Two Wirral dads who have been friends since childhood have launched an ethical babywear business inspired by their music heroes after losing their jobs in the pandemic
Ben Hatfield and Chris Rice, both aged 36, met when they were pupils at Birkenhead School and grew up loving music and playing in bands together, before embarking on careers in the entertainment industry.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, dad-of-two Ben and Chris, had to rethink their lives after being made redundant.
They came up with the idea of a new, ethical babywear brand to inspire the next generation’s love of music and the creative industries, whilst also challenging the impact of ‘fast fashion’ on communities and the environment.
Their business, Marlo & Cole, was born with a launch collection featuring designs inspired by the works of music icons including David Bowie, LCD Soundsystem and Bjork.
And the pair managed to sign an official partnership with one of their music heroes – world-renowned indie band The National, whose lyrics also featured in the collection which sold out in the US within minutes of going on sale.
“Marlo & Cole started out as an idea that got beautifully out of hand,” says Ben, who lives with his family in Willaston, Wirral. “We wanted to create clothing inspired by music and the arts that means something to parents so that they can share their passion with their kids.”
“Rather than just putting ‘AC/DC’ on a few baby t-shirts, we wanted meaning and a story behind each carefully designed collection,” adds Chris.
“If you’re a music fan then you’ll spot the lyrics and references on each piece of clothing. They may not be instantly obvious but when you know the lyrics, you know.
“We also wanted to give back to the artists where we could and get their seal of approval. We contacted our favourite bands and offered them an official partnership and licensing agreement to use their lyrics on the clothing in exchange for a percentage of the sales.
“We couldn’t believe it when the first band to say yes was one of our biggest heroes, internationally acclaimed US indie band The National. The first collection sold out within minutes. We’ve just launched our second collection in the US.”
Marlo & Cole is part of an ever-growing collection of progressive brands aiming to change the fashion industry for the better.
Created in line with a strict eco-conscious, gender-neutral ethos, each product is designed and manufactured in the UK to support UK-based illustrators and manufacturers, whilst focusing heavily on sustainability to ensure all aspects of the business are as low-impact to the environment as possible.
“100% recyclable packaging is essential for any brand, but we wanted to take things a step further,” says Chris, who lives in London with his family. “Along with focusing production in the UK, we’re producing very limited runs of each design in an effort to ensure no products go to waste and end up in landfill – a common result of overproduction from ‘fast fashion’ brands.”
Adds Ben, “Our spring/summer collection is a ‘love letter’ to the great British music festival, and features designs inspired by the likes of Feist, Chuck Roberts, Hot Chip, The National, Jamie XX and Gil Scott-Heron – imagine being at that festival!”
Marlo & Cole has big ambitions to grow their influence on the baby and toddler industry over the coming years and is also in the process of creating collections inspired by children’s books.
Main image: Marlo & Cole founders – (L-R) Chris Rice and Ben Hatfield