mongolia where I have used a small boutique factory for many years and they still produce my cashmere garments, I always try my best to produce locally where I source the fabric. There is also a great tradition in Inner Mongolia of working with cashmere, and they still finish the pieces by hand with so much care. I love working with my producers in Inner Mongolia.
And I understand that you employ mostly women?
Yes, and in fact, mostly moms, who put a lot of heart into the work as if they’re making something for their baby. It’s a beautiful process. The locals really have a lot of love for their kids – especially as they normally can only have one. The women work so well I am proud to work with them and believe they deserve my continued support. Cashmirino dresses children all around the world, so I am proud that we can say that we produce beautiful clothes made by women also from around the world.
Where else do you produce?
I have worked for many years with my suppliers in Italy who produce all my woven garments in a small production facility with a team of passionate and very skilled women all very attentive to details. Additionally I use lovely, creative and experienced Italian ladies who from their homes make by hand our smocking and embroidery for my dresses.
I love to travel to Peru to meet my pima cotton and alpaca suppliers. I have fallen in love with the skilled, authentic Peruvian artisans who make my beautiful clothes. It is a fantastic country, so much to see and explore with such charming people - the added benefit is wonderful local cuisine!
Is there still a level of craftsmanship in Europe that is hard to beat?
What we are slowly losing in Europe is the ability to hand-embroider and produce fine needlework. It’s getting harder and harder to make our smock dresses for example. We have to search hard to find people who will smock dresses to our high standard. Many people who do it are quite elderly, and say, “Once we’re gone who’s going to do this?” I think it's important to encourage young people to uphold these beautiful craftsmanship traditions.
It must be fun to do work trips to Peru – the food!
The food! And the pisco.
And the pisco. What did you learn from your family that’s been valuable to you in business and what did you learn on your own?
From my father I learned about hard work, and from my mom that nothing is impossible. She taught us to be positive all of the time and always said that “the sky’s the limit”. With my father, he’s a person that has a lot of integrity and respects everyone, and is very compassionate. I learned that you have to feel compassion for everybody you work with. For myself, I learned that you’ll make errors, but you just need to fix them as fast as you can. And to get moving, because the important things you learn are on the path.
Tell me about this family of bears on the website. Why did you decide to create such elaborate stories around them?
Everything on the site is narrated by the voice of a child – the Nico or Sofi bear - and the aim is to teach children how things are made and where they come from. We have a story about Peru, for example, and I teach them about the Incas and about South America, and where the pima cotton is collected, and that it’s important as it’s collected by hand. So they learn that pima cotton comes from a plant. In the next trip, they go to China, and learn that cashmere comes from a goat, and all about that process. There’s also family values and relationship stories between the siblings and the father and mother – who works.
As Maria finishes showing me around, she stops at a large room flooded with natural light. She mentions that this is where her team will one day do meditation on Mondays and yoga on Fridays as part of a wellness program she would like to implement. I ask her why she thinks this is important. . “Because you spend so more time at work than you probably spend elsewhere, you have to be in sync with each other in the team and you practically become a family."
Discover Cashmirino here.