My Kind Of Business- Jo Tutchener-Sharp talks to ParentFolk.
Jo Tutchener-Sharp, founder of Scamp & Dude tells ParentFolk’s Jade Wright about the slogan ‘a Superhero has my back’, and why kindness is the most important part of her business.
If we could have one superpower in these strange times, it’s a big dose of kindness. That’s the message from Jo Tutchener-Sharp, founder of family fashion brand Scamp & Dude.
“2020 was a year like no other for making people stop and think about other people,” Jo explains. “It made us appreciate the NHS like never before, and homeschooling has made us appreciate our teachers so much more too.”
Jo began her brand in 2016, after she spent a long stay in hospital recovering from brain surgery. Realising her own mortality like never before, and desperately missing her children, she designed a clothing range with a huge heart – one which aimed to help children feel nurtured and safe, even while away from their loved ones.
Infused with love, like a big fabric hug, her superpower-filled leopard and lightning bolt loungewear struck a chord with parents and their children, who loved the ‘Superpower Button’ on each garment, giving the wearer a burst of superpowers.
While Scamp & Dude was initially a kids’ brand, Jo quickly realised mums wanted the same warm embrace and superhero powers from their own clothes, and her womenswear now makes up 80% of the collection.
For each Superhero Sleep Buddy sold, another is donated to a child who has lost a parent or is seriously ill themselves. Likewise, for every sale of one of the Super Scarves range – fronted by Billie Piper – another is donated to a woman with cancer or a mother of a child with cancer. So far they have given more than 2500 Superhero Sleep Buddies, 1500 Super Scarves and 1500 superpower infused sweatshirts to those that need them the most.
“I think consumers are definitely more mindful about where to spend their money these days, so I think that the kindness commodity is real,” says Jo. “I personally think carefully about choosing to support small businesses, especially ethical and sustainable brands that give back.”
Kindness has been a huge focus for many of us personally, but also professionally and financially too, as we try to make our businesses as ethical as they can be, and look at which companies we buy from in every aspect of our lives. While some may see ethical policy as a commercial decision, for Jo it’s something which has always come very naturally.
“I don’t think of kindness as a business tool for Scamp & Dude, it is and has always been the heart of all we do,” she says. “There would be no Scamp & Dude without kindness. The brand started by a real heartfelt need to help others. It was never a business decision.”
Fashion has changed hugely over the last year, with customers looking not only for ethical designs, but also more durability and quality. It’s a welcome move away from the days of fast fashion, with cheap mass-produced clothes worn a couple of times and then discarded. Now customers are looking for clothes that will last, but also, in a time of home working and homeschooling, will be comfortable and cosy, while still looking fabulous.
“Our loungewear exploded last year and sales of our tracksuits have literally sky-rocketed,” says Jo. “Who doesn’t want a superpower-infused tracksuit when you are working from home, juggling homeschooling and trying to spin more plates than ever before?”
This translates to children’s clothes too, with uniforms giving way to soft cosy homeschooling outfits: “We’ve seen a large uplift in sales of our kids tracksuits too. Comfort is key for everyone at home – and our Superpower Button can be put to use when an extra boost is needed, particularly during those more challenging home schooling moments.”
Lockdowns have also meant more of us are shopping online for clothes than ever before.
“Physical shops have had a tough time lately,” says Jo. “The landscape had changed long before Covid with more and more customers turning to online shopping, then Covid just seems to have sealed the deal. We recently closed our physical store in Highgate, because while our online shop was seeing a 480% increase in sales, the Highgate shop was only just breaking even and being closed so much of the year due to Covid, but still having to cover all costs meant it was just not worth renewing the lease.
“I hope that when the pandemic is a distant memory, that people return to shop in their local high streets. It’s such a depressing thought that our high streets will have no shops and will just be full of banks and coffee chains instead. It’s so true when people say ‘Use it or lose it’ ….if you don’t support your local shops, then you’ll lose them. My dream is to open another shop when the pandemic is over and we hopefully return to a more social ways of living and shopping, but it is a risk.”
Instagram is a bigger shop window than ever, and Scamp & Dude has caught the attention of lots of well-known faces, with designs worn by the likes of Liv Tyler, Fearne Cotton, Billie Piper, Laura Whitmore and Emma Willis.
Jo describes one of the most memorable moments as: “Robbie Williams posting a picture on Instagram wearing our navy sweatshirt (the 18 year old Take That fan in me LOVED this!) but more recently Laura Whitmore’s TikTok, where she was wearing our dark grey leopard and lightning bolt tracksuit, was definitely a moment. So, so cool.
“But the moments that mean the most to me are the emails I get from parents telling me how much our Superhero Sleep Buddies have helped their children. We donate one to a child who loses a parent or is seriously ill themselves for every one sold. To see something I’ve created help so many children is definitely the biggest high point.”
Scamp & Dude is keen to engage with customers, and Jo keeps the brand very personal on its social media feed.
“When you’re running your social media yourself as a brand founder, it’s much easier to keep the style on brand as it is your individual style coming through everything you do,” she explains. “I love clean, vibrant images, visuals that make you smile – stylish but warm hearted – and this is what runs through all of our content. I sometimes have moments where I think we need to up our game and start to be slicker with our content, but then I think our customers also like how real we are.”
And while the core principles always remain the same, Jo is keen to develop the brand, finding inspiration around every corner.
“I’m constantly being inspired,” she says. “A trip to the aquarium to buy some tropical fish for my eldest (who got a tank for Christmas) resulted in a new guppy-inspired print, for example. Nature is my main inspiration, the colour clashes and prints found on animals, plants and insects inspires me immensely. I also design what I want to wear, I imagine items of clothing, colours and prints that I wish I could wear, then I make them. And luckily for me lots of other people want to wear them too.”